Copyright © 2013 Camille Leone

This story is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are invented by the author or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.

All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

She’d left her lover back in Kabul. It didn’t fully hit Chris until she climbed the steps to the porch of her childhood home in the US, standing in the doorway, steeling her nerves to finally walk through. The latch on the screen door was still broken after all these years. “Chrissy?” Her mother’s voice drifted from the back of the house where the kitchen was located, the tone one of concern and annoyance. “Chrissy, is that you?” Footsteps, slow and unsteady made their way to the front hall. Elena Pope greeted her daughter as only she could. “I thought you were your daddy standing there, God rest his soul.” Next came the grumbling. “Didn’t you say you’d be getting in this morning? What took you so long? I wanted to go grocery shopping.” Chris didn’t answer. It seemed fitting, since her mother preferred to acknowledge her by the more feminized “Chrissy” when everyone else called her Christine or even her nickname, Chris. She’d left her friends, her work, and even her active social life overseas. Her lover called her “Amaya” and he said it meant midnight rain in Japanese. His hands knew every inch of her forty five year old body, and the day before she left, he’d showered her with kisses. His mouth trailed upwards, from the back of her ankles to her calves, stopping long enough to give her thighs the attention they deserved, until the wetness between her legs beckoned. And she’d given all that up to come back to this. Her mother had picked right up where she’d left off almost twenty years ago, back trying to plan her life with daily chores. Instead of responding Chris silently walked through each room, taking note of how worn and old everything looked. Unopened boxes from QVC were stacked on the front sun porch, while newspaper placed in strategic spots along the natural wood floor made a choppy checkerboard pattern. Her mother hurriedly explained that the paper wasn’t for a new puppy, but an older dog she couldn’t bear to put down. “Where’s the dog now?” Chris asked. “Oh.” Her mother’s face crumpled in sadness. “She died last week. I’m not strong like you. I just couldn’t call the dog warden to come pick her up. She stopped eating regularly, so I’d bring

food to her. Then she’d sleep all the time, and finally she stopped breathing.” There was heavy pause as Elena Pope looked around. “I didn’t have the heart to gather up the papers, since it was something I got used to putting out every morning.” Sorrow cracked her mother’s voice as it trailed off, almost like the muted, dusty colors on walls that were past the point of appearing pale green, like Chris remembered. Instead of her childhood photos being front and center, scattered frames of various sizes with pictures of younger family members blocked the military portraits she’d taken. There was the somber new recruit gaze , the ten years in the service, look at my stripes and medals more relaxed pose, and the older, disaffected let’s just get this over with expression. Chris continued with her silent, visual search of her former home. There was a walker by a lounge chair, left by her father. Neither one of them said anything, instead they let the implication hang in the air, like an invisible partition separating them. Robert “Bobby” Pope, Chris’s father and the man her mother stayed faithful to for over fifty years had wasted away, much like that dog. “Oh, I’ve been meaning to write to you-” Elena finally said, her voice perking up. “I’m letting Toya’s boy stay in the garage apartment. I thought you could use my old bedroom and I’d take your room.” Swallowing an objection that almost managed to come out, Chris was glad her years of dealing with asshole higher-ups in the service had toughened her emotions. She countered her mother’s plan with one of her own. “I’m not moving back here, mom. I’ve rented a place out by the beach.” “The beach? They lettin’ black folks out there now?” Elena shook her head, remembering a time when the city was severely segregated. “I had a friend who tried moving out there. They ran her whole family out, so you might want to think about that.” “Mom, when was it? Sometime in the fifties or the sixties?” “Around nineteen seventy-five.” “I’m not worried. That was over thirty years ago.” She caught a glimpse of her mother’s bent frame in one of the large scalloped mirrors hanging between the living and dining room. Somehow her mother always seemed taller. “Chrissy, did you cut you hair again? You always had such nice, thick hair.” Her mother followed behind, throwing out explanations and names of people from their past. “I saw some

