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Chronicles of A Vixen

Rochester / PART 1 / 98

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHRONICLES OF A VIXEN

Sherylynne L. Rochester

 

 

 

 

 

CHRONICLES OF A VIXEN

Published by Sherylynne L. Rochester at Shakespir

Smash words Edition, License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Copyright © 2016 Sherylynne L. Rochester

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 9781310787850

 

 

 

 

 

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To all those that have gone through a hard time in life and to those in the entertainment industry, know if you give your life to Christ He’ll lead you and guide you to a better path and life. You don’t have to sell your soul to get the riches. Jeremiah 29:11. Don’t give up on God just yet. He has a better plan for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

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Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Invitation

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About The Author

 

 

 

 

 

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Prologue

 

 

 

 

Thinning hair. Deathly pale face. Boney body. That’s all that’s left of me. Is it really time? Yes…yes it’s time.

Almost time for what, you might ask? Well, it was almost time for me to die.

I look like death; I even smell death all around me in this room. Yes, I even see death. My senses are especially heightened now. I smell everything, from the smell of antiseptics and medicine, to the odor of decay oozing from me and others in this place. It has filled my nostrils ever since I was placed in this room. The air did not smell like paradise. It smelled like a prison—a prison of death.

All of this, though, is what is keeping me alive. I’m fighting hard to stay alive because of the fear, the smell of death, and life after death. I truly don’t want to go. I wondered: Can’t I just have more time?

Nope.

I don’t have that much time. I can feel it and sense it. So, yes, it’s time. No extra time will be given to me. It could happen any moment. So, it was time to hold up my end of the bargain. Time to give him what he wants. I steady my breath and try to calm the panic that’s trying to rise within me.

It’s a slow process. A slow, long process. That’s the way they want it. I never thought I would die a slow death. When I think of those who made this deal like I did, they didn’t die the same way I’m dying now. They didn’t die slowly. But I alone was dying slowly. Why? I had to wonder.

It’s been months of being in and out of the hospital. Months of IVs in my arm to help with the pain. Months of doctors, nurses and assistants, all buzzing around me. Hour after hour, day in and day out. Months of slowly dying.

Many of those who died in the entertainment industry died of overdosing on pills and drowning in their own vomit, drowning in a swimming pool, plane crashes, car accidents, or some other horrible way. But not me. Why was my life being prolonged when I knew they wanted me to come with them so badly? Was there something else at work?

For the past few months, I’ve been here in this bed. I’ve been here, watching myself deteriorate and going crazy at the same time.

Why? I didn’t have the answer.

Lying my head back slowly, I rest my eyes toward the ceiling, thinking. Being here has given me nothing but time to think. It gives me time to contemplate all that I have done and all that I have been through. I’m thinking about my life now; I’m even thinking about my life after death.

I tremble as I think of dying. The fear of dying became a tangible, living force that crept over me like some hungry beast. I was immobilized; my brain held me captive. I didn’t want to die, but what could I do now?

I felt cold tears start to stream down my face as I reminisced about my life and the fear of leaving this earth.

In the beginning, I was okay with signing the deal with him. I was ready for what would happen; I didn’t concern myself with it. I was so concerned with the riches and fame that I wasn’t really concerned about giving up everything in the end. I guess it was because you always think you have time to live your life. You always think you have time to experience all that you want. I thought I’d have a pretty long life, and then I’d go. I thought that life would just be great and be the way that I had planned it. But I was wrong.

I’m too young to be here like this, too young to die so early. I’m too young to be in that famous club of those who died early. I know I made a deal with him but does it really have to go down like this? I knew when I signed up with him that when it was time, it was time. But I never thought it would be this soon or like this.

I want to scream. I want out. I felt a surge of adrenaline envelope me. My screaming burst through my lungs, for that was the only weapon I had.

I screamed, “It’s too soon!” Deep inside, I truly hoped that would stop everything.

But it didn’t.

The color quickly drains from my face. Fear cripples me, freezing every muscle of my body.

