Sneak Peek #1
This is not how I planned my life. If you'd told me, back when I was 14, that I'd be doing what I'm doing now at 19, I would have cursed you out like I was so good at doing when I didn't care who heard me or how bad it made me look. Too many men considered me fine, so my behavior was the least of my concerns. I could pull them all. Cute got me over. Cute got me fed and clothed and entertained. Cute also got me into the situation I'm in right now. I've learned that "cute and stupid" is an ugly combination.
I'm sick of people telling me what I can't do. My family thinks I'm crazy, but they can all kiss my ass! So what if school was hard for me? So what if I was in the slow classes? I'm not too slow to know what I want, and I'm going to get it. I can do it. I know I can. I just have to work three times as hard as I did before. I don't give a damn who thinks it's a bad idea. My family thinks anything I want to do is a bad idea. I'm tired of being treated like a dummy, and I will show them all. Now I just have to figure out how to make some more money.
Life happens when you're making other plans. Isn't that what John Lennon said in a song? See, I'm a planner. When things happen that aren't in my day planner, it really messes things up for me. The biggest surprises of my life were not in my day planner, and my life just won't seem to go right. I guess what bothers me most is that I'm very intelligent and very well-educated, but I keep making the same mistake. I hate to think of them as mistakes, but when you boil it down to starch, that's what they are. I only say that to myself; never anyone else. As far as other people think, I've got it all worked out and I'm cool with everything that's happened in my life. If they only knew. I figure if I keep dancing fast enough, maybe no one will notice I'm just a couple of beats behind the rhythm.
It's whateva, you know? You think I'mo waste my time workin' two and three jobs for next to nuthin'? Please. I have betta things to do. Besides, me and mine is well taken care of. I have'ta jump through a few hoops here and there, but in the long run it's worth it to be able to kick my feet up 'n enjoy my youf while I'm young. The rent is paid, the food is free an'da docta bills neva come to me. The best times is during the holidays. I mean, that's when the suckas really come out the woodwork. I cain't remember the last time I had to do Thanksgiving or Christmas shopping. Haha. I'll be damned, though. That letter I got in the mail the other day means my whole world is gone change. I am not feelin' it.
"Why you sittin' here lookin' in my mouth?" Angela rested the phone on her shoulder and looked with annoyance at Sonjie.
"I ain't lookin' in yo' mouth," Sonjie huffed.
"I know you lis'nen to my conversation. Why don't you gone somewhere? Go outside or something!"
"I'm on punishment, remember?"
"You don't need to be sittin' here tryin' ta hear what I'm talkin' about. You on punishment because you think you grown. Go read a book or something."
"I read all the books we got in this house. I'm bored."
"SONJIE, GET OUTTA MY FACE! I DON'T CARE WHERE YOU GO. JUST GET OUTTA MY FACE!"
"Can I go outside?"
"I DON'T CARE! JUST GO SOMEWHERE! UH! YOU MAKE ME SICK!"
Sonjie pretended to pout while she was facing her mother, but when her back was to Angela she grinned in triumph and hustled toward the front door. Before Sonjie could grab the knob, Angela's next words stopped her dead in her tracks.
"Take the baby with you. He need some fresh air," Angela said sweetly.
Sonjie would rather have had a shoe thrown at the back of her head than to have heard those words from her mother. She knew this was Angela's way of trying to keep her from cutting too loose once she was out the door. Sonjie turned around and dragged back to the playpen that was sitting directly in front of the television. When she picked the baby up out of the playpen, and he lost sight of the television screen, he began to wail. Sonjie exhaled forcefully and rolled her eyes to the ceiling.
When she caught a glimpse of her mother's smile as she turned around and headed toward the door, Sonjie thought to herself, "If I wanted to get stuck with a kid, I'd have a kid." She wanted to say what she was thinking to Angela, but she wanted to get outside more than she wanted to risk making her mother change her mind.
"Don't go too far, JiJi," Angela cooed after her daughter as Sonjie and the baby disappeared on the other side of the closing door.
"You there? Yeah, she pissed. You should'a seen her face when I told her to come back and get Marcus. I could tell she wanted to say something, but that little fass tack wanted to get outside more than she wanted to fight with me. I keep tellin' that little heffa she cain't win when it comes to fightin' me. I'mo always come out on top. Shiii… I pay the cost to be the boss in this mugg," Angela said into the phone and chuckled.
"Anyway, tell me what happened with that dude from the club. He was fine! Did you let him hi… Hold on, girl. What?!?!" Angela's seven-year-old was standing in front of her with an empty sippy cup.
