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Maybe its because I am so scared of what I’m about to find. Or what I’m too late to find. He was like a father to me, even though my own is alive and well. His name is B. Just B. And he was my sunshine when the days were dreary and the nights were disheartening. And he wasn’t that just to me, but to all of us. I’ve thought of him often throughout the years and during the relentless voyage to my new-found success. His words of encouragement and those of precaution have guided me even though I hadn’t talked to him in…well, in years. So when I heard the news that he was dying, I was immediately drawn to this hospital even though I knew it might cost me my dream tour. The one I had been working towards all these years. The very reason I had been neglecting B. and my other friends. My being here did not just mean a few hours away from the tour, but a few days, maybe even weeks. I was here to save a life. Here to grant a little more time and hopefully some salvation. For B.’s sake, yes, but also for my own…for all of our sakes. We all needed him in our corner. To provide us guidance for just a little while longer. My one source of apprehension is that I don’t know what type of attitude I might face when I get to B. But one thing I do know and that is it’s time for me to face my demons…ones that I had created through my own selfishness throughout the years. You, see I have come to know that God tests us. This was to be one of my
tests. It’s His way of adding to my testimony and if I could get past this tests and still love God for who He is and not for what He gives me…my tour, my success, my dreams…then I could accomplish anything. I might even be able to accomplish loving again. So simple, love, yet something that I had squared myself from for so many years. I just believe that this was the one test that would allow me to love again. I believe this in my heart and because of this belief, I felt a mighty presence…His might presence. Not necessarily a presence of victory or even deliverance, but one of truth…there was going to be truth here today. It was time for me to be truthful not only with myself, but with those I love and more importantly, with those who loved me. As I approach the nurse’s station and for the first time notice almost all eyes on me, I suddenly remember who I am now and that I’m not just the dance student I once was when I first met B. on that hot, intense day in August almost 15 years ago. --It was 101 degrees in the shade and I was hot! I was mad as hell and I felt like just giving up on what I had dreamed of since I was a child growing up in a quaint town in Indiana. I would make up dance routine after dance routine just to escape the clamor and confusion of my parents constant quarrelling. My mother jumping up off the couch would be an “elongated twirl;” my father’s finger going back and forth in her face would be a “body shimmy;” and each squirm of her lips so close to his
while she was spitting her words with contempt would play out my rhythmic “point, step, point, point, step, point”…and the finale, his slam out the door, would be my dramatic “turn, twist and land” in the perfect and final bow of my performance. Performing was my life and I had always taken it seriously, and out of the trepidation of my youth, I had indeed perfected it. So why, at that moment, had my dance instructor just humiliated me for the umpteenth time? I came to class fully prepared to execute the perfect performance, the ultimate peotre. I had been in the dance studio with my partner half the night until I had that land perfected and when I came to class to demonstrate my hard work, my imbecile instructor had the audacity to exclaim, “And you think that’s what’s going to get you your major break… your looks aren’t everything and neither is daddy’s money. It takes SACRIFICE, COMMITMENT and DILIGENCE of which you have none…” I didn’t hear the rest because I ran out in humiliation and disgrace. Still clad in my dance attire and sweat dripping from every pore on my body, the 101-degree heat only intensified my vehemence and like I said, I was mad as hell! I was reliving everything, all the hours of preparation when everyone else was hanging out with friends eating, drinking and partying. Now, that’s SACRIFICE. I refrained because I knew I couldn’t abuse my body even slightly and still demand the rigorous requirements that dancing necessitates. Now, that’s COMMITMENT. I constantly rehearsed when others were partying, socializing and entertaining their friends
and almost always declined offers from peers. Now, that’s damn DILIGENCE! “What more does she want? Blood?” I must have uttered these words out loud because the next thing I know, I heard a deep, throaty voice say, “Sometimes they do, dear and if you want it bad enough, you’ll give it to ‘em. But remember, not so much that you hemorrhage. Just enough to let ‘em know you’re in it and ready, willing and able to go toe-to-toe as long as is required. That’s what I tell my River.” I hesitate. But in spite of myself, I repeat, “River?” I’m confused. “She’s my daughter. The reason I’m on this here campus today.” The old man chuckles. “I’m not a student, after all. Though, I gather why you might have mistaken me for one.” Again, his low and soft chuckle. I really take a look at him for the first time and see that he has deeply-tanned and wrinkled skin. Not as if he’s old, but rather as if he’s been out in the sun all his life. He had a wonderful head of hair though, dark brown and very full. And his eyes. They were dark and rich, not only with wisdom but with laughter too. This was a man with a sense of humor. And I was in desperate need of some of it. So again, in spite of my agitated state, I repeat: “River?” It’s as if I’m dumbfounded by a simple word.
“Yes, child. River. You don’t know her? I thought everybody knew my River. We call her that because River is like time, she never, EVER stands still. My River’s sings like an angel and she is also a design student here. She design’s dance steps…what does she call it…uhm…” He’s thinking. “Choreography?” I look closer at the old man, who didn’t seem as old as I originally thought, but he was timeless in that you would never be able to guess his actual age. His laughter would put him at that gleeful age of about eight. His full, wavy and gleaming hair would put him at that romantic age of about twenty. His deep and sexy voice would put him at that mature age of about thirtyfive. His eyes would put him at that sageous age of about ninety. But he still had a lot of life in him and he seemed to have more spunk than most of the people I knew that were my age. So if I average all of those ages out, I guess that would just about put him at about… “…oh, yeah, choreography.” He agreed. His rich voice interrupted my serene, but somewhat useless thought pattern. “My name is B. by the way and I’m sorry to have bothered you …you were in deep contemplation both times I interjected. I do apologize.” I hesitated before answering. After all, I don’t make talking to strangers a habit. But my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to respond in a kindly manner. “That’s okay, my grandmother used to say, ‘tis the sort of contemplation that goes best with conversation. So, you’re free to interject. No need to apologize.” I pause again before saying, “Would you like to know something
sad and sorrowful?” I asked, putting myself out on a limb to this stranger and about to expose some of my rawest feelings. B. didn’t answer, he just looked at me. I couldn’t read his eyes. At the time I thought it was because I was so preoccupied by my own situation. Only later did I recognize that it was because I hadn’t the means to be able to decipher such wisdom as what his eyes contained. I continued, steadfast. “I am who I am and I just might not be as flawless and perfect as I have strived to be all this time.” There. I said it. But I still feel burdened and an enormous amount of sadness as I am forced to discard an illusion that I have carried around since childhood. For so long, it has been all that I have had, all my own…being perfect. I look at B. wondering what in this not-so-old man has forced me to so suddenly shed something that I have always used as an armor of defense. And not only did I shed it, but I did so without having anything with which to replace it. “Why is that realization sad and sorrowful, child? I always tell my River that on our journey here in this life, we are ever-changing and defining and redefining our growth. So to redefine is not sad, nor sorrowful, but just the natural course of life.” “What? So, don’t strive for perfection, but strength instead?” I ask confused. “But I’ve put in too much time and diligence into being perfect. I just can’t believe that no one is perfect. I don’t want to be all-around perfect at
everything, you know, just perfect at dance. I deserve to be and I want it bad.” I am almost begging. I continue looking into his eyes, pleading, as if this notso-old man could grant me perfection. Silence. And then finally, he says, “You may not be perfect, child, but you’re strong.” I’m still not 100% of the same mind with B. because being “strong” was never my goal. He then reaches out to hug me, as a father would a child. Throughout this hug, I’m feeling a little apprehensive about hugging a perfect stranger, and a man at that. But then, I begin to ponder that this stranger and I might have been ideally suited to meet at this particular moment; and yet might never have met had my dance instructor not made me mad and had I not stalked out of class in a rage. Another one of my useless contemplations. But, oh well, here I go…Did everyone who was supposed to come into your life always make it there? Did the two not always meet? Or did the fates arrange at least one chance for them. And whether they took advantage of it or not was up to them? Is that where “free-will came into play?” I could see that the fates had played a part in me meeting B. and though I didn’t fully understand why, I intended to take advantage of it. So without thinking, I broke the hug and took the pen from his front shirt pocket and wrote my name and phone number on his hand and told him to have “his River” call me.