I still have more life to live. More things to experience. More things to do.

As more tears came, more thoughts whirled through my head.

Why did I make this deal with him? If I hadn’t, this would have never happened. I wouldn’t be here. I allowed situations in life to make me sign on the dotted line. I allowed greed to cloud my judgment.

Why did I do this?

I can’t get out, even if I tried.

Someone please help, I thought.

Anyone…

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

Now, because of my wants and desires, I’m here in a hospital bed, watching doctors and nurses move in and out. I’m tired of seeing the doctors walking in and out, reviewing my charts. I’m tired of having the nurses poking me with needles and giving me pills. Tired of the distant sounds of busy doctors and nurses racing by.

Tired.

There’s nothing they can do to save me from my fate. The doctors keep telling me there’s nothing they can do. Tell me something I don’t know! I scream internally. They have only given me a little while longer to live.

That I already know.

They don’t have to tell me when because I know when. The ‘when’ is upon us now. They basically said to get my affairs in order and get ready to die. They didn’t even stay around after uttering those words; they simply left the room. Where was the compassion? Where was the care? How hopeless it is to hear those words. I was in a hopeless situation. There was no hope in their eyes. There is no hope in mine either—just fear.

Fear of the creatures that waited for me. I shudder as I look at them and their jovial expressions.

Yes…there is only happiness in their faces as they wait for me to come along with them. They didn’t exude a warm and welcoming invitation like the first time. This time, their invitation was dark and frightening, and it wasn’t so comforting either.

As darkness descended, I could see them entering and walking around the room. Some were pacing, some were waiting excitedly, and others were dancing around and mocking me. All this was going on as they waited for the time to take me away with them.

What concerns me the most is that they were coming closer and closer to me. Unusually close.

Usually, it wasn’t like this. They would stand off to the side. Some would be far off.

Not today.

They were so close that one was an inch above my head. I froze, looking at the giant creature.

Oh, what have I done?

Lying here with it right above me makes me think about what I have done throughout my life. Riches and fame—it doesn’t matter now. I am now broken in spirit. Left all alone. No friends. No family. Nothing. No one.

I loved my life; it was great. But now I was rich in things but poor in spirit. Years of striving to be on top left me on the bottom. Years of going around the world doing what only pleased me has now cost me. It has cost me my life, but most of all, it has pushed away those who really loved me. My life and the way I lived forced so many to isolate themselves from me. It hurt to be alone at a moment like this. I truly need someone now.

“God,” I cry. “I need help!”

That was the first time in years I called out to Him. I was truly desperate now.

“Please…God!”

No response.

“God, please help,” I ordered, but quickly regretted. Why would He listen to me now? I hadn’t been to church since signing the deal. I hadn’t called His name because they wouldn’t let me. So why would He help me? His silence was deafening. They said He would never leave nor forsake, so where was He when I really needed Him?

I waited, but there was only laughter. Peals of laughter burst from deep within them.

I heave a sigh, lie back, and cry.

“It’s too late, isn’t it?” I ask, teary eyed.

He doesn’t want to hear from me now. After all these years, I finally cry out to Him. But, like the others, where is He? All I hear this time is more laughter and a nurse entering the room.

The creature above my head retreats quickly. This time, it was afraid.

“Child, who are you talking to? What’s ‘too late’? And why are you crying?”

I don’t respond. I just lie here, sad and depressed.

“Come on, it’s never too late,” she says, patting and comforting me with her hands. Through the gloves she is wearing, her hands feel warm; her eyes are limp with sympathy.

I try to smile but can’t.

“Brenda, may I see a mirror?” I ask her.

“Sure!” she says, handing me a mirror. “You look beautiful.”

I take the mirror and can barely hold it up. As I hold the mirror, a splitting pain erupts through my arms.

“Here, let me help you.”

It tortures me to move. I keep my movements small and steady as Brenda takes the mirror from me.

“Thank you,” I say weakly. “I just want to see what I look like. I just want to see what has become of me.”

