This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the work of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual person or persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved
Copyright© 2016 Toni
“Cassandra, why did you come to see me if you are not ready to talk about your abuse?” She didn’t understand. Hell, I didn’t fully understand.
Life has always been a struggle for me, but lately things have been getting worse. I look at myself and see nothing but failure. I’m twenty-eight years old, still a virgin, hell I’ve never been in a real relationship. Every time someone asks me why am I still single it is like a knife to my heart. I didn’t know the answer to that question. On average only one eligible man approached me a year. Some years it was less.
I didn’t know how to talk to men who were interested in me. I became nervous, if I gave them my number, I would avoid them when they called. I could talk to them on a platonic level, but if they showed the slightest interest I would shut down.
The sad part is, is that I want a romantic relationship. There were three times when a man showed me interest, I gave them my number before they even asked. Only for them to never call. I would cry for days on end. The last time I made a vow that, that would be the last time. I have accepted the fact that I was meant to be alone forever.
“I’ve been having dreams. Dreams where I kill It.” That’s why I came to see Dr. Zakiyyah. I started having these dreams around six months ago, they scared the hell out of me. Deep down I hoped I wasn’t able to do some of the things I dreamed I did.
“Sometimes, dreams are just dreams. They don’t mean anything.”
No, these were more than dreams. They are so real; from the feelings to the smells, they stay with me long after I wake up. I rubbed my hands as I thought about that time I stabbed It. The blood flowed down the knife and onto my hand. I can still feel the warmth of it, the stickiness of it. Then I felt the same sense of relief I felt when I choked It to death. I took a deep breath and relaxed. I remembered the calm that came over me as I watched It take its last breath. When I stared into its eyes and watched its soul leave its body. The only thing that could have made it better was if the gates of hell opened up and dragged it to hell. “These dreams are very vivid.”
She sat back in her chair and crossed her legs. She opened her notebook and turned to a clean sheet. “Are you ready to tell me its name?”
Hell will freeze over and the heavens will bleed before I even think to whisper its name. “It is the only name it deserves.”
“Cassandra what do you want me to do for you?”
“I want you to make these dreams go away. I want It dead, but I don’t want to be a murderer.” I tugged at my dress. I didn’t think I had the body to wear a dress. Dr. Zakiyyah was helping me with my self-confidence.
“Calm down. We’ll talk about the dreams. Start when you are ready.”
I snapped the rubber band on my wrist to calm my nerves. “They always start the same. I’m standing outside Its apartment door.”
“How do you feel?”
“Nervous. My heart is pounding in my ears. I’m breathing heavy and uneven. It opens the door and smiles at me. It turns and walks into the apartment and I follow. It rubs its hand across my chest. “I missed you,” It says. Then It starts to take off its pants. I take off my jacket, I reach into my purse and pull out a hammer. It’s pulling down its underwear, when I strike it in the head, right behind the ear. “What the hell are you doing,” It yells in pain. I don’t answer. I swing the hammer again, this time hitting It right in the middle of the forehead. It falls to the ground.
I like seeing It in pain. I kick It as it tries to crawl away. I hit It with the hammer again and again. With the last strike I could feel and hear Its skull crack. It’s kind of like when you crack a sunflower seed between your teeth. It crawls to the back. I don’t chase after. I just followed the trail of blood. I feel better, with each strike I feel better.”
“Cassandra, Cassandra stop.” She wraps a towel around my arm. “You were scratching yourself. I think we should end here for the day.”
I nodded. “You know Zakiyyah, in every dream I always start to reconsider. Then It always asks me the same question and I lose it.”
“What does It asks you?”
“Why are you doing this?”
I plopped my size twenty-two frame down in a chair. Three days had passed since my last session. I don’t really remember the days in between my visits, it’s like one big blur. The only thing I remember is the dreams.
Sitting there I watched Zakiyyah fumble around her desk. Suddenly I wished I looked like her. She was so pretty, thin, and her skin was so clear and soft looking. She looked like she just stepped off of a Magazine. She sat down across from. “How are you today?”
It was almost like she was singing when she talked. Her smiling face and soothing voice brought me more comfort than she could ever know. I couldn’t remember why I chose her, but I was glad I did. “I’m fine.”
“What have you been up to since our last session?”
“Life,” I blurted. She nodded while scribbling something down in her notebook. She knew I couldn’t remember. The last thing I remember is leaving this office.
“Let’s talk about our last session.” She clicked on the video camera. “Do you remember it?”
“Good. Cassandra I want to ask you a few questions about that dream. Is that ok?” I nodded. “Alright, you can close your eyes if you need. When you walk into the apartment what does it smell like?”
I didn’t need to close my eyes. “Mr. Clean with Gain.”
“What does the apartment look like? Rather how is it decorated?”
“It’s a living room slash kitchen area. There is a pleather red and black sectional against the far right wall. Black end tables are on both sides of it. In front of it is a black coffee table, it’s wood.”
“Alright, that’s enough. Can you tell me what kind of pants It had on?”
“Black, the kind with the big pockets.”
“What color where its underwear?”
She sighed and sat back in her seat. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “Are all the dreams this vivid?”
I thought about how to answer that question. I crossed my legs and looked her directly in the eyes. “Zakiyyah do you know what burnt flesh smell like?” She looked stunned and slowly shook her head no. “I do. In one dream I tie It to the bed and set It on fire. That smell never leaves my nose.”
“And that’s a big concern. Cassandra dreams are not supposed to be this vivid. You’re not supposed to remember every single detail once the dream is over.”
Now she was finally starting to understand. This was not normal. While this was scary, I was glad to have my feelings validated. It was like she was finally taking my concerns seriously. “That’s why I’m here. I’m scared and I need help.”
“I want to help you, but you have to help me help you. We need to talk about It, and what It did to you.”
My heart started to beat faster. I didn’t want to talk about what It did. She was never supposed to find out what It did. But she did, the minute I started to talk about It and my dreams, she knew. “I can’t. Can we stop, I really need to take a break. Cut the camera off.”
She came over and wrapped her arms around. “Don’t touch me.” I jumped out of the chair, pushing her to the ground. “Oh my God. Zakiyyah, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s ok,” she said, getting up from the ground. “It’s ok, I’m fine. Sit back down.” I sat back down in the chair. “You want these dreams to stop right?” I nodded my head. “Then we have to talk about It. That’s the only the dreams are going to go away. Please tell me. Let me help you.”
“You mean what It made me do.”
She was back in her seat. She waited patiently for me to continue. “I don’t remember how old I was when it first started. The first instance that I remember was when I was five, I think. I was sleeping on the floor; my mom was on the bed. I remember It had the covers pulled over us. It was hot under the covers, hard to breath.”
“Where was It?”
“I was lying on stomach. It was on top of me, grinding on my back. It didn’t have on any underwear. I didn’t fully understand what was going on. I kept thinking I was going to die, I couldn’t breathe under the covers. Then It got off of me and I felt a wet spot. It rubbed its finger up and down my back spreading the wet spot.”
I was crying now. I wanted to stop, I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
“So it was sleeping next to you.”
“I guess. I don’t remember.”
“Your mother was asleep so close to you. If It was sleeping next you, It had to be close in age.” She was talking more to herself than to me. “Is It related to you?” I nodded. “Your brother?”
“Your cousin?” I nodded. “How much older is It than you?
“That makes It ten. That’s an early age to start molesting. You said you were five when it started, how old were you when it stopped?”
I was too ashamed to answer that question. “Can we please stop now? I really need a break.”
“Just a few more questions.”
“No. I need a break, please.”
I stood in the waiting area of Zakiyyah office. I was a mess. My vision was blurry from tears. Thankfully, no one was there to see me like this, I was always her last patient. Suddenly I was trembling, my knees buckled. Jimmy, Zakiyyah’s assistant, ran from behind his desk. He took me by the arm, “here, sit down. Take some deep breaths and I’ll get you some water.”