“My name is Vesence, by the way. It’s very good to have met you. Your River sounds like someone I should know. … Tell her to call me sometime.” “I will surely do that,” the old man beamed. “My name is B., by the by.” But even then, I knew this man named B. was the one that was going to be someone special in my life. I was only later that I would find out that knowing River was going to be an abundant bonus. And without any further thought, because apparently fools do rush in, I lumbered back toward my classroom to find out just what exactly was wrong with my peotre, one which I had deemed “the perfect peotre.” No, I still could not let go of the need for perfection. But, B.’s hug gave me the strength I needed to fight back. If I had bothered to look back, I would have seen B. just shake his head, as if to say, “ she has much to learn yet.” B. watches her walk away and then looks down at the number she so haphazardly wrote on his hand. Children these days, he thinks, as he transferred the number to a sheet of paper he had in his pocket. Then he commenced to do a spit-wipe to get the ink off his hand as he speaks quietly to himself, “Well, child. We can all be foolish sometimes, the key is not to stay that way. She’ll grow up and out. I have great faith in that one.” B. goes on his way to continue looking for River in order to relay the important message he originally came on campus to give her. He just couldn’t wait until she got
home after classes to convey the message. He knew his child and knew she would want this message straight away. He whistles as he walks down the beaten path. After all, he had just meant to sit on the bench for a moment to catch his breath and try to remember which of these big buildings was the one that his River told him he could reach her in, if he was ever to need her. Watching the girls and boys methodically hustle from one building to another, B. couldn’t help but feel that for the astronomical tuition that the school was charging, the education should be packed in velvet and delivered to their door with a complimentary bottle of champagne or at least a good cigar. But, any-ho, that sure was a lovely girl. Vesence was her name. She’s hoping for perfection. God gave her an able body and a good mind, but you know kids ain’t never satisfied so she wants perfection too. Press on, old man, press on to find your River…
CHAPTER 2 “Nurse, could you please direct me to B.’s room?” “Who, dear?” The nurse replied, grabbing the clipboard, though not looking up. “What is the last name?” I’m thinking to myself, what is River’s last name. Good Lord, what is that last name. Uhm..“Scotts, yes, B. Scotts.” “That would be room 212.” That same nurse replied without ever looking up. As I am leaving, I hear her fellow worker loud-whisper to her, “Don’t you know who that is? Didn’t you recognize her? Did you even look up? I can’t believe you…” She continues to chastise. I pass Room 200, 202… I’m feeling very anxious…Room 204, 206…maybe I shouldn’t have come…Room 208, 210…I know that I won’t be welcome after all this time. A voice interrupts my hesitancy and makes me stop dead in my tracks about 10 feet from my ultimate destination. I go unnoticed because the two voices are talking amongst themselves and have yet to notice me. “There is just no way he will survive without getting a blood transfusion and his blood type is the rarest and the highest in demand. And with his age…” The doctor hesitates, feeling the young woman’s pain. “…frankly, he just isn’t the highest on the list of patients who are eligible for the squat quantity. He’s getting weaker by the day. We’ve been calling other hospitals all morning and on the computer diligently, but at this point, we only have a
matter of days before we will begin to lose him and fast. Are you sure that you’re his only living relative because you don’t match his blood type?” “I am very sure. I just don’t understand how this could have happened. It just happened so quick.” River starts to cry uncontrollably. Up to this point, I still have not moved but seconds later, my natural instincts kick in and before I know it I am nose to nose with River and holding her as if time, memories and anger had never broken our friendship apart. She knows it’s me and yet she allows herself be held until her cries turn to intermittent sniffles. At some point in this interchange, the doctor must have left quietly because River’s voice breaks me out of my rhythm and I open my eyes and lift my chin from her shoulder. “You came. I’m so glad you came,” says River between sniffles. “Did you doubt that I would?” I ask quietly, holding her at arms-length to take a good look at her, though I knew I had no right to. There were a million times before that I should have seen her and would not have had to hold her at arms-length to get a good look at her. I look down in my indignity. Silence. She breaks from my arms and is visibly regaining her composure. I just hope that in this transformation, our moment of intimacy is not exchanged
for the hostility that had served as the main undercurrent in our relationship for the last years. “Prepare yourself. You’ve never seen B. like this before. Follow me.” She turns abruptly to lead the way to B.’s room. “You look better than I had hoped you would.” She tosses back at me and we both continue on into the room. I don’t respond to the snide. “You needn’t have come all this way, child. I’m gona be fine. Just fine.” B. states as I walk through the room; though his eyes are saying otherwise. In looking at them, I see the beginning of death. Walking very slowly over to him, I see that he uses a great deal of strength to offer me a quivering hand. I take it and bring it to my lips and just hold it and look into his familiar eyes. I realize that fifteen years ago, when I first met B. and hardly knew him, I was so young and dumb. But even then, I sensed something benevolent in him. A goodness found in the young; and a tenderness that came only with the years. And I love this man and silently will him to live. I look up at River. She is gazing out of the window in quiet contemplation, as if she is all alone in the room. We all stay in our trance-like state for a long while. B. gazing lovingly into my eyes and I into his. River gazing out the window. Finally, another person entering the room startles us all back into reality.
“Hey, you.” Purrs a gentle voice. I turn around, and what do I see but Sonshine. Though her real name is Sontera, we nicknamed her “Sonshine” because she was always good for a smile. She wasn’t the most talented out of the gang or even the most dedicated to the trade, but she could always brighten our day with her beautiful smile and amusing banter. “Back at you, ‘you’.” Because her smile is contagious, I turn to greet her not only with a hug, but also with my first smile since I heard the news of B.’s hospitalization. “You look beautiful. But I know it’s a delusion cause I know you’re scared as hell about B., but we’re all grateful for it, nonetheless. Now, go wash your hands.” “Why do I have to do that?” I asked, confused at the sudden change of subject. “Great wealth, salvation of humankind, the end of evil as we know it—the usual.” “A bit dramatic, aren’t we?” I laugh. “I’m supposing. I just don’t want the spreading of germs to persist. If I know you, you rushed over here straight from the plane, after traveling on a 14 hour flight from L.A., never once stopping to freshen up. Between that other world you left and here, you must have encountered a million germs or more. Our patient, here is very vulnerable and I know you wouldn’t want to subject him to any more danger than what he already faces. Now, go wash your hands before you “hug, hug”
and “kiss, kiss” all over him.” She chides as she picks up the container of water to pour B. a fresh glass. “Okay, point well taken.” I say smiling and I relish in the familiarity of the exchange. I walk to the sink in the bathroom, feeling about ten pounds lighter than a few minutes ago. Sonshine turns and redirects her energy to look at River staring out the window. “Can I get a greeting from the likes of you or are you too busy ruminating.” “I can ruminate if I want, Son.” River replies without looking from the window. “You don’t want to spend too much time ruminating. It can give you the reputation of being lazy.” “And the reputation of being unpleasant.” Chimes B. soft from lack of strength, but with humor nonetheless. River turns around and smiles at Sonshine, in spite of herself. I return from washing my hands in the adjoining bathroom just in time to bump into Jamie, the most charming of the male constituents in our group of five and the one I’ve always been most...how should I put it, most aware of. After not seeing him for close to five years, the first thing he says to me is, “You are looking good to me, Miss.” He scoops me up in his strong arms and I realize
how much I’ve missed the touch of a man. But not just any man, this man in particular. Now, that’s interesting. Sonshine retorts, “Break it up. She doesn’t look that good, Jamie. Anyway, absence just makes the heart grow fonder.” “Well, it affects other body parts as well because...” I interject with a laugh. It’s good to be home again, even under these circumstances. “Please, Jamie.” River is not to be cut short. “Must we be privy to what are supposed to be your personal thoughts?” She is talking to Jamie, but glaring at me as if Jamie’s being glad to see me is my fault. I shrug and throw my hands up, even before I realize how comfortable I’m getting. I am startled back into the reality of the situation and am reminded again why I was so hesitant about being here. No. I never hesitated about coming here, I was only hesitant about being here. Wild ban gees could not have stopped me from coming to see B., but I was just doubtful as to my being welcomed and not just from River. I had hurt them all in my actions and inactions throughout my climb to success in the last fifteen years. Besides the fact of shunning River for my “big break” that fateful night that broke up our friendship fifteen years ago; I stopped returning the gang’s calls and cards more out of guilt than lack of time; never made it to planned reunional-type functions planned throughout the years; was too busy to
attend their concerts and other functions; was too selfish to lend a helping professional hand when I was asked. And the list goes on. I just became too important for my own good and though I knew the reason why; I just couldn’t stop myself throughout the years from acting as such. And truth be told, I couldn’t say that even now, I knew how to rid myself of my ever-present self-serving outfit that I have so diligently donned throughout the years--the need for perfection, even at the cost of my friends and family. It was what B. had warned me about during our very first encounter on that hot August day. I was finally ready to learn my lesson and grow up and out. I really was. I mean, I AM ready.
CHAPTER 3 River was a light, free-hearted and very happy child. But she was not allowed to be as such throughout her entire childhood. Only until she was ten years old, after which, a series of events clamored to change her life forever. Before her tenth birthday, River had always thought of her parents as the perfect couple. Though, even at a young age, she did realize how they were very different from one another. They laughed a lot; partied hard with their friends and River alike; worked hard on their farm; and always raised their daughter to be a free spirit—just like her mother. River’s parents raised her during the seventies--a time of free love. The war and drugs of the time failed to reach the backwoods of Indiana where they were from, but the spirit of the seventies was prevalent even in Indiana. “B., lets get the kids up early to help with the morning chores and then let Earl man the rest of the crew for the remainder of the day. I feel like having a merrymakingevent tonight!.” Bostitch said to her husband, B. B. looks at her and laughs because he knows what a “merrymaking-event” means. It means that after the early morning chores were done around their dairy farm, he and River would be in the kitchen all day with Bostitch cooking and making a mess preparing all kinds of outrageous dishes to serve to the dozens of families that would be invited over to the house and spill over into the barn tonight.