“You look fine,” she says again.

“Oh, my goodness. I look horrible! You lied, Brenda.” I look myself over in the mirror. I don’t even recognize myself. I’m normally dolled up, with long black, straight hair, makeup, and just good looking. Men and women thought I was an idol but now I look nothing like they normally saw me. I am pale; I look sickly.

“Brenda, I’m twenty-seven. I look like I am in my fifties or older.”

I push the mirror away and lie my head down.

“The deals and decisions I’ve made have finally caught up with me. Plus, too much makeup all these years,” I add. I try to laugh but instead, another sigh slips through my lips.

Nurse Brenda cracks a smile.

“No…it was all the drugs and alcohol I consumed through the years. That is why I look like this,” I continue as my voice breaks as I speak.

What had I gotten myself into? I think. That question continues to play in my head over and over again. I can’t seem to let it go.

“Rest, child. Rest.”

“I’ll rest when I am dead!” I scream.

I am disgusted with myself. Disgusted that I accepted the deal. Disgusted that it’s all turning out this way. Disgusted that it is all coming to an end so quickly.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It’s not supposed to end this way.”

A great sob escapes me, and I cover my face with shaking hands. Brenda watches me with deep care and concern.

“What happened to me? How did it all come to this? I’m not the same person. I’ve changed. The industry changed me. Life has changed me. It all changed me. Oh, Brenda, I regret it so much. I wish I could just start over. If I could start over, I would make a B-line in another direction. I wouldn’t have done it!”

Brenda takes a tissue and wipes my tears. She smiles at me. Of course, I try to smile back, but fail miserably. There is no reason to smile now. But seeing her smile, I realize that all my life, that’s what I wanted. I wanted to be happy like her, to exude peace. She exudes a peace that I’ve been looking for my entire life. I will never have that now. I no longer had access to peace. I could no longer smile. Where I’m going I will never be able to smile again. Nor will I see someone smiling ever again.

“What are you talking about, child? What do you mean you wouldn’t have done it?”

I shake my head, avoiding her question.

“Look, let’s get you some food. You have to eat something, dear,” she says, still smiling.

I look at her sadly. She has on gloves, a mask, and is covered from head to toe. It isn’t for her sake, but mine. But it’s all in vain because soon and very soon, I will be gone. Soon, I will have to return to that Godforsaken place. The thought of being there alone scared me. Never again would I see this earth. Never again would I see the things I received after signing the deal.

I just hope that he lives up to his part of the bargain. If he does, maybe I can live there for eternity without any pain and maybe, just maybe, be even more famous down there, too. Or, he can give me someplace to lead. For all that I did for him up here on earth, he owes me. Yes, he owes me. I can only hope.

“Come on. Eat something,” she says again as she rolls the table closer to me.

If I had an appetite, I would have lost it immediately. I twisted my face as I look at the food. The food was mushy and looked three days old. Eww, hospital food. My expression said it all.

I finally speak up, taking a slow breath. “Eat something, you say? You mean eat my last meal?” I say, coughing. “I c—can’t. I don’t have an ap—appetite to eat. Plus, this i—isn’t the food I am used to.”

She rubs my back trying to help my cough. “Dear, dear. Don’t say that! Well, what type of food do you want?” she asks.

Nurse Brenda is the only hopeful nurse in this place. Most of them come in and look at me with pity, while others know who I am and look at me judgmentally. I can tell that they believe I deserve the fate I’m enduring because of the way that I’ve lived my life. But this nurse, Nurse Brenda, is different. She doesn’t care about who I am or what I have done. But I do wonder what the catch is and why she is always being so nice.

I have come to realize that people who are caring and nice to me always have an agenda or something up their sleeves. They aren’t kind because of the goodness of their hearts, but because they want something. But there is something about Nurse Brenda that has me thinking she truly cares about me. I don’t know how I feel about that. I haven’t been truly cared for in so long, and I’ve managed to push away those that love me.