Once I got myself together I went back into her office. Why couldn’t I look like her? She was so beautiful. I loved how her dark chocolate skin glowed, I admired her curvy body and her thick natural fro. I patted my tiny bush in envy. I didn’t feel worthy enough to be in her presence. She was so beautifully put together, and I was sitting here looking like a hot mess.
“Have you told anyone about the abuse?”
“No.” I wanted to. On so many occasions I wanted to tell someone. The words were on the tip of my tongue but never could I bring myself to say them. I wouldn’t have mattered if I did, It was the family favorite. The oldest grandchild, everyone loved It. Nothing It did was wrong. Keeping my mouth shut always seemed like the wise choice. “How could she not know?”
“My mom, how could she not know what It was doing to me? Every time she would leave us alone, I would silently beg her not to. But every time she left me alone, in danger with a smile on her face. I thought moms were supposed to have a sixth sense about these kind of things. Why didn’t she hear me crying out?”
“Cassandra this is a unique case. You and It were so close in age, I’m sure she couldn’t even begin to fathom what was going on.”
“Maybe she just didn’t care. I always felt like she loved me less than my sisters. When she moved to a different state, she took my sisters with her, but left me with my grandma. Once I went to visit her, I begged her not to send me back, she told me to stop all that crying and get my ass in the car. She never cared about me.”
“I’m sure that’s not the case. Have you ever asked your mom about this?”
Once I again I shook my head no. I wanted to ask her why, but I never had the courage to. I’ve always been so weak, never had the strength or courage to defend myself. Zakiyyah scribed something in her pad. She looked at her watch. “Cassandra I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for today. Her take this,” she handed me a small journal.
“What’s this for?”
“I want you to write down what you do between our sessions. How you feel, things like that. I want to you to get used to expressing yourself, without fear of being judged.”
I stood up and shook her hand. “Thank you Zakiyyah, see you next time.”
“Cassandra you look beautiful as always.”
“Thank you,” I said blushing. I knew she was lying, but it was still nice to hear. Zakiyyah was always good for a shot of self-confidence.
“I want to start off with the journal I told you to keep, did you do it?” She clicked on the camera as I pulled out of the journal. I was uncomfortable talking in front of it, but it was necessary, sometimes I couldn’t remember our session. “Cassandra, you have a job? Where do you work at?”
That’s right, I did have a job. Everything was blurred together, it was hard for me to remember things from day to day. “I work at Kroger, in the deli department.”
“Do you like?”
“I think so. I don’t know.”
“That’s alright, don’t get flustered. This is what the journal is for, to help you remember.” She handed it back to me. “You want to read through it a little bit?” Reading through it helped me remember a little bit, but it was still somewhat jumbled. “Cassandra before we talk about it, I want to take a minute and talk about the dreams again. You said you burned It, was It alive?”
“Yes. I hated that one the most. The smell is just awful.”
“That one, the dreams are not all the same?”
“They all start the same, but It dies different in each one.”
“What are some of the ways It dies.”
“Well, in one dream I beat it to death.”
“That’s right, you told me about that one. Continue.”
“In another I stab It, and in one I choke It.”
“Cassandra, why are you smiling?” She was going to really think I was crazy if I answered that. I shrugged my shoulders. “If I’m going to help you, you have to be honest with me.”
“I know it’s not right, but I like the dream where I choke It to death. I feel powerful as I choke the life out of It, the fear in its eyes is motivation. The only thing I wish I could change is the smell of onion on Its breath.”
She was concerned. Whenever I said something that concerned her, she would twist her wedding ring. “There is nothing wrong with thinking ill thoughts about someone who has hurt you. That does not make you a bad person, it makes you human. But to this extent is rather extreme.”
“I agree. I hate It. I avoid It at all cost. I’m not ashamed to say at times I wished harm on It. However, in all these years I’ve never wished It dead, nor have I wished to be the one to do it.”
“You told me that in the dreams you consider stopping, then It asks you why are you doing this, and you lose it. Why does that question set you off?”
I grip the journal hard, so hard it starts to bend. “How dare you ask me that. Like what you put me through my whole life was nothing. I was just a little girl, I was scared, I trusted you. Now you have the audacity to ask me that question like you are so innocent.”
“Cassandra clam down. It is not here, it’s me, Zakiyyah.” I look to her and remember where I am. My hand hurts and loosen my grip on the journal. “If you’re up to it, I would like to talk a little more about what It did to you.” Of course I couldn’t avoid that for long. Maybe this time would be easier.
“The next instance I remember is when I was a little older. I was sick, mama had to come pick me up from school. I had a fever, it was 101.1. Mama dropped me off home and went across the street to my aunt’s house. I was sitting in a chair she had in her room when It came in. Mom must’ve sent it over to check on me. It didn’t waste any time. It pulled off its shirt first, then mine.
It licked my breast, I developed early. “You are burning up, my baby is really sick,” It said. Then It pulled off both of our pants. I was so scared, what was I supposed to do. It laid down on the floor, and pulled me down on top. It pushed me down until I was face to face with its crouch. “You do me then I’ll do you.” It pushed my face deep in its crouch. I tried to pull away. “Come on, you’re not done with me yet.””
I began to gag. “I can still taste it. It’s so awful. Just out the blue the taste is in my mouth. It’s so nasty.” I try to wipe my tongue with my fingers, but I can still taste it. “Why won’t the taste go away.” I could feel the vomit about to come up. On cue Zakiyyah grabbed a trashcan. As soon as it was in front of me, I begin to hurl. Zakiyyah pats my back. “Don’t touch me,” I shout in between waves of vomit.
A few minutes later I was able to calm down a bit. I sat in my chair focusing on the taste of the Big Red in my mouth. “Gum?” I held out the pack to Zakiyyah.
“Most families have a no secret policy, that way they avoid situations like these. And to get the victim the help they need.”
“Please, you grew up in a black family. So you know the black family motto; what goes on in this house, stays in this house.”
“I know it all too well. That’s one of the factors in my picking my profession. That and the stigmata of mental illness in the black community.”
“Which is why I keep everything I go through and everything I feel to myself.”
“Wow, so this guy really told you, you have a pretty face?” Zakiyyah had bumped up my sessions from two times a week to three times a week. I didn’t mind, despite the difficulty of them, they were the highlight of my week.
“He did, and couldn’t understand why I was insulted.”
“Because it was an insult,” she said, closing the journal. “Telling you that you have a pretty face is the same as telling me I’m pretty for a dark skinned girl.”
“I never understood that, if you’re pretty you are pretty period. Did you get that a lot?”
“Yes, especially in my family. Most of them still have the paper bag mentality.”
“Before we talk about It or your dreams, I would like to talk about your mother.”
“It appears you have a lot of animosity towards her.”
“Maybe. I mean I love her. I guess she did the best she could. I was her first; I didn’t come with instructions. And she was young when she had me, twenty.”
“I’m not saying you don’t love her, but it is clear that you blame her for a lot of the stuff that has happened to you. It is especially evident when you talk about your fear of intimacy.”
I sat back in my chair, thinking about what she said. “When I was in pre-k our cubbies were in a closet. You had to go in there to put away your book bag and coat. One day me and a little boy happened to be in there putting our things away at the same time. Innocent, right? I don’t know how mama find out, or what she thought happened, but that afternoon she tells me “I know you were in the closet with a boy. If I find out you were in there doing something nasty I’m going to beat between your legs. Your teacher is going to ask you why are you walking funny and you’re going to say because my mama beat me between the legs.””
“You were just a preschooler, what the hell could she possibly think you were doing? Better yet, why would she think you were doing it?”