His wife, Bostitch, was not like most farmer’s wives that he knew in that she was not into domestic tasks like cleaning, sewing, washing clothes and what she termed as “other mundane things of that nature.” So, while the food would be exotic, scrumptious and plentiful because no one could doubt her culinary skills; she was not one to waste good time and energy on cleaning the house to prepare for the event. He and River got along as best they could as far as everyday, household chores were concerned, so he made a mental note to ask River to do a clean sweep through the house before the guests arrived. Nothing too thorough--just enough to be presentable and the help could deal with the rest at a later date. B. loved his wife and indulged her in every way possible. He loved her for all that she was and all that she was not able to be. He knew in his heart of hearts that Bostitch would not be around forever. Sure, they got along just fine and even complimented each other as a couple with that “opposites attract” theory, and all of that. But, getting along well wasn’t love. Love meant craving another person with every fiber of your being. Feeling complete only in their presence. And he was not this to Bostitch, though she was this to him. She was just too immense to be contained in a little dairy farm in Indiana, while he, he was completely satisfied in a little dairy farm in Indiana. But as long as she would be had, he would have her. And besides, he would always have a little piece of her in River because he knew he would never let River go with her when she ultimately left. And Bostitch would leave, B. was sure of it.
--------Bostitch was a born entertainer who could sing and dance as well as Michaelangelo could paint. And she would go to pursue those dreams one day, B. knew it as well as he knew dairy farming. He met Bostitch when she was 17 and he was 30 years of age. It was love at first sight on his part and though general admiration, nothing as profound as love, on hers. They met one day when B. was shopping for some supplies at a local merchant shop and she was there asking the owner about work. She needed to work to help support herself and her family because her parents were of no use in that way. She was from an abusive household looking for a way out from an alcoholic mother and an indolent father. And B. gave her that “way out” on the glorious day of her eighteenth birthday, by-way of marriage. But until her eighteenth birthday, B. would just have to bid his time and find a way to get to know her. After B. paid for his supplies at the merchant shop, he waited nervously outside of the store until eventually Bostitch came out also. He had little experience with women because up until seeing Bostitch, he had his hands full with the farm. After his parents died, he used every ounce of his energy to keep up the dairy farm and eventually expand it. It was only in the last year or so that he even felt that he had the time and energy to give to another person outside of the realm of his farm. But in that last year or so, it had only been a thought. He’d done nothing to actualize it.
Coming out of the shop, B. noticed that Bostitch looked quite dejected. He correctly assumed she had been turned down for work. Walking briskly from the store, she all but knocked B. off the step he was standing on, lost in his own wave of thoughts. She grabbed his arm to keep herself from tumbling over as well. As B. held her, a moment too long, he was speechless. Bostitch could tell by his rippling arm muscles that this was a man with great strength. But, good lord, could he release her so she could be on her way, she thought to herself. Out loud, she said, “I see you have muscles. Now, do you have manners?” Can you let me go?, she thought to herself. “My apology.” B. said and let her go, so quickly in fact, that she did indeed fall off the porch steps onto the dirt ground. “Omigod. I am so soory, young lady. Allow me to help you up.” He immediately reaches down to lend her a hand. She brushed his hand away. “No…no.” She pauses, resigned. “ I think I’ll just cop a squat for a few more moments. Some days are just horrible from start to finish and it just doesn’t pay to put on pants and leave the house. I tell you.” She pauses again. “This plunge off the porch goes hand in hand with how my day has gone thus far. So, I’ll just stay down here for a spell, if you don’t mind, thank you very much.” B. looks on at Bostitch as if he expected a different response, and rightfully so. But Bostitch does not change her mind, she only regards
her new acquaintance through the haze of a growing headache. So B. had no choice but to continue speaking. “I, uhm, couldn’t help but overhear you talking to Old Man Duke about needing work…and, uhm, I was just thinking…I’m looking for some help, uhm…” Silence. The man pauses for so long, Bostich grows impatient. “Yes, spit it out.” She said in her no-nonsense way after a moment or two. The hope of a possible job was brimming in her eyes and was almost overriding her headache. Almost. B. could only stare at her in awe. No, she wasn’t beautiful in the conventional way and her hands and features looked as if she was no stranger to manual labor, so she wasn’t your typical feminine type. But she had a glow and a spirit that exuded pure femininity. And such experience in her big, brown eyes. She had seen a lot in her time. His type of woman, indeed and he had yet to even look at the rest of her. Not his style at this early stage; but, he could just ask her to marry him right then and there cause he felt he had met his match. And he could only stand there staring, like a damned fool. What was wrong with him!? “Are you wasting my time? I have more places to seek out in this short time. You know, the days are getting shorter as the summer ends and with the days shortened, I have less time till it gets dark, you know.”
B. says without thinking, “But it’s only June. Still early yet in the summer.” “My point exactly. At the rate you’re going, it’ll take you from June till August to tell me you’re looking ‘for some help, uhm…’ as you so eloquently put it. Now, what exactly are you looking for? I’m seeking respectable work, you know. I can cook real good. But, all you have the notion to do is just stand there staring at me and looking dumb. Well, in all fairness, I don’t know whether you’re, as they say, playing dumb, or you really are just remarkably vague. What type of position is it, Mr. B.?” She decides now is as good a time as any to brush herself off and get up. “Good Lord,” she says as she pulls herself up. He automatically reaches down to help her. “How do you know my name is B.?” “Everyone knows your name. At least every eligible bachelorette and their hopeful mother. You don’t notice how many pies and cakes and dishes just happen to show up at your place. Even my mother had one unhazzy thought the other month for me to join in by making my famous blueberry pie for you. But I didn’t have the mind to. Well, Mr. B. these women want more than to just cook for you, you know. I repeat, every eligible bacheloretee and their mother know about, Mr. B.” “Actually, I didn’t recognize anything unusual. My parents recently died, you know and some of the neighbors are still being friendly and paying their
respects after all this time. Which leads me to what I was trying to say. My kitchen help, Miss Clara is getting up in age and she’s been after me to get her some help. She cooks not only for me two times a day, but also for all my farm hands one time daily.” “Really?” I nodded, though I was making it all up right on the spot. Miss Clara was an efficient cook and who would take offense to the thought of someone else in her kitchen if she’d even deigned to from an opinion about it at all. That was her territory, hands down. But, I had to think quick on my feet. I was desperate to draw this young lady in. “Think about it. When did your folks die?” Though Bostitch was desperate for a job, she couldn’t help but momentarily change the subject. “What say you? Oh, in 1964, round bout September.” “It’s now June of 1966. How many “respects” can they pay? It has been almost two years since your parent’s death, and unattached hopefuls are still bringing you cakes and pies. And what do they have to show for all their hard work? Mostly fatigue, tears and broken hearts; fore, I have heard of no such occasion when you have followed up on these “offers,” as they are. Face it, Mr. B., you’re a sought after man. But no action to you, I suspect.”
You suspect wrong, B. thought. Because I am going to take action; fore, you will be my wife by this time next year. But for the moment, B. only laughed at this newfound way of looking at the pies and cakes that showed up to his house daily. Just in these first few minutes of knowing Bostich, B. thought of the passion and joy he had experienced with, and really through her. He never felt so alive as he did in her presence. It was a pleasure even to banter with her. --B. knew it would be a mistake to just pop up with Bostitch in Mrs. Clara’s kitchen. In lieu of this, he gave Bostich some money to buy supplies to prepare a few dishes to give to Mrs. Clara so she could taste them the following day. During the interim, B. had to convince Mrs. Clara that “some help” would be refreshing and free her up to spend more time with her grandchildren. He made up a myriad of reasons for needing extra help, all of them more complicated than the next. In the end, he was more tired than when he spent a day working around the farm. Mrs. Clara sat there silent, listening to his complex web of faulty reasoning. She meant to make it a hard sell. But she hadn’t denied him anything in all the years of her employ here and didn’t mean to start now. Nonetheless, she made sure B. left the room to her smiling a stab of freezing wind. But he didn’t care. He didn’t care at all. The world could go hang for all he cared. He just knew he wanted Bosttitch in his day-to-
day world until the day he could legally ask her to marry him. As she was leaving with this last thought, Mrs. Clara said to him. “Son, complications usually come from a bouquet of lies. The truth is usually very plain.” B. turns slowly away and says somewhat shyly, “Okay. I want to marry this girl, but she’s yet a girl and she needs work” “Don’t let any one, especially any woman, get you in the habit of lying to get what you want. Your ma didn’t raise you like that. You’ve done a good job with this here land and we’re all proud of you for that.” Pause. “I can’t say that I’m not still pissed with you for doing all of that lying to me. You should know me better than that. But I do care about your happiness more than I care about being angry.” Pause again. “Very well. I will see to it that she feels welcomed here and move her towards the necessary transition.” Mrs. Clara knew then that the girl was trouble.