Nurse Brenda is an older lady. She is in her sixties but has the spunk of a young person my age. She is caring and has really shown me love. She shows me the love that I have been missing throughout my life. What I love about my time here is how she comes in many times just to sit and talk with me. She comes in just to see if I am okay. She even shows up on her days off to visit me. She has given me the love and care that I have searched for all my life. She is easy to talk to and has taken the time to care and understand me during this stressful time in my life. I am truly thankful for her.

I push the food away signaling to her that I don’t want it and that I don’t want anything else to eat.

“What’s the matter, dear?”

“I just don’t have an appetite really.”

She nods as she moves the table away from me.

I sigh. “Can I ask you something?”

“You know you can,” she says. “Ask away, dear.”

“Why do you always come here to see me?” I ask, exchanging a bewildering look. “Why are you so nice?”

She smiles again. “I have a feeling you need to hear the things that I need to share with you.”

I am puzzled by her statement but don’t push the issue. It’s too overwhelming. I cover my face and cry even more.

“Child, why are you crying?”

“I’ve done so much, Brenda. So much in my life that…” I pause, knowing if I reveal it, my time will be over. I didn’t want my time to be over just yet.

I watch as the creature lurks in the corner. I wonder why it was so quiet now. It wasn’t tormenting me or mocking me. In fact, none of them were. They were strangely quiet and subdued.

“What’s the matter, dear? Is everything okay? You’re not feeling any discomfort are you?” Her voice was so warm and comforting that even the stingiest of strangers immediately warmed up to her. She had a calming nature, which I desperately needed amongst these thoughts.

I had these thoughts of my life swirling in my mind for years since getting this death wish, but stored them away. I was too weak, and holding it in was making me weaker. Lately, I’ve been wanting to tell my story the way I wanted to but I was afraid. Afraid my life would end just like that. Afraid it would end like so many others in the industry. Those who died in the past wanted a change. They wanted to get out of the deal but before they could, their lives were immediately taken. It was quick; that is what scared me. I didn’t want that.

I remember one in particular who tried to speak out and warn parents of the effects their music had on kids but they quickly shut her down. By the weekend, she was back to her normal over-sexualized self. They gave her a warning that scared her. They, too, gave me a warning that scared me. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have given my life up for fame and fortune.

I held it all in because of that reason. I didn’t want to die just yet, but now…I was dying, and dying very soon. It may have been slow and painful, but I was dying. I now felt it didn’t matter and that it was my time to tell someone. I just didn’t know how. Yes, I was still afraid. But something was coming over me to just tell.

“Spit it out, child. Nothing is going to happen to you,” she says, looking at me reassuringly. However, she doesn’t know what I have done and how just one slip could end everything.

“I can’t…”

“Don’t let fear stop you from getting the peace and joy you desire and need,” she says.

“Brenda, you don’t understand.”

“Oh, I understand more than you think and know. So go ahead. Nothing is going to happen, in Jesus’ name!”

I see him and the rest who have now entered the room get angry at the mention of His name. I haven’t been able to speak His name since making the deal. That was in the contract, too. No mention of the name of Jesus. If I do mention the name of Jesus, I’ll be tormented and even taken away from all that I had come to know and love. Oh, how I want to say His name so much now!

“Say it, child. Say Jesus. He’ll save you.” She stands over me, wiping more of my tears away.

“I—I can’t. He won’t save me.”

“He’s the only one that can help you out of all of this.”

“No, He won’t. I’ve done so much.” My voice fills with emotion.

“God, give her the courage to speak.” Her voice pours out like a river. “Every demonic force in this room that is bringing fear, I serve notice to you, in Jesus’ name. Release her to speak now. For nothing shall harm her. Lord, allow and help her to speak all that is on her heart now. In Jesus’ name!”

I watch as the many that were in the room scatter. It was actually funny to watch. They ran away like roaches would when the lights were turned on. All, except the one creature that was always with me. He was subdued. He, too, was balled up in the corner, scared. I now begin to wonder how much power they really have and wonder about Nurse Brenda’s authority and where it came from.