“I don’t know. Don’t remember doing anything, but she was always accusing me of being nasty or doing something nasty. I remember getting ready for my first sleep over and she tells me “If Jasmine’s mom tells me you were over the doing something nasty I’m going to beat your ass.” I was thinking what nasty thing could we do over there.”
“Do you believe there is a chance your mother knew what was going on between you and It.”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember her ever saying anything about it.”
“Do you remember any other instances like this?”
“Just one. I was using the bathroom, at that time we were living with my aunt and her six kids.”
“Is this aunt It’s mom?”
“Yes. I was using the bathroom and one of my aunt’s male friends walked in on me. He apologized and walked out. I can’t remember why, but a few minutes later, my mom knocked on the door. I remember thinking what should I do with my hands, so I just figured it would be best to put them on my lap. Then I told her to come in. She did, and saw where my hands were. “You’re in here playing between your legs.” No, I’m not, I said back. “Yes, you are. That’s probably what you were doing when that man walked in here on you.” I kept trying to tell her I wasn’t, but she wouldn’t believe. I got tired of arguing with her and just told her what she wanted to hear. “Get your nasty ass in that room, I’ll be in there with the belt.””
“Your mom didn’t know how to teach you about sexuality. That’s the only way I can think of to explain her actions.”
“Maybe, or maybe I’m just a weak person. I mean these memories come back to me and suddenly I hate her. Her words stuck with me, they beat me down. In a way you are right though. I think about when I first started to like boys, she made me feel like I was wrong, or being nasty.”
“So she never talked to you about liking boys or told you that it was a completely normal part of growing up?”
“No. She just told me it wasn’t good for me to be alone with a boy. I wasn’t until I was in high school did she start pushing me to or asking me if I liked a boy. By then it was too late.”
“I understand now. You want intimacy, but you are also afraid of and disgusted by it. The sexual abuse combined with your mother’s action warped your sense of intimacy and sex.”
“So I can’t be fixed.”
“I wouldn’t say that, but you do have a lot to work through, and I’m here to help.”
“Do you think anybody will ever love me.”
“I do, but he will have to be a strong and persistent man because you will not be easy to love. You’ll keep him at arm’s length until you are sure he won’t leave or hurt you.”
That wasn’t the best answer, but it wasn’t the worst answer either. “What is your relationship like with your mother now?”
“Ok, I guess. We talk every day. Its borderline annoying.”
“Because it’s always the same damn conversation. “What took you so long to call?” “You must have a boy in the house with you.” It’s like she really doesn’t realize how screwed up I am.”
“Do you think you can have an honest conversation with your mother? Maybe asks her about some of the things you have told me about?”
“Cassandra, what’s wrong? You’re not yourself today.”
“I feel like an idiot for being here. There are people out there who have had it way worse than me. Yet here I am crying and whining about my problems. I feel like I should suck it up and just deal with it.”
“Cassandra you are dealing with it. Just because someone may be suffering a little more than you, doesn’t mean what you are going through doesn’t count.” That made sense, but it didn’t make me feel better. “Can we talk about your father?”
“What about him?”
“We talked in depth about your mother last session, she is usually mentioned in all our sessions, but you never mention your father.”
“There is not much to tell, he’s an asshole, but I love him.”
“You don’t seem to blame him for what It did to you, why is that?”
“He wasn’t around, he’s my stepfather. My sperm donor can kick rocks.”
“Do you know anything about your real father?”
“Growing up, my mom told me my younger sister’s dad was all of our father, that was a lie. I guess she was ashamed to admit she had three kids by three different men. Next she tells me I have two fathers. What she meant by that is my birth father married another woman, and the man whose last name I have just disappeared.”
“You hate her for that?”
“No, I mean I’m mad she waited so long to tell me the truth.”
“Did you ever find your birth father?”
“About seven years ago. The first words out of his mouth were “what took you so long to find me?” I felt like we would finally be able to have a relationship. Then he stopped answering my phone calls. When he finally did answer, he told me he had no idea who I was. The thing about that, that hurt the most was the fact that he raised two kids that weren’t even his. I ask myself all the time, why wasn’t I good enough?”
“And your step-dad?”
“He loves us. He treats us just like he does his own biological kids. That begs the question why do I care so much about my sperm donor’s rejection. I have a father who cares about me, yet I still think about the one who doesn’t.”
“It’s not good to hold all of this in. It is ok to express your feelings. You can’t go through life holding everything in.”
“That’s not easy for me. I don’t want to say anything that is going to start a confrontation or hurt someone’s feeling. I have this need for everyone to like me.”
“Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to be your friend. You can be the nicest, friendliest person around, and someone still won’t like you.”
“Then why do I feel that way? I do I need everyone to like me.”
“Low self-esteem. So instead of being who you are, you become who you think everyone wants you to be. You say what you think they want you to say.”
I thought about just how true that was. One time when It was molesting me, it asked me “do you like boys?” I gave the answer I thought It wanted, I shook my head no. “You like girls?” By the sound of It’s voice that was the wrong answer, so again I shook my head no.
“What are you thinking about over there?”
“I was just thinking I wish I was more like you. You are so strong and so confident. I wish I had those traits.
“I grew up the darkest person in a family with a huge complexion complex. I had to be strong to deal with all the insults. My brothers nicknamed me skillet. I had to find the beauty within myself or they would have won, that’s how I became confident.”
“So It won, that’s why I’m here. Years later and It is still tormenting me.”
She came over and sat next to me. This time I didn’t mind. “No, you’re here because you won. The only way It wins is if you would’ve continued to let what It did eat you alive. You have more strength than you give yourself credit for.”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” She put a little more cheer in her voice.
“You mean besides still in therapy?”
She laughed. “Yes, besides still in therapy.”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I hard for me to picture where I’ll be a few days from now. If I could get to the point where I’m not working the same dead end job and finally happy with myself, I think I’ll be satisfied.”
“Cassandra if you believe you’ll get to that point, then you will.”
“It’s weird you know even when I’m happy, in the back of my mind I’m not really happy. Kind of like I’m wearing a mask.”
“You don’t have to be happy every second of every day.”
“True, but I would like to know what it is like to be genuinely happy. If only for one day. I’ll take that and run with it.”
Things haven’t been well since our last session. The dreams were back in full force, even more vivid. This session Zakiyyah doesn’t want me to tell her about the dream, instead she wants me to write it down. It’s hard for me to hold the pen steady. How would I feel about seeing the dreams in words? Zakiyyah sat across the room at her desk. She was typing on her computer. “Take your time, and let me know when you are done,” she says. She wants me to write everything, no detail is too small. I press the pen against the paper and begin to write.
I’m standing outside the apartment door. I know what’s on the other side of the door, and I’m not afraid. I knock on the door three times. There is no turning back from what I’m about to do. “Who is it?” I don’t respond. It must’ve looked out the peep hole, the next thing I hear is the door unlocking.
It looks at me and smiles. It turns and walks into the apartment and I follow. It rubs its hand across my chest. The feel of its touch makes me cringe. “I missed you.” Then It starts to take off its black cargo pants. I take off my gray jacket, shaking the snow off of it. It is taking off its red underwear. Laying down on the floor It says, “you do me, then I’ll do you.”
Instinctively, I climb on top. That’s when I notice the cable cord running along the wall. “Don’t keep me waiting.” The onion on its breath hits my nose. I look in its eyes and smile. In open quick motion I grabbed the cable cord and wrap it around It’s neck. I pull the cord tight, and It’s eyes bulges eye, that scares me.
It starts to fight, that won’t help, I outweigh It by one hundred pounds. It’s scratching at my hands. I pull the cord tighter. I start to think about what I’m doing, this isn’t me. This isn’t who I want to be. I’m better than this. I loosen my grip on the cord. I was about to get up when It asks me “why are you doing this?”