CHAPTER 4 “That took 5 years?” “River, can I talk to you for a minute? Alone?” Vesence is hesitant in asking, but something important is weighing heavy on her heart and she needs to talk with River. This is the time to start some of her truth-telling. “As you wish.” River replies in a very formal manner, as if she were raised in London versus the back woods of Indiana. Nonetheless, Vesence was just happy for some type of positive response and chooses to ignore the official tone. The two walk to the coffee machine and try not to look too uncomfortable with one another. River is the first to speak. She does so in a hostile tone. “Jamie sure looks happy to see you. My brother can never keep his mind out the gutter.” She snides. “It seems to me like your brother is more of a man than a boy, these days. I know it’s only been five years since I’ve seen him, but he seems so grown now. He still has that playful manner in him, though. I know he’s always been a little older than us, but now for the first time, it shows in his masculinity. And Sonshine, it is so good to see her. She really is a ray of sunshine, so beautiful and upbeat and…” “Where you been?” River cut off Vesence’s ramble. “Out getting some groceries.” Vesence tried to make light of the situation in her nervous state. “If I was gone five years, it took five years.” Vesence was now getting defensive. “I don’t know, River, what do you want to hear? Huh? What is it that you want me to say? I don’t know where I’ve been, don’t know where I’m going, don’t even know how I ended up here. All I know is that I’m here now and B’s sick and I really need to be able to help him. “ “You need to be able to help him? You need to be able to help him?” River is almost hissing these words between her teeth. “You need…even that statement is making you sound like the selfish wench that you are. But, that’s you, selfish, selfish, selfish! Can you even see that he needed to be able to see you these last few years, when he was well and kicking. He hates for you to see him like this and you just come waltzing in like you’re the Queen of Sheba and …” Vesence interrupted, “I never thought I was the Queen of anything, I only was trying to help and you…” “Don’t interrupt me, Mrs. Ice Princess. Mrs., always keep them guessing, but never give ‘em any. Anyone who did that would have all the damn men panting after them too. You think we’re not on to you. Sonshine’s ass is just being nice. We are all on to you. Do you hear me, little mrs. tighty?” “You’re yelling, of course I hear you and stop using all that damn profanity with me.”
“Good, at least now you’re talking real with me. You haven’t always been Mrs. Perfect and you used to think of cussing as fitting sentiment, not profanity. What is wrong with you, that you can just walk back into all of our lives after 5 years and before that, it’s not like we’ve even seen you regularly for the last 15 years or so and I just don’t understand how you can turn your back on all of us. Not just B. and the gang, but me too. I’m still here, can you even see me?” River is crying now. “Oh, sweetie, of course I can see you. I never lost sight of you or B. or Sonshine or even Jamie, I simply lost sight of me. But after living a certain way for so long, it’s very…very painful to change. And B. getting sick just served as the force I needed to come back here to Indiana. But, I’ve wanted to for so very long.” Vesence pauses as the two hold hands and contemplate what to say next. “I just didn’t know how to go about coming back. I just felt so different from all of you. Not because of my fame, but because of what I’ve allowed my fame to do to me.” “No, Ves, it’s not what you’ve allowed your fame to do to you, but what you allowed yourself to sacrifice to achieve that fame. There’s a big difference. There is nothing wrong with fame, in and of itself. Sonshine is an accomplished song wirter and you can hear any one of a number of her songs on any given radio station, Jamie is a famous actor and can be seen in a number of flicks, not always great, but on the big screen nonetheless…and I’m…well, never mind that. But, there’s nothing wrong with success. And we all managed to stay so close
because we needed the saneness of our group and B. to be able to even accomplish that success, let alone stay sane in the midst of the madness that success brings. But you, you didn’t need any of that and you still succeeded and quite frankly, I’m jealous and I feel really simple having to have had this conversation instead of being able to welcome you with open arms, like Sonshine and Jamie and even B. and then you got me talking about men chasing you and being a tease…I’m just a mess. Can you forgive me? Can’t we just go back to how we were in the good ‘ol days?” Vesence laughs, “What do you mean good ‘ol days? It wasn’t that long ago and they weren’t all that good, if I remember right. I was driving myself crazy trying to be perfect; Sonshine was busy giving and receiving “free love,” it’s a wonder that girl has settled down with her new husband, at all; Jamie was busy sleeping with every woman in town and “fuck you very much” was his motto; and you were so busy mourning your mother that you couldn’t even see all that you had in B. So, you tell me, what was to good about those days?” “We had each other and we had each other every single day, back then. It is not an easy thing, living down a deserter. After losing mom, I more than cherished the times we had together. I practically…what’s the word I’m looking for? “Thrived.” I offer her. “See?” She smiles because I knew even before she did the word she was going for. “I thrived on the routine of
those times. We lived together and worked hard together and partied…” River was almost shouting now and sighed because she knew she had to check her tone. “… and studied and laughed and cried.” Pause. “Remember Mrs. Pfutta , the librarian? You know, the one with the lisp…yeah, well, she’s in room 219 for pneumonia. You know, Son has been to see her everyday since B. has gotten in here. I’ve not made it to see her yet, but we’ll have to go see her later on.” The two sit there and laugh at the memories of crazy Mrs. Pfutta , glad for something to think about other than their old fight or even their precious B. After a while, Vesence says, “I never meant to hurt you, not any of you and especially not B. and NEVER, EVER you. You guys mean everything to me.” Silence. “Well, if I’m totally honest, it’s not that I didn’t want to hurt you, I just wanted to succeed more than I didn’t want to hurt you. And for that, I am so sorry. So very sorry.” Both women sit there and think back to that fateful day when Vesence stepped all over River in order to take advantage of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity that got her to the level of fame she enjoyed today.
CHAPTER 5 Sonshine is running into the library looking like a mad woman. Brushing unobservant and innocent library goers aside and knocking unsuspecting piles of books to the floor. “You guys will not believe it! You will absolutely not freaking believe who is coming on campus to see us.” Son spits out between breaths. “Can this wait.” River looks up. “We only have 32 more minutes until this place closes and I have about 90 more minutes of research to do. Just, please, be cool and we’ll meet you at B.’s. He’s cooking your favorite tonight. So, just, please...” Her eyes are begging for a few more moments of uninterrupted study time. “I’m not thinking about you.” Turning to look at Vesence. “We’re about to be famous. It’s coming…” A voice we have all come to love to hate interrupts, “Young lady, mightn’t thu pleasth refrain from your loud thalking and rambuncthuous behavior. My books, which were in sthacks, are now in complethe shambles. As this is your third warning, you will be expecthed to come in this weekend and do 4 volunteer hours each. And on different shifts. Absolutely, positively not at the same time.” Vesence and River gasp in the injustice of it all. But Son simply looks up at Mrs. Pfutta and smiles. To look at the librarian from afar, she has such delicate features and
bone structure; her clothing, make-up and hair were always perfect yet classy in their understated ness; and her prim and proper behavior reeked of refinement. So, to then hear her distinct lisp, was like a photo of Anna Nicole Smith standing incongruously next to Princess Di. Totally contradictory. Still smiling, Son simply says, “As you wish, Mrs. Pfutta. We are sincerely apologetic. Girls, do come on. Gather your things. Let’s be on our way.” She takes on the proper tone of the librarian. But Vesence and River are furious at this now four hours worth of volunteer service that they have to do because of Son’s behavior and River says as much. To this, Son simply says, “Mrs. Pfutta, I will be in Saturday morning to do the total 12 hours because it was really me who started this mess. I was simply excited about an opportunity that we have because Rushmore is coming on campus looking for a new face to sing and one to choreograph in his new show. And I was thrilled with the prospect of it all.” She looks sheepishly to the ground. “I’m sorry for being excited.” Mrs. Pfutt looks at Son with what looks to be no sympathy, but again, incongruent to her look, out of her mouth comes, “Oh, very well, no sense in thaking away thwelve hours from your rehearsal thime. Justh thry to be more sensithive to my rules and regulathions when you’re in my library. Now off with you girls before I change my minds.”