“Now…you can go ahead and speak,” she says, smiling and stepping back to throw the tissue away. I finally build up the courage to speak.

“Brenda, I’ve been seeing things in the night and now even during the day. It’s scaring me. I know it’s my time. I can feel it. That’s why I say my last meal.”

“Oh, really! What do you see now, Tiffany?” she asks, checking the screen and my vitals.

I think about the question. I think about what I have seen in years past and how I definitely wasn’t seeing it now. Oh, how they scared me in the past, but now they seemed small and insignificant.

“Well, I don’t see Heaven. I will tell you that. I’ve done too much to even deserve a spot in Heaven. I’ve given up a lot just to get to where I am and I know Heaven is not in my view anymore. Plus, he wouldn’t even dare allow me into Heaven. We made a deal and he’s waiting to collect.”

“Everyone is welcomed in Heaven if they repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, child. I’m sure you know that.”

“Yeah, but I can’t face God like this. I can’t face Him with what I’ve done and I definitely can’t face Him with this disea—”

“Hush. God will accept you if you accept Him. It’s never too late. He can and will heal every disease. Now what could be so bad that you think God wouldn’t accept you?” She goes over to the chair in the corner, removes the bedpan, and pulls the chair up next to me, waiting to hear what I have to say.

I sigh and throw my head back again, ready to reveal everything. I am ready to get it all off my chest; I need to get it all off my chest.

“Trust me, it’s too late for Him to accept me. I have a story that you probably won’t believe.”

“Nothing fazes me, child,” she says quickly. “Go ahead! He’ll accept you no matter what you’ve done.”

I give her a slight smile.

I watch Nurse Brenda as she bows her head and silently begins to pray. Her mouth moves but no words came out.

Suddenly, I feel a greater peace. It became very quiet and very peaceful. The fear and torment that once existed was no longer there. I look around the room; it suddenly became brighter. There is a peaceful atmosphere all around me. I haven’t felt this peace since Mimi was around me. I grasp the feeling and try not to let go.

“So, are you ready?” Nurse Brenda asks.

I turn my head toward her. After all those years of holding so much of the stories of my life inside, I want to be relieved of it all at this moment. I just wonder if I have enough time left to tell her everything. Someone needs to know so they can tell others. Others need to hear this so they can avoid it. I’ve led so many astray. I’ve led so many to hell. That last thought interrupts my peace. How could I have allowed my desire for riches and fame destroy so many lives, including mine?

“Go ahead,” she reassures me.

“Okay,” I say, biting my lip. “I guess it is time for me to tell someone the truth about the things I went through and how it got me to being who I am today.” I pause and reminisce about my life. “It has caused me so much pain and it’s not pretty.”

Nurse Brenda listens intently.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

 

I lived at 495 Washington Avenue between Fulton Street and Gates Avenue. It’s in the same area that Biggie Smalls lived in—right around the corner actually. It was rough. I remember women sitting on crates and chairs they brought outside from their apartments. They were some loud women. Bernice was the loudest. You’d hear her from blocks away. Oh and her laugh—whenever she did laugh—was loud. And don’t get her angry; that’s when she was extremely loud. There were also little kids running around, exposed to the lifestyle there at 495 Washington. Oh, and don’t forget the rapping around the corner and the pay phone where they hid drugs and did drug transactions. That was Fulton and Washington: my stomping ground.

There were even drug addicts in and around the building. Drug dealers filled the streets. There were loud parties with loud music on the streets and even inside of my apartment building. It seemed like there was always a competition to see who had the loudest speakers. Eventually you get used to the noise. That music drowned out so much and was the soundtrack to my life. They played all of the latest hits. I’m such a 90’s kid. Sometimes it would be entirely too loud. Their parties would keep me up at night. I would groan and put a pillow over my head just to drown out the noise because I had school the next day. But of course that didn’t work.