Any guilt or hesitation, I may have felt immediately went away. I pulled the cord so tight my hands burned. It continues to struggle under me. I rest all of my weight on top of it. A calm came over me as I watched It take its last breath. I stared into its eyes and watched its soul leave its body.
That’s usually the point where I wake up with a smile on my face. After the dreams I usually feel relaxed when I wake, but it’s never with a smile. “All done,” I said, handing Zakiyyah the paper. She took it and places it on her desk without reading it. “Are you going to read it?”
“Later. Tell me how you feel.”
I thought about it. I didn’t feel relaxed. “I don’t feel anything. I’m numb.”
“Do you think writing this dream out helped you any?”
“How is it supposed to help?” I didn’t mean to be short with her.
“Why are you so upset today?”
“I have had the jean romper in my closet for months. Its short stopping mid-thigh. I finally had the confidence to wear it. I thought I looked good. While walking the mall two guys were behind me. I overhear one of them say “wide load knows she has no business wearing that.” “She should have put tights under,” the other said. Just like that I lost all the confidence I had. I ran to my car and cried like a baby.”
“Everyone is going to have an opinion. If you thought you looked good, then you should have paid those little boys no mind.”
“You don’t understand, it’s not that easy.”
She sighed. “I usually don’t get this personal with a client, but here goes. It had not been easy to accept my skin color, but I have. That doesn’t mean I don’t have setbacks. Do you know what my brother got me last Christmas?” I shook my head. “A gift certificate for skin bleaching, I cried hard about that.”
“Your brother is an asshole.”
“I agree. The point I’m trying to make is that we all have weak spots. For you its your weight, for me, it’s my complexion. Remember when you said you wanted to be me, well, I want to be Lupita Nyong’o.”
“She is beautiful.”
“Isn’t she. She owns every red carpet, she walks down. What I really love about her is how she wears her blackness like a crown. It’s only natural for women to compare themselves to each other.”
“You know, you are really good at this.”
“I try.” She got serious. “We haven’t talked about It in the last few sessions.”
“One time It sat on my face. It wanted me to lick its butthole. I resisted or I wasn’t doing it right. It told me to lay down on the floor, then sat on my face. It was so heavy; I thought my head was going to crush at any moment. I prayed it would hurry up and get off me. When It was done It took me to the kitchen, washed out my mouth, then stuck its tongue down my throat. Then It made me kiss its dirty neck.”
“How do you feel after?”
“Dirty, ashamed, a little worthless. I lashed out by pouring some of my aunt’s pills down the toilet. It was supposed to only be a few, but the whole bottle fell out.” I chuckled a little bit. “It caught me, then had the nerve to tell on me, forgetting what it had just done to me.”
“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, but do you ever feel that your silence is putting other children at risk?”
Today was a new session, not much has happened since my last one. “All the time. It’s a constant fear for me. It has four nieces all of whom who live with it. Every time I close my eyes, I think about what It may be doing to those poor kids.”
“Then why don’t you say anything?”
“Nothing would happen if I did. Everyone protects It, as a favor to grandma. It is her baby.”
“What has It been up to lately? Do you still keep in contact?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“Some victims of sexual abuse avoid their attacker; others go on like nothing happened.”
“A little of both I guess. I know just enough about It to make sure I stay far away from it. The greatest day of my life was when It moved five hours away.”
“Did you and It ever talk about the abuse.”
“Hell no. Because of the age difference we didn’t have to spend much time together. And when she moved to a different neighborhood the abuse happened less frequently.”
“About how many times would you say It molested you?”
I thought back. “I can remember eight times, there could have been more.”
“Did It ever penetrate you?”
“No. Just oral. I wish I had bitten it off.”
“If you ever told, it would be your word against Its. When was the next time It molested you?’
“Well the next time was kind of different. It was Christmas vacation, It and I and gone to visit our grandma. The first night we were there It took my hand and rubbed it against its crouch, then made me lick it. “Do I taste good?” I just nodded. What kind of sense does that make?”
“It’s called conditioning. What happened next?”
“Then it said “I wish we were alone.” I was afraid. The hair on my body stood up. I knew what would happen once the lights went out. So I grabbed my suitcase and went to my aunt’s house. I thought I’d be safe there. Well, I must have been a pedophile magnet because that didn’t happen.”
“Oh my god. Your aunt molested you?”
“No, my aunt is a good woman. At that time, she was in a new relationship. Her new fiancée and his father came to visit. One night he was babysitting while they went out. While I was asleep, he came in the room and tried to rape me. I started to cry and he ran out of the room.”
“Did you tell anyone?”
“Yes. Later that night I called my mom in tears. She was mad at me for waiting so long to tell someone.”
“Do you know what happened to him?”
“No. I searched for him on the internet, but nothing came up. I could have asked my uncle, I just felt it was best if I left it alone.”
“How did you handle it?”
“Better than I thought I would. I only had one dream and that was it.
“Was that the last time?”
“No, the last time was maybe four years after that.”
“How old were you?”
I guess I couldn’t avoid that question forever. “I was fifteen maybe sixteen.” I put my head down in shame.
“There is no need to be ashamed. Some people are abused well into their adult years, especially if their abuser is related to them.”
“I thought pedophiles had age preferences.”
“Most times, but not always. This wasn’t your fault.”
“You don’t understand. That time I…” I couldn’t say it. I was much too ashamed. Zakiyyah read my mind.
“You orgasmed. Cassandra that still does not make it your fault. If a woman who is raped has an orgasm does that mean she wanted it or enjoyed it? No. You were a hormonal teenager; it was your body’s natural response to sexual stimuli.”
“I gave It instructions. I moaned and begged it not to stop. There is no justification you can give that will excuse that. After that I made it a priority to stay as far away from It as possible. I was never alone with It again after that. It is hot in here,” I pulled off my jacket.
“Dear lord, Cassandra what happened to your wrist?”
“Nothing,” I said, pulling my jacket back on.
“Cassandra, that looks like something to me. Did you try to harm yourself?”
“You can tell me. If we need to figure out another treatment plan, we can do that. Maybe up your sessions or an inpatient treatment program.”
I jumped out of my chair. “Oh hell no, you are not locking me in a looney bin.”
“If you are hurting yourself, there may not be another option.”
“I told you, I did not try to kill myself.”
“Then what happened to your arm?”
“I don’t know. I remember leaving your office, the next thing I know an angel is tapping my wrist.” That may have sounded crazy, but that’s what happened.
“An angel,” she looked at me like I was nuts. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, that’s what happened. An angel wrapped my wrist.”
There was a knock on the door. Jimmy stuck his head in. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but it is thirty minutes past closing.”
“I’ll be leaving now,” I said, grabbing my purse.
“Cassandra wait a minute. Jimmy you can go ahead and leave. I’ll close up.” He nodded and left. She reached for me and I pulled away. “Cassandra I care about, probably more than I should, I only want what is best for you.”
“No you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t be trying to lock me away in some crazy house.”
“I was just making a suggestion. It is nothing set in stone.”
I looked at my watch, “I have to go.”
“Cassandra, don’t leave like this; we can talk about it.”
“No, I have to go.”
“Ok, I’ll see you in a few days at our next session.”
“Sure.” I stormed out of the office.
“Jimmy did you get a response?” It was 4:30 p.m. and Cassandra hadn’t shown up for her appointment. This was not like her. She never missed a session and was always at least forty-five minutes early.
“No, I keep getting the voicemail.”
This was my fault; I had pushed her too hard last time. “Dial the number,” I said to Jimmy picking up the phone. It kept ringing until the voicemail picked up. “Hey Cassandra, its Zakiyyah. I just wanted to know what was going on, you haven’t made it to your session yet. Give me a call when you get this, bye.”
I headed towards my office. “Let me know if she calls.” Jimmy nodded and continued working at his desk. I sat at my desk watching the minutes’ tick by. Before I knew it, it was after five and still no word from Cassandra.