And the girls do just that, Vesence taking a few seconds to be baffled about how just 5 minutes ago, they were stressing about how they were going to get everything done in the last little bit of time that they had left until the library closed. And now, they couldn’t get out of there fast enough. And all because of the whirlwind that they called “Sonshine.” Mrs. Pfutta stood right over them and waited for them to gather their things and basically escorted them out of the front entrance, turning left only once she reached he information desk just 10 feet before the girls turned right to the exit. As the girls hit the first step out of the library entrance Vesence can contain her excitement not one minute longer. “Rushmore is really coming to our rinky dink school to find new talent! I mean, I know we work really hard to learn and achieve and be great here and all that, but my goodness, we’re located in the back woods of Indiana. Where on earth did he get the idea to come here to recruit?” “Who cares, let’s just make sure we’re in the know. Let’s go straight to the placement office and get the information so we can know the logistics because we all know Son has none to give, do you? Where, when, how long a routine, what type of music huh, Son?”
“Oh, please. You know I can’t be bothered with details. I have no shame. Like you said, let’s head straight to get the details off the bulletin board.” Son replies. They head off laughing and while walking through the parking lot, fall into a silence where each is dreaming their own separate fantasy and ultimately, River says, “Thanks for being willing to take our 4 hours, Son. Only you would even think to volunteer to do that for us. It’s not like the rest of us wouldn’t do that for each other, we just wouldn’t even think to. Didn’t you even for one second, get mad at the injustice of it, though?” Son pauses to think. “Not really. I haven’t wasted time being mad at anyone or feeling sorry for myself since the time I was almost run down on the side of the street because I was concentrating soooo heavily on being mad at my overbearing mother for popping up on me. Remember, that time when I had “so much to do” that weekend before Labor Day weekend.” Again, I’m lost in thought for a few minutes, remembering that entire situation. I continue. “And because I was concentrating so hard on being mad, I almost died. Which was a waste of good emotions, I might add. Not to mention the fact that my mother hasn’t changed any because of my being mad and as much as I wished her away, she is still my mother and calls weekly. So, I just don’t waste any more good emotions and loving, giving free love and being happy are such easy emotions to exude. You know what I mean? I’d rather spend 12 hours volunteering in the library all day Saturday and enjoying all the new books
and authors I would discover and basking in all of the natural beauty of a library, and enjoying every minute of it; then to spend even one minute being mad at the fact that I had to change my original Saturday plans. You feel me?” “Yeah, but she was just being mean by saying we had to all do different shifts. That’s when I was about to jump down her throat. Why do people say things like that to purposefully hurt other people? She knows it would be a supreme sacrifice on any student’s part, to just give up doing their regular plans for 4 hours. At the last minute. Doing work for free. And on a Saturday. Come on now.” She looks up at the sky, mock rolling her eyes. “We could all have regular jobs or exams coming up. Hell, we were in the library for a reason…because we have tests coming up and papers to write.” Complains River. Son answers. “It wouldn’t have hurt anyone of us, in the grand scheme of things. And she wasn’t being mean intentionally, that was just her knee- jerk reaction to me knocking over her stacks of books and making a ruckus in her otherwise perfect world. And if you think about it, none of her words were mean and even if they were, they’re just words.” “Yeah, and a car is just a harmless and inert machine until a drunk driver gets behind it.” Tosses in Vesence. “And speak for yourself. I planned on being up at 5am on Saturday to practice my new routine and that was before you told us Ruschmore was coming. So, it would definitely throw a monkey wrench in my plans to have to spend 4 hours at some library with the likes of Mrs.
Pfutta. I mean what? She thinks she can just come up to us and tear us a new asshole, then get back behind her little desk like nothing happened? Not even a little bit am I having that. And I’m sorry, River but that was unfair.” “I can only pray that your callousness results from youth and inexperience and not complete lack of character.” Son retorts because she knows she is a few years older than all the other girls. Both of the girls look at Son at the say time, point to her and say, “Hey, that was a great one.” “Wasn’t it, though?” Son grinned, expecting at least a few tension-easing chuckles, if not an outbreak of laughter. Vesence and River didn’t disappoint her. The girls continue walking towards the placement office, laughing, but thinking nonetheless. Sonshine had a way of making people think, even in her supreme state of joy. Her words were just eloquent like that.
CHAPTER 6 As I’m walking down the street, I’m remembering how much I’ve yet to do today, and subconsciously, hasten my steps. I really can’t believe my mother has the audacity to choose this weekend out of all the weekends before and after this one. But, true to her own selfish personality, she has chosen the one weekend that I had saved for all of my “last minute, need-to-do-or-the-worldwould-come-to-the-end, should-have-done-during-thepast-five-previous-months,” weekend for her infamous, “Sontera, guess what surprise I have for you…yaddy, yaddy, yah.” All I remember from her monologue was the fact that she was raining on my parade this weekend. I started college a lengthy 6 years after graduating from high school, during which I worked and saved for school and room and board and stayed with my mom and dad to help with my younger siblings. So, at the ripe old age of 25, I’ve been away from home for about half a year now and by this time, you would think my mother would be used to being away from me and that I could expect complete freedom from the woman. After all, she does have four kids still left at home and I know they kept me completely busy keeping up with them, so I’m trying to figure out why she has time to visit me for a whole week? So, here I am walking to and from the bus stop, each time I get off at another stop to run an errand. It’ a Thursday and I took half a day off from classes to cram my entire “weekend-to-do list” in today before my mom arrives on Friday morning. And to top it off, it’s raining and my umbrella has definitely seen better rainy days…
probably about a year ago, but nonetheless. I mentally make a note to add “buy new umbrella” to my list. In the midst of my contemplation and annoyance, I initially fail to notice this man walking…no, running up on me and attempting to tell me something. He’s yelling at me. This stranger is actually yelling at me! WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM? Is he crazy? Okay, I just would really like to know WHY this stranger is yelling at me. I stretch my neck in an attempt to make out what he is saying. But, wait…don’t try to hear what this man is saying…my second thought is to run as fast as possible away from him. And as I’m turning my body to do just that, I catch sight of a car barreling down on me from my other side. OH MY GOD! Right as these series of events are being processed in my already-too-full brain, the man…this stranger…tackles me. Just as we fall, I manage to look into his eyes and see that he has the most beautiful and clear, violet eyes that I have seen in all of my 26. Oh, did I say 25 before? Wallop! My back hits the asphalt pavement. Thump! And this man’s entire 200 pounds lands on top of me. “I…can’t…breathe…please...” I’m gasping for air. Hard breathing is all I get as my response. Evidently he’s grasping for air too. That and…is this man…this stranger groping at my breast. Oh my gosh, I look down to find my right boob has literally popped out of my bra and because of the weight of this 200-pounder on the top of me, my boob has almost boosted up out of my dance
leotard and to the bottom of my chin. And he’s trying to put it back in. Is that what this stranger is trying to do? “I said…can’t…breathe…please.” I’m still gasping for air & at the same time, trying to stuff my boob back in my leotard, which is next to impossible because his weight has left no opening on the top half of my shirt in order for me to maneuver it back in. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but are you okay?” Still breathing hard, by this time, the 200-pounder is rolling off me. We both look up to notice a car tire inches from our heads and a man whose head is leaning forward on the steering wheel. Is he dead? drunk? or just emotional from the near crash? It’s obvious something is wrong with him. But just as we’ve both rolling off the ground and about to go try to make our way towards the car and the slumped driver, out of nowhere, we hear a loud voice hollering at the now gathered crowd. With all that just went down in the last 2 minutes, how could I have missed that crowd? Where did all these people come from within in 2 minutes? Good Lord. What is going on here? “Move back. Move back! I said move back or you WILL be detained!” The voice belongs to a man and he is flashing a badge and heading towards the driver’s car, gun exposed. It looks like he’s checking for vital signs, but the driver still doesn’t seem to be moving. At first thought, I’m thinking, “I hope he’s alright,” but then selfpreservation kicks in and I’m backing further away from the car, just in case something goes down, like a shoot out or something.