man who said he knew you from college. He said y’all went on a date once. I told him you’d be coming back here and he said for you to look him up once you got home, ‘cause he’s not married any more. I thought he might be a nice man for you, but I . . . I can’t rightly recall his name.” Chris finally made her way to the kitchen, fighting to ignore her mother’s comment on her hair. It was better not to recall the times her mother struggled with straightening it, or Elena’s bitter complaints of how Chris must’ve taken her grade of hair from her father’s side of the family. A vision popped into her mind of sitting on the floor, trapped between her mother’s legs as her head was pulled back, back, and even further back by rough combing and even rougher verbal abuse. “Twin’s been such a comfort to me,” Elena was saying. “He’s such a sweet boy. I’m so glad Toya decided to have those twin boys.” Chris turned on the tap water, hoping to drown out her mother’s bragging on a kid who was just about the age Chris’ own son would’ve been. The same child Elena had convinced her to abort.

“Whatever, I’ll just ask daddy.” Mariah Holloway sighed, looking up in her rear mirror at her daughter’s expression. Eyes shining with confidence and the brashness at being daddy’s little girl stared back. Mariah quickly looked away, trying to focus on the road. Ja’Nea nodded to her friend sitting on the left, and then to the girl sitting to her right. “This is how it’s done,” she said, crossing her arms and smirking. “Ja’Nea, I heard that. And if you think I’m putting up with you trying to play the both of us against each other, I’m not. I’ll pull over and whip your little ass in from of your friends, I’m warning you.” “Like I said, What- evahhhhh.” Ja’Nea’s head turned and her eyes rolled just as the car picked up speed. “And I’m calling him right now. Would you like to repeat the stuff you just said? Cause I bet you won’t.” Using only one thumb, Ja’Nea’s glitter painted nail worked quickly to punch in her father’s work number and then his direct extension. Pursing her lips, she silently prayed he father would pick up, while Mariah prayed that Brian’s voice mail was full.

The three pre-teen girls occupying the backseat of Mariah’s SUV were screaming with laughter as the car sped down the highway. The louder they laughed the faster Mariah drove. When she heard Brian’s annoyance with Ja’Nea’s tale on how “mom’s acting weird again,” Mariah floored it. “Let me speak to your mother,” Brian Holloway demanded, losing his place on the spreadsheet he’d been working on. His eyes darted from the bright computer screen to the phone on his desk. Thinking he could successfully defuse another fight between his daughter and his wife, he kept adjusting numbers, half listening to Ja’Nea whine. “Daddy something’s wrong with her.” “Put your phone on speaker so I can talk to her.” “OMG mom! Will you watch the road! What is wrong with you?” Mariah slammed on the brakes, skidding and then cutting another car off as she changed lanes. Breathing a sigh of relief that her car didn’t plow into the back of the truck just up ahead, she overcorrected by jerking the wheel sharply to the right, and then the left as she tried to regain control. The car swerved wildly as she fought to stay in her lane, even as the vehicle crossed the line. The girls screamed in terror and Ja’Nea’s phone flew out of her hand, hitting the head rest of the front passenger seat, plopping to the floor somewhere out of sight, while Brian’s voice faded in and out, still demanding to talk to Mariah.

The paper hit the screen door with a thump, and Chris made a mental note to herself to say something to the deliverer. She got to the front door in time to witness one of the neighbors putting something into her mother’s recycling bin. With the way the woman kept glancing around and hearing the unmistakable click of glass bottles, Chris guessed the woman had a drinking habit to hide. Could’ve been a few bottles of Vino, but the only way to check would be to go out to the curb, and Chris wasn’t in the mood. She scooped up the paper and walked back in the house, rifling through the pages as her house slippers shuffled along the floor. Nothing much interesting. The Republicans were still blaming the Democrats and the Democrats were blaming . . . the whole thing wasn’t worth reading. The local news wasn’t any better. Burglaries, a water main break and a pretty bad accident yesterday where an SUV rolled over, but luckily everyone made it out alive. She usually didn’t bother reading stuff like that,