“Knock, knock,” Jimmy said, sticking his head in the door. “Zakiyyah, I don’t think she is coming.”
“I think you are right. I guess we can head out now.” I put Cassandra’s file in my bag and headed out the door. In my car I typed her address into my GPS. I knew I was crossing the line, but there was a chance she may have hurt herself, I needed to be sure she was alright.
I walked up to her apartment. After knocking I admired her gardening. The porch was lined with beautiful flowers. The door opened, and it was not Cassandra. Maybe it was her roommate. “Hello, can I help you?”
“Yes, my name is Zakiyyah and I’m looking for Cassandra.”
“I’m sorry you have the wrong address.”
“Is this 1245 Sunshine Blvd. apartment 6?”
“Yes, but there is no Cassandra here.”
“Do you know which apartment she lives in?”
“I’ve lived here for over five years, I know all my neighbors, I’ve never heard of her.” I thanked her and walked away from her door defeated.
I went to Cassandra’s job and pretty much got the same response. I even described her and still nothing. This was confusing, everything she put on this form was wrong.
Once home, I started dinner for my husband, seafood linguine with pesto sauce, his favorite. When I heard his car pull up I silently thanked God. My husband was a police officer. Every day when he walked out of the door, I knew there was a chance he might not come back.
He walked in the door and kissed my lips. “Hey babe, there was a package for you,” I said, pointing to the envelope on the table.
“Oh, that’s just a case file Mitch sent me. He’s hitting a dead end on a case he is working and he thought some fresh eyes would help.”
He opened the file and I saw a picture. “No, sir, take that in the living room. I don’t need to see any dead bodies.” All I saw was some black pants and red panties, and that was more than enough.
He closed the file and stared at me. “You want to talk about it?”
I stirred the pot of noodles. “Cassandra didn’t come to her session today and I can’t reach her. I’m afraid she may have harmed herself.” I told him about all her contact information being wrong.
“Is there a chance you may be overreacting?”
“Why do you always accuse me of overreacting. I’m afraid that I can’t help her, or worse, made her worse.”
“Most likely not. You said it yourself, she is a troubled woman. However, there is a chance she may need more help than you can offer.”
I got up and went back to the stove. He was right, Cassandra did need more help than I could offer. I had been thinking about committing her for weeks, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. In a way it felt like I was giving up on her.”
“I can see why this case is stressing Mitch,” Landon yelled from the living room. “This poor woman was beaten, stabbed, and burned alive.”
“That’s terrible,” I mumbled. I took the pot off the stove and drained the noodles in the sink. I went to the refrigerator and grabbed the seafood. I cleaned it before leaving for work this morning, that way it could marinate in the seasoning.
As I walked towards the stove Landon’s words sunk in. Beaten, stabbed, and burned. I remembered the black pants and the red underwear. I didn’t realize I had dropped the bowl until Landon came running into the kitchen. “Zakiyyah, what’s wrong?”
“Was It choked with a cable cord?”
“It? Zakiyyah this is someone’s daughter and sister. Her name is…”
“Landon, just answer the question. Was it choked with a cable cord?”
He opened the file and flipped through some pages. “How did you know that?”
“It was beaten with a blue hammer and tied to the bed using zip ties?”
“Zakiyyah none of that was released to the public. How do you know that?” Ignoring him I rushed to my briefcase. My hands were trembling so bad I couldn’t get it open. “Zakiyyah how do you know this information?”
“How long ago did this happen?”
“Right when the dreams started. Oh God, it all makes sense now. Those weren’t dreams they were memories. She couldn’t handle what she had done and had mental breakdown.”
“Wait a minute, you think Cassandra did this?”
“I never thought her abuser could be a woman. Do you know how rare that is?”
“Cassandra couldn’t have done this.”
“Landon she told me everything.” I handed him the papers where she had written down her dreams. “There is a blood trail from the living room to the bedroom. And a red and black sectional against the far right wall.”
Cassandra really needed my help. How could I not see that she was suffering from a psychotic break. As I flipped through the file I noticed that she had an alternate number listed. Landon was shouting about something as I grabbed my phone and dialed the number.
The phone picked up on the third ring. I was tempted to hang up when a deep voiced man answered the phone. “Hello, my name is Zakiyyah Rogers, is Cassandra Wilkinson in?”
“May I leave a message; it is extremely important?”
“I’m sorry, what I meant by that was there is no one here by that name.”
I hung up without responding. Landon walked over to me and hugged me. “It’s ok Zakiyyah, we’ll find her.”
I burst into tears. “Oh God Cassandra, what did you do? Why didn’t I see?” I didn’t believe Landon when he said we would find her. Considering her condition, she was lost to herself.
10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1, happy New year. “Goodbye 2014 and hello 2015,” Jordan said, taking a long swig of his champagne. He sat at the table with his two older brothers, Joseph aka Little Joe and Jesse. The McCullough boys had a lot to be proud of, 2014 was a good year for them.
“Not so fast Jordan, 2014 has been good to us. The Atlanta Journal voted me pediatrician of the year. Jesse, I’m so proud of you little bro. The Atlanta Bar Association’s lawyer on the rise award winner.”Little Joe took a sip of his apple cider while patting Jesse on the back. “Yeah 2014 was good, so 2015 can only be better. So here’s to the future,” he said, raising his glass.
Jordan cleared his throat. When no one noticed he cleared his throat again. “What Jordan,” Jesse responded.
“Y’all fools gone act like I haven’t accomplished anything this year?” Little Joe took another sip from his glass. He wouldn’t even dignify that with a response. Jordan was childish and selfish as hell. If it wasn’t for somebody else taking care of him he would be in a sad place.
While Little Joe held his piece, Jesse had no problem telling Jordan what he thought. “Because you didn’t accomplish anything this year.”
“Here we go,” Little Joe remarked.
“Bullshit. I accomplished just as much as you two.”
“Jordan, I’ll give you five hundred dollars right now if you can name two things you accomplished this year.”
“First I drive a brand new 2014 Mercedes S-Class, and I live in a banging house.”
Jesse sucked his teeth and rolled his eyes. Jordan was clueless, and on his last nerve. “Yeah all paid for by the woman you’re banging.”
“Enough you two, damn,” Little Joe said. “Y’all fight like little kids sometimes. Can we please not do this tonight? Moving on to New Year’s resolutions, Jesse you go first.”
Jesse finished his champagne, “I am going to get married,” he said without hesitation.
“Man please, you not even dating anybody,” Jordan said, hoping his words stung Jesse as much as his stung him.
“Jesse why are you in such a rush to get married? Take your time, enjoy being single,” Little Joe said. He was starting to get a little agitated, he was in no mood to play peace keeper between Jesse and Jordan tonight.
Jesse knew what Little Joe was doing. He would let that slide for now. “Little Joe if I didn’t know better, I would swear it sounded like you regretted getting married” Jesse replied.
“That’s not what I’m saying. I love Cat and my kids. I’m just saying I was way too young when we got married.”
“While I’m about to be thirty-five. I’m nowhere near too young. Enough about me, what are your resolutions?”
Little Joe thought about it. He had accomplished just about everything he set out to, he really couldn’t want for more. “Well, my resolution is to take care of me. The kids are older, my practice is booming, and I’m where I want to be financially. Hell its time I enjoyed the results of my hard work.”
“I’m feeling that Joe,” Jesse said. “You’ve been taking care of everybody else for so long it is about time you started taking care of yourself.”
Little Joe appreciated that. He didn’t think anybody realized just how much he sacrificed. For as long as he could remember he put everyone else’s needs ahead of his own. Through it all he never complained. He just did what he thought was expected of him. It felt good to know he was at least a little appreciated. “Alright Jordan, it’s your turn.”