By this time, police cars and ambulances have arrived and I see the cop pointing at us. I then remember violet eyes and turn to ask if he’s okay. We’re both in shock. He mutters something that I suppose is a response and we both turn around to notice that the cop who was chasing the driver was headed towards us and beckoning for us to meet him half-way. We get up off the ground and do so, both of us still in a daze. Upon meeting up, the cop says, “I’m sorry for the near-run-in. Are you two okay?” He goes on to explain that just by a fraction of an inch, I was saved from being mowed over by the seemingly drunk driver by the violeteyed stranger. It seems as if the drunk driver was being chased by the undercover. Right about this time, I’m trying to figure out how in the world I would have missed the sirens of a cop-chase taking place so close in vicinity that it almost hit me. Just as I’m tuning back in to the cop’s explanation, he stops abruptly when he notices a woman and redirects us towards her. He then continues with his explanation and explains that although he is in full uniform, he was being driven by his non-unformed partner who was off duty; thus, the civilian car, the lack of radio to call for back-up, and the lack of sirens on the car. He just saw the man who was obviously drunk and swerving severely and took chase. Just great, I’m thinking, Indiana’s finest chooses the block I’m walking on, at the time I’m walking on it, to turn into a civilian’s renegade. And aren’t there rules against this…
At this point, we’ve reached the woman we were being guided towards. The cop introduces her as Detective Wilkens. I take it she must have just been in the area too and stopped at the scene, because she was not dressed as if she meant to be there. She looked to be about 40 or so years of age and she had the reddest hair I have ever seen on a black woman. But it worked on her because it wasn’t as if she was trying too hard like some women will bleacheast of blond hair or the blackest of jet black hair. No, instead, the red seemed to be a natural fit with her freckles and co-co color skin. And to top off the look, this woman detective had a superlative-tailored white suit and the baddest pair of white sandal-type shoes that I have seen in a minute, especially for the backwoods of Indiana. Again, coming out of my own thoughts, I look up to the cop saying something about being in good hands with Detective Wilkins and being sorry for the “near-miss.” “Can I escort you two across the street to that little coffee house, please?” Her voice is soothing. It’s only when she says, “you two,” that I again remember the violeteyed stranger that is still with me. As the detective goes to put the palm of her hand on the small of my back to guide me towards the coffee house, she leans down to whisper in my ear, as if needing some privacy from the violet-eyed stranger, and says, “Sweetheart, I don’t mean to add any further tragedy to this already catastrophic incident,” she clear her throat as if she is uncomfortable, “but your right breast needs to be positioned back in your blouse because it is exposed. I’m so sorry, dear.” And you can tell by her contrite tone of voice that she really is genuinely distressed for me.
And it’s a good thing she is distressed for me because I tell you, at this point I can’t even muster up enough indignity to do anything other than just smile. I’m telling you, this is too much and I for one am on the other side of through and don’t even have the good sense to be appalled that my right boob has the poor taste to still be where the whole world can see it. I sigh heavily and say in a conversational tone, “Oh, no apologies needed.” Because, you know, I’m not going to get anything on my list done and my mother is still going to be her tomorrow morning. Early. And I just almost died, but for the violet-eyed stranger. I look at him just then to make sure he is, in fact, still with us. He is, so I continue trying to make conversation with Detective Wilkins. “By the looks of how you’re dressed, it looks like you weren’t expecting to be here.” I’m still trying to be conversational. The detective looks at me in a strange way, probably wondering why I’m being so blasé about the fact that my right breast was being exposed to the world, at large. To be honest, I’d almost forgot the dern thing was open to the elements. At the same time that I’m making an attempt at conversation with the woman detective, I am pulling at the u of my leotard front and plopping it back down where it belongs. And I never miss a step. LIKE I SAID, by this time, I’ve been rained on and am now thoroughly wet; I’ve been tackled by a stranger and have yet to resume breathing normally because all of his dead weight on the top of me; I’ve landed back-down on the asphalt and nearly got a concussion from the impact.
And just as I thought the series of transgressions was over, a car tire stops abruptly and unexpectedly at the crown of my head, just centimeters from crushing my skull. A cop pulls a gun and rushes past my terrified body, which is still on the ground and being crushed by a 200-pound stranger, and she thinks I’m worried about my exposed, right boob? Oh, and to top off the fact that my right boobie popped out of my clothing, it has been that way for the last few minutes, to have been viewed by the man who tackled me, the crowd of strangers initially drawn to the accident site, the policeman who escorted us to Detective Wilkeens and by Detective Wilkens, herself. Only to have her whisper in my ear that “my right breast needs to be positioned back in my blouse because it is exposed.” LIKE I SAID, it’s a good thing she was distressed for me because at this point, just “THANK YOU GOD that I am alive!” I continue smiling from ear to ear, in my own little utopia, while walking towards the coffee house. And again I speculate as to why this woman is dressed in the most wonderfully-tailored, white suit that I have seen anywhere since I have arrived from L.A. And just who is this violeteyed stranger who has saved my life, yet barely spoken a word?
CHAPTER 7 “Mom, I’m late for my piano lessons and I need for you to stop what you’re doing, let’s get in the car and take me RIGHT NOW!” No answer. “Mommy, I am serious.” Still no bite. “I’m coming up there!” “I’m coming, honey.” I take one last look at my reflection in the mirror. I am going on what will be my first date in nearly five years and am really nervous. I wish I had asked my sitter to stay longer so she could take my ohso-lovely 11-year old to rehearsal. It is the second Thursday of the month, so it is Flower, our next-door neighbor’s, turn to pick our girls up from rehearsal, feed them, settle them to sleep and take them both to Sohair Elementary school in the morning. Because we’re both single mothers, live next door to one another and have kids that go to both the same school and most of the same extracurricular activities, we share the caravanning responsibility. And thank goodness for that on this day because I’m going on my first date in nearly five years! “Come on mom, somebody needs to take me now!” Like I said, Taylor’s a lovely eleven year old who inherited my firey red hair and my myriad of freckles; but unlike me, she has the sizzling personality to go with both. “Are you talking to me in that smart tone, Taylor? Because I hope not, sweetie.” I gently reprimand. “Mom, of coooourse I wasn’t talking to you.” She’s being sarcastic now and has managed to turn the word course into a five-syllable word. “I was talking to SOMEBODY.
Only if your name is somebody. I said SOMEBODY needs to take me, NOW.” By this time, Taylor is standing in my dressing room threshold and repeating this in a sing-songy way. Then she gets serious all of the sudden. Did I mention that she was erratic, as welling as sizzling? She can go from one subject to another without as much as an extra breathe. “I didn’t mean to get smart, mommy, but I really don’t want to be late. You knooow that Mrs. Hatfield gives you the worst spot on the recital program if you’re late for practice more than one time and we were late last week, remember?” By this time, Taylor is whining but good. “And I just don’t want that to happen to me, Momma. Now, can we please go?” She stops and looks at me as if for the first time and demands, “Why are you so dressed up? Ma, you’re wearing white! We must be going somewhere really special after practice because you always say white makes you look fat and that you can’t never keep it clean. Mom, where are we going after practice? Huhm? because I could bring my cute sundress Granny got me that’s white so I can match you. Oh, and Ma, my funny white sandals with the teddy bears on them.” She’s thinking now, probably mentally going through her whole rolodex of clothes. Okay, I told you she was erratic and sizzling, but did I mention my child is also fashion-conscience? And not just that, but to be only eleven, she was a fanatic about her wardrobe. Her closet was color-coordinated and her shoes were neatly lined in a row. Also color-coordinated.
She and her Granny could not go a whole week without going into Langette Square or some small specialty shop to get “a little something,” as Momma likes to say. I don’t know where she got it from? But got it good she does, and my child is still talking and getting louder and more excitable by the minute; the rush to leave for recital practice all but forgotten. Because my kid is still rambling, I use this opportunity to apply the last of my lipstick and before I am finished and am just about to turn around to remind Taylor that today is the second Thursday of the month and Sharel’s mom would be picking her up; she has made her mind up that she has definitely got to go get her white sundress and teddy bear sandals. Bless her heart, she is not used to me going on dates because like I said, this is the first date that I’ve hade in five years and as she is only 11 years old, she hasn’t seen me go on a date since she was just turning six years old. Her father and I divorced when she was that age and the day he told me he wanted a divorce, he took me to a movie and dinner. Hence, my last date six years ago.
CHAPTER 8 You see, I don’t have time for dates because I work for the IPD and since my divorce five years ago, I have worked hard to get promoted all the way to my current status of detective. And I’ve come to find out since I’ve been promoted, that being a detective is where the hard part just begins because I’m competing with the big boys now. So, I have to do extras that the “big boys” don’t have to do. Or at least I feel that I need to. Like I said, my daughter didn’t get the fiery part from me, but the erratic component…all me. Though I’m dern good at my job as a detective, I do have the tendency to try to always keep the peace between my peers because I just do no like confrontations. Oxymoron, I know. But, be cause of this oxymoron, I’m likely to agree with two different cops who have two different opinions about the same thing. Like I said, I’m erratic like that. But on the flip side, I’m very detailoriented and can make inferences from the finest of points of a crime scene. This usually allows me be the one to put together the pieces in order to solve the puzzle. But, I try to forget all about work right now and just thank Janice, my best friend for bringing this beautiful white suit over to me at the last minute because I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to wear before I actually got off of work today and took my “pre-date shower.” It was only at the point when I was drying off and wrapping the towel around my size 12 body, and went to my closet
to choose an outfit, and lo and behold, I chastised myself for not thinking to pick up something that fit. I had recently dropped from a size 16 dress size and had discovered a plethora of men who all of the sudden noticed me. Having been overweight most of my natural life and all of my adult life, I was used to being invisible. I almost didn’t know how to react to this new-fangled attention. My reaction was like, “Oh, joy…but, oh pressure.” See, I told you I was sporadic. All of the sudden I had to respond to unfamiliar and oftentimes unwanted passes from the opposite sex. I dropped the weight for health reasons and because I rarely wear anything other than comfortable and loose clothes while on assignments and sweats and t-shirts while at home, I had been in little need of buying much new clothing after the weight loss and definitely nothing “nice.” It wasn’t even until I went to my good girlfriend, Janice’s birthday party, where I met the gentleman that I am going out with tonight, that new clothing even mattered. We were going to dinner and a movie, just like my last date five years ago. Hopefully, that would be where the similarity ended. I giggled at the thought. I do a full twirl in the mirror and silently thank Janice again. In all fairness, she was half to blame for my child’s clothes fetish, as well as my mother. What Granny started Taylor at a young age, Janice perpetuated as she got older. But I don’t have much to complain about since the two of them essentially took over Taylor’s after-school care all of those years I was
working assiduously towards making detective. So, yin and yang…can’t have one without the other. Just then the phone rings. That’s going to be Janice, I’m thinking. “Hello.” “Hey, Horse.” Yup, it’s Janice. “I’m dressed and just about to walk out the door and Taylor…” Janice interrupts, “Hold that thought, I’m right next door. As I was pulling up to your driveway, I saw Flower out front about to come get Taylor for practice.” I push the curtains aside to indeed, see Janice’s forest green Lexus in my driveway. “I’m on my way over now. I just had to drop off some contracts for Flower to sign.” Janice is a lawyer and a very well-paid one, at that. Flower is buying, you guessed it, a flower shop and Janice was drawing up the contract between Flower and the existing owner. “I’ll wait on you.” As an afterthought, I add, “But, you know what…go straight to Taylor’s room and break it to her gently that she is not going anywhere with mommy tonight and then point her in the right direction towards Flowers. But, don’t forget to make a detour to my room so I can give my sweet baby a kiss. Please.” “I’m on it.” Janice say’s prior to hanging up.