I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to get out of that area. I wasn’t your normal child. I knew and saw things at an early age that it weren’t good. I knew there was more to life than where I was. Most of the kids that I grew up with believed living that way was normal, but I knew better. I guess I have my grandmother to thank for all of that. She was the only good role model I had in my life. My grandmother would always say, “Tiffany, you’re better than this.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

***

 

I lay my head back as I tell my story. I think of all of the hurt and the pain I had been through. I’ve cried enough tears to fill an ocean. Then my earliest memory of the true beginning of my pain came to remembrance.

“You know, Nurse Brenda, there are some things that I would rather not speak of but I have to get it out. I have to tell somebody because it’s been eating me up inside.”

“Go ahead,” she says.

I continue.

 

***

 

My mother’s boyfriend molested me when I was just five years old. I was a baby, but that didn’t stop him from making frequent trips to my room at night and in the middle of the day. No one heard my screams or my cries. The music drowned out my tears.

My mother wasn’t the best. She made it a habit to date drug dealers—ones with money and later, ones who had a little fame. I remember the first man that she brought home. His name was Don, short for Donald. He had a look in his eyes that I didn’t like. I often stayed away when he came over. My mother liked that because that way, she could do whatever she wanted without having me in her way. She wanted the illusion of a “family.” She would do absolutely anything to keep him and the ones after him.

I will never forget the evening that she left me with him. I remember her opening my room door quickly and screaming, “Tiffany, I’m finna go to work.”

I looked up from my coloring book that I was scribbling in and nodded. “Is Granny coming over?”

“No, she ain’t comin’ over. Don is gonna be here, though. Don’t give him any problems or I’m gonna come home and whip your behind, you hear me?”

“Please, can I go to Grandma’s?”

“No! I’m tired of having to call your grandmother to watch you whenever I go to work. I know you don’t like Don but you’re gonna have to deal with it. Just stay in here and you won’t have to worry about it. He sure ain’t worried about you.”

I tried to hide my discomfort and I considered pleading but I knew it was no use. I would just have to take her advice and steer clear of him. But what if I was hungry? What if I needed some water? Would I have to ask him?

“Can I have somethin’ to eat first?” My eyes pleadingly gazed into hers, trying to get her to oblige me.

“It’s some chicken on the stove; go get you some. You can eat it in here. I’m finna go. I’ll see you later. Be good.”

I quickly scrambled to get the chicken before my mother leaves out of the door.

“Dang, lil’ girl, you act like I’m about to kill you or somethin’,” Don said jokingly. “Ain’t nobody finna touch you.”

I ignore him and get back to my room as fast as I can. I hated being around him and I missed my mother already. That’s really saying something. I hardly ever missed my mother. I was happy when she was gone.

I played and watched TV for as long as I could before Don poked his head through my door, saying, “It’s time for you to lay down.” His unkempt hair and beard made him look like a beggar. He was the kind of man who wore black jeans and a white t-shirt as if it were his work uniform. I hated it when he spoke because his front tooth was chipped and it creeped me out. It made him look even more sinister.

I jolted at the sight of him. “Okay.”

“Go ahead and get ready for bed; I’m gonna tuck you in.”

“Mom never tucks me in. I’ll be okay.”

“Look, I’m trying to do the whole step daddy thing. It’s time for us to get on the same page anyway.”

As a child you can only operate off of feelings. When I was younger, I believe God gave me pictures of the horrors of the world. Like He was warning me. I saw them and I felt them. My Granny would sometimes call me prophetic. She said that as a child, I had a closeness to God. But it was lost when the capacity of evil came into my room that night. That night, I found out just how evil a man could be. When Don came to my room that night, he molested me.

I don’t think that I ever wanted my grandmother as badly as that night. I wanted to tell her about what happened to me. After he finished he threatened me.

“Keep this between the both of us. As long as we keep this between us two, everything will be fine. If you tell anyone, you’ll make me do some very bad things. I’ll be forced to kill you and your grandma. You don’t want that, do you?”