Jordan nodded his head, “I don’t have any resolutions this year. I’m happy with my life right now, so I’m just going to enjoy the moment.” Little Joe rubbed his temples. He didn’t know why he was so surprised. He should have expected such a selfish answer from him. “Seriously, Jordan, there’s nothing you want to work on this year?”
“Like what,” he asked staring down a woman at the bar. Little Joe sighed in aggravation. There was no use in talking to him, especially if he didn’t see the problem.
“How about being a better father to your kids,” Jesse said.
“Jesse fuck you. I’m a damn good father to my kids, I pay my child support.”
“Being a father is more than having your current fling write a check. It’s about spending time with them on days other than their birthdays and Christmas.” The truth hurt and at that moment Jordan was hurting like hell.
“What the hell you know about being a father? How many kids do you have? No, wait, I get it, your soldiers don’t march. Ha, you shooting blanks.”
Jesse slide off his jacket and pushed Jordan to the floor. Jordan was so mad he could feel the steam coming from his ears. Jordan got up from the floor, then Jesse stood up. They stood eye to eye. “Oh, you are trying to hurt my feelings little boy? Guess what, you are going to have to try harder than that.” Jordan was ready to strike. He saw the fire in Jesse’s eyes.
Jesse stood with his fist and teeth clenched, his eyebrows were furrowed. Jordan smirked, he knew which buttons to push to tick his brother off. Now he just waited for Little Joe to intervene. Instead Little Joe sat back and watched the scene unfold. Everyone else in the club was too busy drinking and having a good time to notice the explosive situation. Jordan knew he couldn’t win a fist fight with Jesse. They may have been the same height and build, but Jordan’s bark was way worse than his bite. Realizing Little Joe wasn’t going to do anything he did the smart thing and backed down. “Whatever man, you a hater.”
Jordan walked away from the table and towards the bar. Little Joe ran his hand through his dreads, “Jess was that really necessary?”
“Joe don’t start with me and don’t call me that,” Jesse snapped. He picked up the champagne bottle and topped off his glass. “Instead of coming for me, you and pops need to let Jordan’s nuts drop and make him be a man.”
“Don’t lash out at me because Jordan’s words rung true.”
Jesse chugged the champagne. His skin was thick, it would take a lot more than a few cheap shots from Jordan to shake him. “This is not about what Jordan said. It’s about the fact that he’s twenty-six and you and pops still treat him like he’s six. You have a problem with what I said to him, but you haven’t said zip about what he said to me.”
Little Joe kept on like he didn’t hear what Jesse said. Jesse was older, he should have never let it come to blows. “You know what your problem is Jesse?”
“No. I don’t Little Joe. So please inform me.” “You can dish it out, but you can’t take it.”
“So once again I’m the problem?” Jesse shook his head, shit never change.
Little Joe stood up and put on his coat. “You know what, you and Jordan have managed to ruin the first night out I’ve had in a long time. I’m going home, so if you want a ride, let’s go.” Jesse chugged another glass of champagne and ran behind Little Joe who was already half way to the door. Jordan saw them leave, but was too busy saving the number of some girl in his phone to care.
Little Joe zoomed through traffic. Even at one in the morning traffic was still heavy. The closer we got to my house the more I dreaded it. It was a shame, anyone in their right mind would be glad to call my place home. It was a five bedroom, three bath palace that overlooked my own personal lake. The granite counter tops assented the marble floors and Italian leather furniture. Yet every time I walked in it took everything in me not to burn it to the ground. It was so cold and lonely. Like a high priced prison. “Jesse you’re home. You can get out now.”
I didn’t even realize we had arrived. I couldn’t even stand looking at the place. “Joe man, I’m sorry. The night doesn’t have to end like this, you want to grab a bite to eat?”
He laid his head back against the headrest. “Jesse it’s late, I’m tired plus I have church in the morning.”
I undid my seatbelt, “man you’re getting old, you can’t hang like you use to”. “Goodnight,” he said as I got out.
As I made my way up to the door my feet felt like lead. I walked into the living room and closed the door. Immediately the silence and loneliness wrapped themselves so tightly around me that I felt as if I was suffocating. When I first bought this house I planned on it being filled with a wife and kids by now. With each year that passed and the older I got, the more I began to lose faith that I would ever have those things.
I dragged myself upstairs. As I entered my bedroom, I undressed and let my clothes hit the floor. Wearing nothing but my Calvin Klein underwear I sat down on my California king bed. My body shivered as a result of the cold. Joe’s words raced through my mind, “Jesse your home.” I swallowed a large sleeping pill and lay down. “You’re wrong Joe, this isn’t a home. It’s just a house.”
My ringing cellphone woke me from a sound sleep. Stirring a little, I jerked up when it rang again. Sitting up in a strange bed, I wiped the sleep from my eyes and the slob from the side of my mouth. After getting out of the bed, I found my clothes folded neatly on the dresser. I snatched my phone from my pants and saw forty missed calls. “Damn.”
I almost dropped it when it began to ring again. “Hey Tracy.”
“Hey Tracy nothing. Where are you?”
“I’m at Little Joe’s house.”
“Don’t lie to me Jordan. You’re in fucking Jenkinsburg.”
I looked at my phone and cursed. God I was tired of her ass. “Tracy how the hell do you know where I’m at?”
“I pulled the GPS. I’m five minutes away and Jordan I swear if you at some bitch’s house…” I hung up the phone. I hurried up and threw on my clothes as fast as I could. Sometimes I swear I didn’t know why I dealt with the drama of Tracy. As I strapped my Rolex on my wrist I remembered why. I shoved my feet into my shoes and raced out the bedroom. Racing down the hallway I ran right into Nicole. She was standing there naked, holding a frying pan and a spatula. “Good morning baby, I made breakfast”.
I smirked almost forgetting that Tracy was hot on my trail. She wasn’t the thickest woman, but what she lacked in cup size and ass, she more than made up for in tongue action. I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her lips. “Damn baby. I really wish I could, but I got to head back into town. Can I get a rain check?”
She popped me on the butt with a spatula, “you better.”
I kissed her again before rushing towards the door. “I’ll call you,” I shouted over my shoulder. Before heading to my car I peeked around the corner. I didn’t see Tracy’s Lexus so I made a mad dash to my car and headed back to Atlanta. I smiled as thoughts of last night flooded my mind. It wasn’t Nicole’s body or looks that had attracted me to her, nor was it her slim waist. Rather, it was the Chanel clutch and Land Rover car key that she carried. When I approached her at the bar all it took was a smile and a kiss on the hand to hook her.
When I pulled up to my pops’ house he was sitting on the porch swing like always. I needed some more sleep before I went home and dealt with Tracy’s madness. “Hey pops, how you are doing?”
He looked up from the newspaper he was reading. “Boy where you been? Tracy has been calling here all night looking for you.”
I sat down on the swing next to him. “Pops I’m not trying to deal with Tracy right now.”
“So I guess that means you were with some woman.”
“How you figure that?”
“Because I know my son. Boy, I keep trying to tell you, playing with people’s emotions is dangerous. Tracy already crazy.”
Tracy didn’t scary me. I knew how to deal with her. “Pops trust me, I know how to deal with Tracy. Besides, I like them crazy. They have the best.” I stopped mid-sentence when he stared at me sideways.
“They have the best what?” I stared at my phone.
I was saved when Sabrina came out of the house. Sabrina was the nursing student that rented a room from my pops. I thought it was a good idea that pops had her living with him. Now that he was getting up there in age, someone had to look after him. She walked out onto the porch and handed pops a glass of sweet tea and some pills. He took the tea, but pushed away the pills.
“I’ll take them a little later.” She argued with him with her eyes. I sat back and watched what was going on. She must’ve lost the argument because she turned to go in the house. I grabbed her, “hey Sabrina when we are going to go out and do a little something?”