since the driver claimed the vehicle wouldn’t stop even though she’d pumped the brakes several times. A hysterical parent of one of the occupants claimed that her hospitalized daughter believed the accident was deliberate. “My daughter said she was trying to kill them. I just thank God she didn’t succeed.” Chris just shook her head. Drunk soccer moms. Who knew the suburbs had such hot drama? The paper was forgotten as Chris drowned out her thoughts by turning on the cappuccino machine. Today would be a good day to visit her cousin’s son. During the night all she heard was that wall thumping music, and fuck dat nigga, fuck dat bitch . . . now she knew how her parents felt when she’d blast “Love to Love you Baby” by Donna Summers. Well, almost. It wasn’t a fair comparison. Donna’s moans weren’t as explicit as some rapper bragging about how big his dick was. Chris stepped out the back door, went past an overflowing garbage can ─ which looked like it hadn’t been pulled out to the curb in a month ─ and walked right through the farm style door on the garage. “Twin” jumped from the bed as if she’d caught him with someone under the covers. “Hi, Aunt Chris.” She sized him up like she did all males, especially when she’d been stationed in Iraq. He was short, a bit stocky in the shoulders, and looked to be trouble if she had to physically throw him out. “What’s your name?” “Twin.” Chris sighed. “I meant your real name.” “Jarvis” Now she remembered. Her mother’s frantic phone call about her cousin Sha’ Toya having both boys prematurely, and how they weren’t sure if either would survive, so they were named after long deceased males in the family, Jacob and Jarvis. “Tell me something Jarvis. What do you do all day?” “I work on my music. And I go to school . . . sometimes.” “Uh, I think you’ve got that backwards. It should be, ‘I go to school, and sometimes I work on my music.’ ”

“Yeah, yeah. That’s what I meant to say.” There was silence, which gave Chris a chance to look around. Nothing out of the ordinary. Typical teen boy’s space, cluttered with a landfill of clothes, dirty underwear and used Styrofoam plates on the floor, since a microwave was a man’s best friend. His Playstation was hooked up to a TV Chris recognized, because the television was the same one that used to be in her bedroom. “The whole pants down to your butt fad has gone outta style. Did you know that?” “Naw, I didn’t know that.” “Well now you do. And today’s garbage day, so you need to get some clothes on and get that bin out to the curb.” He just looked at her, so she lowered her tone of voice, deepening her order. “Get moving. NOW. It’s the least you can do since you’re not paying any rent.” “Ye-yes Aunt Chris.” “Then you better hurry, because I think I hear the truck getting closer.” Inwardly Chris laughed at how nervously he zipped around the room, almost falling over the hilly mounds of clothes until he jammed his legs into some baggy jeans. Her advice about showing his butt caused him to tighten his belt as he rushed past her to drag the bin to the front of the house. Once she was alone Chris surveyed the room, making note of what else she’d have him work on. That was something she’d miss about the service, how good it felt to be the boss. Yes, it felt like old times to give an order and have it followed.


The woman’s perfume entered the VA lounge before she did, waffling through the air like a siren beckoning sailors to their doom. When she swished by, all those old heads looked up. Even the drugged out bag of bones in the corner sniffed the air, squinting as he tried to match the arresting aroma with the right female. Chris hated her on sight, ignoring the men who quickly slid a seat over just so a new pair of tits could sit next to them. Their new AA attendee had her hair pulled back in a messy tangle, yet somehow she made it look good. The satiny cloth of her shirt strained against her chest, like a neon sign that screamed I’m a double C cup! And she wore a skirt that could work in the day as well as the evening. It was almost an advertisement for some fashion magazine to admonish Chris to wear this, not this. Aren’t you just Little Miss Special, Chris thought, sipping on her coffee so no one could see her smirking. Miss Thang came towards the coffee table, and Chris made a beeline for her folding chair. No sense blocking the view, since guys were circling the woman like planets revolving around the sun. Chris’ mind wandered, and she was back in Kabul, her body twisting against cool sheets, legs split and bound at the ankles, wrists restrained against the bedpost while her lover implored her to say their safe word. “Hi.” Startled, Chris flinched at the greeting directed her way. Miss Hot Stuff was sitting in the seat next to hers. Great. Flashing a brittle smile, just when the woman leaned over to say something else the meeting began.

Thank you for reading this excerpt. For more info on this book and when it will be release, please go to:

Coming Soon