I shook my head no. I was afraid that he would do what he said he would do. I didn’t want that to happen. I would keep quiet.

“Good, because lil girls who can’t keep their mouths shut get dealt with.” He kissed me on my lips and headed out of the room.

This went on for a couple of years. My grandmother was around but there wasn’t much she could do. She hated that man but she didn’t know what was happening to me. I couldn’t tell because I believed him when he said he would kill us both. But thank God; one day, he just left.

That was one of the best days of my life, but that didn’t stop my mother from getting more where he came from.

My mom had some serious issues. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that she was looking for love and money but she wanted money far more desperately. She would step on everyone—including me—to get the man that she wanted or to keep her bed warm. She started out with pretty normal jerks. They were losers who didn’t have jobs, but then she got sucked into the streets. The first man that I remember was Victor. She dated him right after Don.

He sold drugs directly outside of our building and he would continuously flirt with her. When he noticed that Don wasn’t coming over anymore, he took that as an opportunity to get close to my mom. He mistook her for a woman who cared about her child, so he tried to reach her through me.

One day when I was walking home from school he caught up with me.

“Waddup,” he said as he put his arm around my shoulder.

I looked at him with confusion; he hardly ever spoke to me unless it was to warn me to get in the house because there would be shooting later.

“Hey,” I said, a little nervous.

“I see that you need new shoes. What size you wear?”

I looked down at my scuffed up pink LA Gears. He was right, I did need new shoes but I didn’t know why he was so concerned about it. “Umm, thank you but I don’t know.”

“You don’t know your shoe size?”

“I don’t know if you should buy me any,” I said as I walked into the building.

As he followed me up the stairs, my heart pounded wildly. Why was he talking to me? What did he want? Was he going to hurt me like Don?

Before I could put my key in the door my mother swung it open. “Why are you bringing people upstairs to my house?”

“I didn’t. He just followed me.” I stood there, frozen and unable to move. I was afraid my mother would blame me and punish me.

“My bad,” Victor apologized, “I was just askin’ about her shoe size. It wasn’t her fault.” He gave a fake meek grin. He was cute but the only problem was that he wore finger waves. It was one of the ugliest hairstyles on a man that I’d ever seen. He looked like a poor pimp.

“I just wanna get her some new shoes; I see that she need ‘em. I don’t want to step on your toes though. You seem to work really hard and I wanted to help you out. You mind?”

I laughed. My mother never worked really hard, I thought.

My mother gave me the meanest look ever. I stopped laughing.

My mother grinned, her smile was stunning. She looked like she had braces at some point in her life but never did, she was just born that way. Her naturally long black hair fell past her shoulders and her flawless caramel complexion always looked like it glowed. She had an amazing body, although she complained continually about me messing it up. She had to have a cesarean and it left a nasty scar. There was also a small part of her stomach that never firmed up, no matter how many crunches she did.

“Why do you want to buy her something?” she asked him. “I’m the one that needs new shoes.”

“Oh, I can hook you up, too, if you let me.”

My mother turned her attention towards me. “Girl get in the house and stay out of grown folks’ mouths.”

I scurried inside. She didn’t have to tell me twice.

She called after me: “And clean my kitchen!”

Needless to say, Victor won my mother’s heart for all of about six months. He wasn’t so bad but he gave my mother a taste of the fast life. They probably would have been together a lot longer if he didn’t get locked up for ten years. His letters came to the house for at least a year before he stopped writing. My mother never responded and whenever he called collect, she hung up. When his money stopped, so did her love. She was also pissed because our apartment got raided after his arrest. They turned everything upside down. Luckily, she never let him keep drugs in our apartment and he respected that.

Although he was a drug dealer he was one of the nicest men she’d ever dated. He never touched me and I was grateful for that. Every now and then he would even buy me things behind my mother’s back. She didn’t like to share her man’s resources.

 

***

 

Nurse Brenda looks at me with sympathy in her eyes. “My God.”