“How is Tracy?”
“Touché Touché. Can I at least get a glass of sweet tea?”
“Your hands are not broke.” She broke away from me.
She went inside and closed the screen door behind her. “Boy, that’s a good girl, leave her alone. You don’t mean her no good.”
“Just a little innocent flirting pops.”
“Well it’s all that innocent flirting that got you four kids by three different women.”
I looked at him up and down. “Why are you so sensitive about her? You hitting that?”
“Boy did you forget that I’m your dad?” Just then all my kids came running out of the house, “daddy where you been?” “Why haven’t you come seen me?” I was at a loss for words. I wasn’t expecting to see them.
My eldest son Jordan Jr. hopped on my lap. JJ was about to be seven and the only one of my kids that I couldn’t deny. The boy looked just like me. He was my carbon copy. He smiled at me revealing his missing two front teeth. My twins Skylar and Skyla were five. After two DNA test I had no choice but to claim them. I didn’t trust that white woman at all. My youngest boy Jamie was three. Out of all my kids he was the one I saw the least. His mother was a mile and a half past crazy, so I tried to avoid her at all cost. She was good for a quick nut though.
“Daddy, where you have been,” JJ asked me again.
“Daddy had to go to the military.” Pops rolled his eyes. I hadn’t seen any of them since Christmas. It wasn’t nothing to do with them, I have just been busy. “Why don’t you all go back in the house? Daddy will be in in a minute. Pops what are my kids doing here,” I asked when they were out of earshot.
“Isis and Tina asked me to watch JJ and the twins while they went out last night. Then I just figured I would go ahead and call Victoria and ask her to bring Jamie.” He staring back at the newspaper.
“Pops I’m tired, I don’t feel like being bothered with them.”
He closed the newspaper. I could tell he was aggravated. “Have you ever thought that I might enjoy spending time with my grandkids? Besides, they need a male role model.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I’m in my kids’ lives.”
“Who you trying to convince Jordan?”
Tired of listening to his preaching and unwanted advice, I got up and went inside the house. My kids were sitting around the tv watching Arthur on PBS. I sat down on the couch, planning on taking a quick nap. Skyla got up and pulled a book out of her bag. “Daddy pawpaw was reading Harry Potter to us, can you read some too?” I almost said no until I realized Sabrina was in the kitchen listening.
“Yeah baby girl, daddy will read to you.” She hopped on my lap with excitement. “JJ turn off the tv.” He did and they all gathered around me as I opened the book to the marked page. “Welcome! Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Odmen! Tweak!” They all laughed and I laughed too. See I was a good father.
I sat on the front porch and looked out onto the street. Most days you could find me right here on my porch swing. I loved sitting here. Some of the best memories I have of my late wife, Jessica, were sitting right here on this swing watching the boys play or staring up at the night sky. Since she died I haven’t even thought of remarrying. I’ve dated quite a few times, but I’ve never come close to loving another woman the way I loved my wife. God, how I missed that woman. But it wouldn’t be much longer though, just a matter of weeks, months at the most.
Sabrina came out and sat next to me. She had a smile on her face. “What’s so amusing?”
“Jordan is in there reading Harry Potter to the kids.”
“Yeah, you can say he has his moments. Every now and again a good father will pounce out of him.” She tried to hand me those pills again.
I pushed her hand away “I’m not taking those pills.”
“Mr. Joseph you need to take your pills.”
“Because they are going to help you live longer.”
“Quality over quantity my dear. Those pills make me feel worse than the cancer. I can’t even play with my grandkids when I take them.”
She gave up and put the pills back in the bottle. “Ok fine. But can we at least tell your sons? I don’t like lying to them.”
I motioned for her to lower her voice. Jordan had hearing better than any dog. “I will tell them, when the time is right.”
She stared at me with her big eyes. “When? Let’s be honest Mr. Joseph you don’t have much time. And since you won’t take your medicine you have even less time.”
“Soon Sabrina. My boys are fragile, you can’t just spring stuff like this on them.”
“You are one stubborn man.”
She kissed my forehead, “you feel a little warm and clammy. I’ll go get the thermometer.” She got up and went back inside. I looked out onto the street. Today was not as cold as the last few days. It only snowed a little today. I saw the curtains move in the window across the street. I waved, knowing that Leslie was watching. “Nosey old woman.” Sabrina came back out with the thermometer.
“Open wide,” she said. She placed the thermometer under my tongue. “Yep. You are definitely coming down with something. I get you some Theraflu and honey.”
She walked back inside and Tracy’s black Lexus pulled up. She jumped out and raced up the porch. She looked a mess. Her mascara was running and her clothes were wrinkled like she had slept in them. “Is Jordan here?”
She wiped her eyes, “good because I’m going to hurt him.”
Why was I always being dragged into their problems? They were going to have to do this somewhere else. Today was not the day, especially with my grandkids in the house. “Tracy calm down there are kids in there.”
“I don’t care,” she said running past me into the house. I followed behind her as quickly as I could. In the living room Jordan and the kids were on the couch asleep. Tracy pulled out her phone and snapped a picture. “My man is a good father.” It scared me how quickly she did that one eighty.
I was beyond glad when the second service had finally ended. There was still the night service, but I wouldn’t be in attendance. We were all sitting in pastor’s office. I was still recovering from last night. I was tired and my head was pounding. And I didn’t even have a drink, being the DD sucked. Jesse was right though, I couldn’t hang like I used to. I almost didn’t want to come this morning, but being married to the pastor’s daughter made that decision impossible. “Joe baby, daddy’s talking to you. Did you hear him?”
“Oh, I’m sorry pastor Jameson I didn’t hear you. I’m a little distracted, what was that?”
“I said, with Deacon Shepard leaving, we have a spot open on the deacon board and I would like for you to fill it.”
There was no way I was doing that. We were already here every time the doors opened and Cat had the kids in every church related activity available, it was just too much. Especially for Baby Joe. Yeah, it kept him busy, but he was fifteen he didn’t need or want to spend all his time in church. “Pastor Jameson that is a really good offer and I’m honored. But with everything that is going on with my practice I don’t think I would have the time to do the job to your standards.” I figured that sounded better than hell no.
“Are you telling me you’re too busy to do the lord’s work?”
This is why I couldn’t stand this man. I swear if it wasn’t for Cat and the kids, I wouldn’t have anything to do with them. “Daddy that is not what he means. As much as he wants to do it, he can’t fully commit to it and you know how high your standards are. You should get Brother Morris to do it. He doesn’t have a life.”
“Catherine hush now. If your father wanted Brother Morris to do it, he would’ve asked him.” Mrs. Jameson stood behind pastor massaging his shoulders. She had on the same blue dress as Cat. While Cat’s dress was short and hugged her curves, Mrs. Jameson’s dress was long and hung loose.
I didn’t mind that Cat showed off her goods, nor did I mind when men looked at her. I took it as a compliment. I had a gorgeous wife and I was proud of that.
“Hush woman. Actually, I think Brother Morris would make a better choice.” I mouthed thank you and Cat winked at me.
“Ok, enough with church business. On to family business. We need to discuss Noah. He’ll be getting out on Tuesday. Someone needs to be there to pick him up and he needs a place to stay.”
The room got quiet. “I refuse to talk about that abomination, let alone let it in my house.”
“Dad, Noah is not an abomination. He’s your son.”
“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. He’s an abomination and I will have nothing to do with him.”
“Daddy the bible also speaks tolerance and forgiveness.”
“Catherine your father just got done delivering a sermon, he doesn’t need you stressing him out.” Mrs. Jameson took the whole obedient wife thing to another level. She agreed with everything pastor said. In twenty years I had never once seen her argue with him. On the few occasions she did open her mouth to voice her opinion he was quick to shut her down.