I go into the bathroom one last time to tinkle before my big date. My nerves are bad. Partially because of this date, and to some extent because I witnessed an argument between my partner and one of our fellow detectives. And they had the nerve to try to put me in the middle. I got so nervous and tense, playing the role of mediator, that by the end of the whole situation, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I shouted, “will you two just stop it!” I add a “please” to the end of the sentence, just to soften what I thought to be a harsh tone. This may not sound like much of an expletive to you, but it took a lot out of me to do as much. I just hate confrontations of any kind. They make me nervous. It’s a wonder I even wanted to become a cop. But, at 30 years old, newly divorced, singe parent and little money and education, I knew I had to learn me some type of vocation to support me and my child. And lo and behold, on the exact day when I was drinking coffee, sitting on a park bench, I saw a cop riding a horse, policing the park. And I thought, “I love horses, why not become a cop.” Sporadic, I told you I was. So, I went to the police house and signed up that day. They gave me parameters and a study guide and from then on, I’ve worked diligently to pass the physical and written tests. It was a year after being a rookie, when I realized I wasn’t being mentally challenged and at that point, I decided to go for detective. And lo and behold, again, I found that I actually had that methodical and meticulous type of brain that made a detective successful at the job. I just didn’t like all the confrontational situations that I was being put in on the
day-to-day life of being a beat cop. And I certainly don’t feel comfortable having to be go-between amid two big, screaming, red-faced cops. It was too uncomfortable and to my thinking, totally unnecessary. So, there. “Hey, Horse. Where are you?” I hear my good girlfriend’s voice probably from the hallway. That’s Janice’s usual greeting. She’s teasing me about still not having had the chance to ride a horse and patrol the park while I was still a rookie…the whole reason I signed up with the IPD. I smile. I’m feeling really cheerful right about now and my tone resonates that. “I’ll be right out. I’m in the ladies room.” I sing, still smiling. “Mommy.” I hear Taylor declare. “Aunt Janice told me why I’m not going with you now and it’s okay. But Flower’s honking downstairs. I love you too and I’ll be good, I promise.” She answers the questions before I even have a chance to tell her I love her and to be good. With that, she burst in the bathroom just as I’m washing my hands and kisses me on the back of my skirt and runs out to answer the call of Flower. I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough. “Bye, sweet baby. Mommy loves you, madly.” I respond to her kiss on my backside. Without even looking, I remember why I never wear white. White and kids just don’t go together, especially when at the age of 9, your child decides she is adult enough to wear light clear, light pink and plum lip gloss, depending on which color matched her outfit, of course. Yet, she had a habit of
running up to me from behind and kissing my backside. Well, at least she had on her white leotard today, which meant she had on her clear lip gloss. I smile in remembrance of the first time she did that at the age of 2. But of course, it was the back of my knee-cap at that age. She would pump her legs furiously until she landed dead into my knee-caps. “What are you in here grinning about? You’re going to be late.” Janice has now joined me in the powder room. “Oh, no. Look at your behind.” She goes to get a wet rag. “Oh, just leave it. You can barely see it. It’s a good thing she had on her white leotard instead of her plum leotard or she would have been wearing her plum lipstick instead of her clear lipstick, huhm?. Remember, you’re the one who, after 4 months of begging, talked me into letting her even wear the surface shine.” “It is simply gloss, not surface shine. I’m the lawyer, not you. So why do you have to be the one to always attach fancy words to simple stuff. Repeat after me…GLOSS.” She’s prepping me as if I’m one of her witnesses. “Surface Shine.” I’m teasing and go over to give her a hug, to offset the harshness. “Of course it’s gloss, sweet pea. I’m just teasing.” Once Janice releases me, she rotates me till my reflection can be seen in the mirror and she just looks at me and smiles. “You are a beautiful woman, Mrs. Horse and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. I mean it,
Texas. In the last few days, your destiny has caught up with you.” The woman in me just’a preened at the compliment. “I mean it, Tex, you have everything any woman would want…a bright career, a wonderful daughter, a loving and involved mother and me as a best friend and even that no good ex of yours is back in you and Taylor’s life.” I look at her like, yeah right. She laughs and concedes, “Okay, so not exactly a reconciliation, but at least a reckoning. “Of sorts.” The doorbell rings. “Shall I get that?” Janice inquires. “I hope that’s not Dwayne. We were supposed to meet at the restaurant.” Janice looks at me and just shakes her head as if to say, “You suck.” I just giggle. The doorbell rings again. “Well…do you want me to get that or not?” Pause “No, I’ll only be more embarrassed with you witnessing the whole thing, if that is him. Just allow me to do it.”
I head towards the door and of course because Janice never has been one to be able to follow directions, she follows right behind me. I open the door to come face-to-fact with a dozen roses and a big balloon that reads, “This Day Is For You & I To Explore The What-Ifs.” I’m speechless. “Ma’am, can I set these down or do you want to take them because I have more deliveries to make.” It is only at that point that I even notice the figure behind the display. “Of course, of course. Please come in and take a load off. Can I get you anything? An iced tea or maybe some freshly squeezed lemonade?” The young man just looks at me as if he’s bewildered by the notion He squinted his eyes and looked at me the way you look at a parking ticket you’ve found under windshield wiper. He looks at Janice and beckons her head at me and asks, “Is she for real or is she some sort of fruit cake?” My face immediately drops because my feelings are hurt. Janice steps in front of me and chastises the young man, “I’m going to let that rude question drift into the land of rhetorical where it deserves. And I will repeat, can we get you anything? And iced tea or maybe some fresh squeezed lemonade, young man?” Did I mention my good girlfriend was an attorney and can switch to that
lawyer-mode in a minute. Janice asked the question with such rigidity and when no answer was still forthcoming, she pointed at me and said, “Fire pan.” And then pointed at herself and said, “Fire.” The young man immediately turns red with what I presume to be embarrassment and then concedes and offers us the most beautiful smile that dimples once it gets at its widest. “I am so sorry. I was just taken aback by your offer because that has got to be the only nice thing that any customer has ever asked me. Usually, people are so excited about receiving their gift, they sometimes forget to even get me a tip, let alone offer me beverages. Yes, I could use a glass of something cold and wet. Whatever you have available. I’m so thirsty I could drink from the cat’s water. Thank you so much, ma’am.” She then looks at me and says, “I mean it, for real. Thank you.” In an attempt to lighten the mood because my good girlfriend does know how to put one in his or her place, I say “Oh, please. Call me Tex. And drinking after a cat won’t be necessary. I’ll just get you some freshly squeezed lemonade.” “Oh, you’re from Texas?” “No, my mother, who has never left Indiana in her life was just always partial to that part of the country and named all of us children after one of her favorite states in the west coast. I have a sister named Arizona, Nevada and LaLa. You know, for L.A. What’s your name, young man?”