"Can I have some juice?" Kelvin held the sippy cup like it was an accordion and twisted it in both hands.
"What time is it, Kelvin?"
"I don't know."
"Oh, now you don't know what time it is? Um. OK. Well, since you cain't tell time, then you sho' cain't have no juice."
"Um, it's, it's…," Kelvin paused and studied the hands on the clock above his mother's head. After a few seconds, he dashed out of the room. Angela laughed into the phone.
"He ran in my bedroom to look at the digital clock. He think he slick. His little feelin's gone be hurt when he see what time it is.
Oh, I don't let him drink after a certain time, because he pee inna bed.
I tried that, but he still do it.
Yup, tried that, too.
KELVIN, WHAT TIME IS IT?" Angela laughed to herself when her shout was answered with silence.
Kelvin walked slowly back into the room with his head hanging down and the sippy cup dangling in one hand.
"It's too late for me to drink something," he said with tears welling up in his eyes. Angela almost felt sorry for him, but she thought about having to walk five blocks to the Laundromat if he pissed his sheets again.
"Momma, please," Kelvin begged, "I promise I'll wake up if I have to go to the bathroom. Pleeeaaaasseee, Momma. Please!" Tears spilled out of Kelvin's eyes. Kelvin's face was contorted with pain.
Angela knew that look. It was the same one she used to have on her face when her mother did the same thing to her. One thing Angela refused to do to Kelvin, however, was spank him when he wet the bed.
Every time Angela wet the bed, her mother spanked her unmercifully, and it didn't stop Angela from wetting the bed. It only terrified her out of going to sleep at night. Angela still bore a faint scar on her forehead, because she was so sleepy in class one afternoon that she toppled out of her chair and slammed her face into the desk of the student next to her. Her mother's response, when she'd come to get Angela from the nurse's office was simply, "That's what you get. Maybe you'll stop pissing yourself at night."
Angela didn't stop wetting the bed until she was almost 12. She got her period, and she just stopped wetting the bed. Since a menstrual cycle wasn't going to save Kelvin from bed-wetting, she hoped he would grow out of it somehow. She absolutely abhorred those extra trips to the Laundromat, so she restricted his liquid intake starting at 6pm each day.
"Go get the Vaseline, Kelvin, so I can put it on your lips." As Kelvin did as he was told, he tried very hard not to let her hear him cry. He knew bed-wetting wouldn't get him spanked but crying like a baby would. Angela hated whining and crying from anyone who wasn't a baby.
Angela pretended not to hear Kelvin's stifled sobs. As much as she hated walking all that way to wash sheets, she hated that she had to deny her son something as basic as water or juice when he was thirsty after dusk. The worst of it was how badly his lips dried and cracked during the night. She always knew which pillowcases to put back on his bed when she washed, because they all had little crescent-shaped, faded red marks on them. The Vaseline helped some, but Kelvin's lips always looked red and raw.
"Girl, let me call you back."
Angela hung up the phone just as her twin nephews rushed into the room, each one putting their little chests against one of her knees. Angela was babysitting for her sister. In unison, they whispered loudly, "Aunt Gee, Kelvin's cryin' again."
"Stop being tattle-tails," Angela said softly. The boys moved their faces closer to their aunt's face because she was whispering, too.
"Go help Kelvin with the Vaseline and say somethin' nice to him."
"OK," they said in unison and dashed off towards Kelvin's bedroom. As the boys left the room, the front door flew open and Sonjie ran in with Marcus still wailing on her hip. As Sonjie slammed the door and put her back up to it as if keeping out intruders, Angela stood up.
"Has he been cryin' this whole time, Sonjie? Why you let him keep cryin' like…" Angela stopped mid-sentence when she noticed the shocked look on Sonjie's face.
"Ma…" Sonjie looked like she wanted to say more, but the words wouldn't come.
"Sonjie, what's wrong with you?" Angela zipped over to her daughter.
"Ma…" Sonjie started breathing fast.
"Sonjie. Calm down. You scarin' me!" Angela grabbed for Marcus but Sonjie had a vice grip on the baby and wouldn't let him go.
"Tell me what's wrong, Sonjie? Are you hurt? Did somebody try to do something to you?!?!"
"Ma, there's a lady coming down the street, Ma, and I swear to Go…"
"GIRL! You betta not take the Lord's name in vain!" Angela punched her fists into her sides and glared at her daughter.
"Ma, there's this woman comin' down the street, and, Ma, she got a baby on her hip who look just like Marcus. I'm not lying! She look like she's preg…"
Before Sonjie could finish her sentence, there was a knock on the door.