“Mom Noah is your son.”
Pastor Jameson stood. “My son died a long time ago. Now I’m through with this discussion.” He walked out of the office with Mrs. Jameson hot on his tail.
“I don’t care what they say. Noah is my brother and I will not turn my back on him. He can stay with us.”
“NO! That is not a good idea. NO.”
She looked at me with a shocked expression on her face. I didn’t care though, Noah staying with us was not an option. “Excuse me. So now you agree with my parents?”
“Ok first off I’m going to forgive you for that insult. No, I don’t agree with your parents. I just don’t understand the total loyalty you have to him. Lord knows he doesn’t deserve it.”
Hell I didn’t deserve her loyalty either, but that was a discussion for another day. “Joe, he’s my brother. I’m all he’s got. If one of your brothers needed a place to stay would you turn your back on them?”
She knew I wouldn’t. I would stop the earth and make time reverse for my bothers. “No. But Noah still can’t stay with us. He can stay at our old condo until he finds something else. And I’ll pick him up from jail on Tuesday.”
She wrapped her arms around my hips. “Thank you.”
I kissed her lips, “anything for you.”
“Oh god, please not in the pastor’s office.” We didn’t even notice Dorothy walk in.
“Dorothy, please, we know better.”
She looked at us and backed out. “Come on Joe, we got a little time before the children’s choir rehearsal let out. There’s something I want to show you in the car.”
“In the car? Right now?”
That night after church I was in the living room helping Nyla with her homework. Cat had to finish a project for work so I was stuck doing this. In a way I didn’t mind, I enjoyed spending time with my baby girl. She was growing up so fast, she was already ten. She was definitely her mother’s daughter. With her round face and deep set eyes. I could already tell she was going to have Cat’s figure, hell she was already wearing a training bra. That is why I kept my shotgun cocked and loaded.
Pretty soon she wouldn’t need my help anymore. “Daddy, what did you get for number three? I can’t figure it out.”
I looked at this question backwards, forwards, sideways, and I still had no idea what it was saying. I swear I was reading Japanese “Nyla, I’m not going to tell you the answer. Skip it and go to the next one. Once you’re done, we’ll go over it together.”
I couldn’t help her with number three because I was still struggling with number one. “Dad, look at this,” Baby Joe said running out of his room.
“Well, looks who’s up from his hibernation.”
He had been held up in his room since we got home from church. “Dad look,” he said, shoving a piece of paper in my face. Baby Joe looked a lot like Jordan, he even had those LL Cool J lips. It wasn’t surprising, though. Jordan and Cat argued and fought the whole time she was pregnant with Baby Joe. I looked at the paper and it was a drawing of a Phoenix. Baby Joe was one hell of an artist. “That looks good son.”
He took the paper back and stared at it. “Yeah. Now I just need to figure out where I want to put it.”
“Put it on your bedroom wall with the rest of them.”
“Dad no. I mean where to put it on my body. This is going to be my new tattoo.”
My head jerked up from Nyla’s homework. “Excuse you?”
“Terrell’s brother just got his tattoo kit and he said he’ll do me for half price. I was thinking about getting it on my back or chest.”
“Boy, if you bring your ass in my house with a tattoo I’ll break your damn neck.”
He looked at me and shook his head. Maybe was I was a little rough but he caught me off guard. “Why can’t I get a tattoo? Terrell already has two.”
“I don’t care how many Terrell has. You’re not getting a tattoo as long as you are in my house.”
I stood up. I was done with this conversation. Sometimes I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with my kids sometimes. “But nothing. Now help your sister with her homework before I knock some sense into you.”
Cat was sitting at the kitchen table typing away on her computer. I opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle water. “How is your project coming along?”
“Slow and I have to get this finished. This is a make or break.”
“You say that about all your projects.”
She looked up from the computer. “Baby when you are the only black female executive, everything you do is make or break. Did you and Nyla get her homework done?”
“No. That’s that new math. I can’t believe I just said that. Jesse is right, I am getting old.”
I sat down at the table across from her. “Actually you’re both right. That is new math. It’s called the common core method. But you’re still old though.”
“Well, you’re two years older than me so what does that say about you?”
Her mouth dropped open a little bit. “Wow, you must not plan on having sex for a while.”
“Ouch. Why do you women always have to go there?” “Because it works.”
She rubbed her temples. “Babe you know Baby Joe actually thinks he’s getting a tattoo.”
She shrugged, “I’m fine with it.”
“You’re fine with it?”
“Yes. As long as it is tastefully done and can be hidden by his clothes, I see nothing wrong with him getting a tattoo.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She was just a crazy as Baby Joe. “Cat you can’t be serious. He’s fifteen and about to do something that will be stuck with him for the rest of his life.”
“The same can be said about your dreads but Joseph still let you get those.”
She was comparing apple and oranges right now. Dreads could be easily cut off, but tattoos were permanent. “First off pops didn’t let me get dreads, I came home with them. And as soon as he saw them, he cut them off himself. Secondly, I was seventeen.”
“Wow a whole two years.”
“Cat we need to talk about this later because I can tell this is about to turn into an argument.” I walked away from the table.
That night putting Nyla to bed was a breeze. Church must have really worn her out because she was sleep before I could even turn her nightlight on. Baby Joe went straight to his room after helping Nyla do her homework. I guess he was mad at me, he’ll be ok. As pops used to say if your kid liked you all the time you were doing something wrong. I wanted to slap myself every time I quoted pops.
When I walked into our bedroom Cat was on her side of the bed oiling her skin. I went into the bathroom and turn on the shower. “Don’t forget you have to take the kids to school tomorrow. I have to go to the office early.”
“I didn’t forget,” I said closing the bathroom door. I looked in the mirror and sighed, it was time to get my dreads tightened up. Isis was going to be the first person I called tomorrow. I had no problem admitting I was an ugly motherfucker. Despite that I made sure to keep myself looking as good as possible, from my head right down to my pedicured feet.
When I came out of the bathroom Cat was sitting up in the bed with her arms folded across her chest. I climbed into bed. “Goodnight,” I said turning off the lamp.
“Don’t we need to talk about something?”
“There is nothing to talk about. That boy is not getting a tattoo.”
“What’s wrong with our son expressing himself?”
Expressing himself please. I think his only goal in this was pissing me off. “This is not about him expressing himself. This is about him trying to grow up too fast. Besides, I’m thirty-eight and I don’t have a tattoo, yet I express myself just fine.”
She leaned over and rubbed my chest. “Joe if our kids don’t feel comfortable talking to us they will start doing stuff behind our backs. They have to have some say in the decisions we make regarding them.” “
So you want them to tell us how to raise them. Really? We’re not going to agree on this. Goodnight.” I clicked off the light.
She clicked back on the lights. “No, we are not done. I’m their mother and I have a say in raising them. If you think I’m going to sit back while you make all the decisions you got me confused with my mother.”
“Not this again. This has nothing to do with your mother. This is about you wanting to be their friend rather their mother.”
We had this argument at least once a month. When it came to the kids there were very few decisions we agreed on. “Oh, so how I mother our children is wrong. So what, I’m supposed to be more like your mother?”
It would’ve hurt less if she had hit me. I turned my back to her and pulled the covers up to my shoulders. “Love I’m sorry. You know I didn’t mean that.” She put her finger in my dimple and twisted. I shooed her finger from my face and clicked off the lamp.
Growing up Cassandra wasn’t afraid of the monster in her closet or the thing under her bed. Growing up Cassandra was afraid of It, her very own flesh and blood monster. It did unspeakable things to Cassandra, things that affect her well into adulthood. Cassandra’s life starts to spiral out of control when she begins to have dreams about killing It. Afraid of what she may become Cassandra seeks the help of therapist Zakiyyah. Can Zakiyyah save Cassandra from It and herself, or is it already too late?