“Jamie. This is a way to earn extra money. I won’t be doing this forever, you know. I want to act and I drive a big, fancy car like your Lexus.” “Her Lexus.” I corrected and pointed to Janice who just arrived from the kitchen with 3 lemonades and a vase for the dozen roses. I took the tray of drinks from Janice and thanked her. She is just sweet like that, always having my back and never having to be asked. Of course, lawyer mode, having been shed. I handed Jamie one of the iced teas and watched him, literally gulp it down in about 2 swigs. I quickly offer him my untouched cup and tell him to help herself because I can always just get another one. He gives a positive response of sorts and again, literally gulps my lemonade down in 3 swigs this time. I guess Jamie’s thirst had been quenched a bit. I know Janice is trying to catch my eye, but I dare not look at her because she is only going to make me giggle and the last thing I want to do is make our guest feel unwelcome. It just wouldn’t be fair to a hardworking college student. “You better be on your way if you don’t want to be late to meet Dwayne. He has a series of surprises for you tonight. Shoo, I’ll lock up here. Oh, and I parked on the street so you can be sure to get out easily.” That’s Janice. Still talking as I get my throw. “I just don’t understand why you didn’t allow him to come pick you up. I’ve known the man for 2 years and he’s as harmless as a baby. And I saved him just for you. I did, you know.
I knew from the moment I met him that he’d be perfect for you…I was just waiting for an occasion for you to notice him. Many of my friends have asked me to hook them up with Dwayne and I’d make excuse after excuse because I was saving him for the likes of you.” By this time, I’m ready to walk out the door, purse and throw in hand. “I know, Sweet Baby and I thank you. I will call you later.” “At least.” At the threshold, I turn around abruptly and look at Jamie, “Oh, let me get your tip. How rude of me. I’m usually not this sporadic.” “Don’t lie.” Janice again. “Oh, that’s okay. Your hospitality is tip enough. I’m in college here in Indiana and get lonely for a family tone and this did it for me.” He smiles genuinely and as if in deep thought. “Now, I think I’ll make it till Summer Break when I get home to my folks. Thanks” “Well until then, please feel free to come and visit anytime. As a matter of fact, Janice…” “I’m already on it.” Janice says as she is getting pen and pad from the hallway table and writing. Afterwards, she tears off the top sheet of the pad and hands it to Jamie and smiles, well sort of, at her for the first time. “We’re having a barbeque next week and feel free to bring some
friends. It’s a neighborhood thing we do once a month in the summers.” Janice grabs her purse and both she and Jamie walk out of the house with me. After one last hug, we depart and I wave to Jamie. “See you next weekend, sweetie. It was nice having met you.” As I get in the car, I hum to myself the sweet tune of ‘Good Ol Texas…because that’s my name, you see. I smile to myself and I’m heading down I-65 towards downtown and looking more than forward to the first bit of male company I’ve had in a lengthy stretch. It was then that I noticed a civilian car chasing a car that was weaving and I immediately braked so to refrain from being side swiped by the duo. What to do… what to do… I’m on my way to my date; yet I did swear an oath to uphold and serve…what to do? A few dark expletives… or maybe several…or perhaps dozens…oh, all right, hundreds popped in her mind. I would never voice them, naturally, but they did rear their ugly little heads. I swallowed what tasted very much like regret already and then turned the steering wheel, accelerated, called for backup and started off in the direction I saw the two cars head. Well, there goes my date.
CHAPTER 9 Eddie was feeling bewitched, bothered and bewildered, dazed, dazzled and delighted. And because he was feeling so good after something as depressing as neardeath, his next thought was that he couldn’t possibly have even a nodding acquaintance with reality. Not even a little bit. He could not believe that he had the nerve to save that woman from that swerving car nearly hitting her. It would have blind-sided her from her left-side before she even knew what was going on. He thought he had stopped feeling a long time ago when his young wife and daughter were killed by a random robbery in their neighborhood 7-11. In reality, he hadn’t shed a tear after the robbery, but inside, he never stopped. The only words he had spoken since that fatal day 2 years ago, was to his mother when he said, “I miss them with every breath that I take. So can I stop breathing…please?” For the past 2 years, he had drunk himself into a slumber, which was why he was here today, roaming aimlessly on the streets. He had awakened this afternoon, from a nightmare-filled sleep, at his usual time and drank a few beers for breakfast. And yet, he was still in pain. No matter how inebriated, how sleep-deprived, how out of it he became; he still felt pain. So, out for a walk he went to attempt to clear his head long enough to think…make some decisions…to just end it all or forget everything and move forward in his life. He was thinking that it should have been him that was confronted with the 7-11 robbery. He, his wife and his
daughter had stopped at the local convenience store for a few things one Sunday afternoon after church and because he was on his cell, he asked his wife to get the items from inside. At the last minute, his daughter jumped out of the car “to go with mommy,” and again, because he was on the phone, he failed to stop her. He saw when 2 men pulled up to the 7-11 and ran into the store. And, once again, because he was on the phone arguing with his stockbroker over some lost money in the market, his antenna wasn’t up as it usually was. He simply ignored the whole thing. And before he knew it, shots were fired, which finally startled him back into reality. He immediately dropped the phone and shot from the car just as the 2 men were running out. He instantly ran after them and plummeted them both down to the ground with his iron fist and Marine training. He then all but flew to the inside of the store and to the fallen figures on the floor in a pool of blood and just held his wife and daughter and cried out in raw, unadulterated pain. The police were called, the morgue took their bodies away, reports were taken and he was just left in a limbo of hell. His mind was telling him that it had been 2 years and he had to stop letting the past assassinate his future. The man he used to be, Edie was no hesitator. He was as decisive as they came. He just had to decide what result he needed and then just take the step that would bring that result. But, all those attributes had abandoned him the Sunday afternoon that his reasons for living were so brutally taken from him.
He and his wife were very well-suited. She was both an anchor and a helm for me. With her and then 4 years ago, his baby girl, he was a much better man and a much more sound contributor to the world we live in. Walking with no destination in mind. Not minding the pouring rain drenching his whole body. Tears streaming down his face. Finally, he was crying. It had really made him feel cold because he couldn’t cry for so long and now, tears were just streaming out of nowhere. It stilled him. He dropped where he was and lowered his head into his hands. Then something startled him into looking up. I guess I was going crazy. It just seemed so…OH MY GOD…THAT CAR…THAT WOMAN DOESN’T EVEN SEE THAT CAR…I’LL SAVE YOU…PLEASE LET ME AT LEAST SAVE THIS ONE…PLEASE… And he did. Right in the nick of time. His breathing was so heavy from running just those few feet, but for someone who has been drinking enough to keep himself heavily sedated for over 700 days straight, his body felt like it was on fire from the exertion of energy. He just collapsed on top of the woman and so hard that one of her breasts had catapulted out of her bra. Without even thinking, he attempted to put it back in for her before he realized that what he was doing was offensive and very much so inappropriate. ----------So, here I am being guided by a detective towards a coffeehouse, and in the company of a beautiful, fullfigured woman in a leotard. And grinning from ear-to-ear.
I actually saved her. I don’t need shrinks, as my mother repeatedly suggests….I am man…I restore myself. It’s kind of mystical, but very efficient. No, but seriously, it just occurred to me that my being hurt and not living at all, let alone, as I should, has wasted valuable time that my wife or daughter would never begrudge me. You can’t waste time and win in life. I can love, forgive, and never forget my past mistakes and inadequacies. And yes, allowing the two most important girls go into the store and not even watching their back was a huge mistake! But, I am still alive and I just saved someone’s child. Oh yes, sometimes wonderful things do come out of chaos. By this time, we’re seated at a table in the back of the diner and I know as well as I know my name, that I’m about to eat a real meal. Probably my first in two years. I’ve barely eaten enough to sustain myself, just liquored myself to near-death. And today, I will nourish not only my broken heart, but also my soul. This allowed him to also nourish his famished body.
CHAPTER 10 The three girls finally arrived to the placement office only to be greeted by dozens of other hopefuls trying to get the same information about Rushmore coming to their school to recruit. The school building was almost rocking with the activity from the group. “Excuse me…pardon me…can I pelleasse get by…” This is Vesence doing too much. It is Sontera who gently seizes her arm and guides her back to the end of the crowd. “I know you and patience have never been on good terms, but I promise you that information will still be up there by the time we make it to the front. I promise.” This is Son. The next thing Vesence knows, she was gently being turned around by her arm and all of the sudden came face-to-face with Son and a big smile on her face…you know, the kind of smile that didn’t give away whether she was amused or if it was her Girl-Have-You-Lost-YourMind? smile. “You got her right in time, Son because I was about to really give her a lesson or two of my own.” River, always quick to jump to the defense of Vesence, quickly quips**, “who opened it?” She couldn’t help it, so she asks, “Who opened what?”
“Who opened the cage and let you out?” Vesence wanted to rain kisses all over Rain for coming to her defense. She seemed to not take notice of the insult and replied, “Flattery will get you nowhere. And I’m going to assume you meant that as a compliment so I won’t be forced to kick your ass right here and now. “Oh, blow away, Sandy. You really should have gotten more spankings as a child. Maybe if you did you would realize that Son was putting a lid on the situation and the two cents you just had to add only added fuel to a fire that had already been doused.” I wasn’t trying to get Vee irritated. Good idea, no use in grabbing a tigress by the tail.
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