“It’s okay, everyone has a past. Everyone has a story and this is mine,” I say unconvincingly.

“No, it’s not okay. No child should ever have to go through that. No child should have to live her life that way. I’m sorry to say it but your mother didn’t deserve to have a child.”

Tears stream down my face. “You don’t have to apologize. I know that she didn’t need any children. She didn’t want any; I was a mistake, and she made sure she told me that over and over again. She made sure she told me that every day as well.”

“Do you want to stop talking now?”

“No, I want to continue. It is not easy to speak about but I need to get this out. My mess will be a message to someone.”

“So true,” she says, agreeing.

A slow smile creeps onto my face as soon as she agrees.

“Nurse Brenda, I regret it all but it needs to get out now. I want my story to show how bad this whole industry can be and what drives someone like me to it and forces me to stay. They need to know. The children, teenagers, young adults, and anyone who listens to my music needs to know. It looks great on TV but there is pain in the process and in the journey. And there is pain even though millions of people adore you. Yes, we look happy but it’s fake. It’s not all that it is cracked up to be. What they see has so much more to it and they need to know before he comes to them and takes them away, too.”

“I’m listening,” she says.

“Believe it or not, this is only the beginning. Things get crazier.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

 

 

After Victor went to prison, there were quite a few more men and they progressively got worse. Soon, she was a regular around Atlantic and Saint James, hanging with drug dealers and later semi-celebrities. My mother was always chasing money.

By the time I turned fourteen her ratchet behavior was in full swing. She would hang out on the stoops with the neighborhood riff raff as they rapped and kicked it. Day in and day out, she was on that block with the dudes who lived there. She was trying to get next to them and those who were famous. She wanted that lifestyle they were portraying even though some of them were broke after having a single hit song on the radio.

I grew accustomed to spending time alone at home or hanging out with friends. I still liked school but I was no longer into my studies the way that I used to be. Although I didn’t want to be like my mother, I dreamed of being famous. I didn’t know how I was going to be famous, but I knew that I belonged on TV. I would sit and watch MTV for hours as the girls sang and danced. The men on the screen actually had made it and were achieving their dreams. Those were the kinds of people that I wanted to be around, that I deserved to be around. I wasn’t going to be like my mother, chasing losers.

One rapper in particular named Rocco continued to come around the neighborhood even though he’d actually achieved celebrity status. I’ve never understand that. Why would you continue to hang around the streets when it can potentially get you killed? Everyone around him was still striving to get to his level. My mother was happy because JQ, the man she was sleeping with, hung out with him. So in her mind, JQ would eventually reach success, too. He would take her to parties all over the city. All she saw were the clothes, money, spotlight and parties. She loved it. She loved just doing those things with him and his crew. While she ran the streets, she left me at home, alone.

She loved going to parties with them and being around people with high statutes. That’s all they did. To them, it was more parties and more fun. Work and hustle during the day and party at night, especially during the summer. That was their lifestyle. However, just as I predicted, Rocco died in a drive by shooting.

After Rocco died, things were never the same. JQ’s dream had come to a screeching halt. Without Rocco, he no longer had a chance at being a celebrity. No one wanted to be bothered with a no-named gangsta rapper. So the parties and the hobnobbing with celebrities came to an end. My mother was extremely disappointed because she knew that JQ was going to be her ticket out of the hood. JQ fell into a deep depression and things became more of a funeral than a party after that day. My mother couldn’t put up with his sulky mood and lack of funds anymore. She wanted more from him and he didn’t have it to give. His friend’s death made him lose his luster. So he lost my mother.

When she put him out, it wasn’t pretty. When I came home from school she was in the middle of a full blown rant and JQ was the target. JQ sat on the couch in jogging pants, Jordan’s, and a T-shirt. His intricate braids hung low on his back and he cradled his head in his hands as my mother ripped into him.

“Why do I keep you around, JQ? You sit around here all day and you don’t contribute anything! You haven’t been hitting the studio. Where is your hustle?”

“You already know my situation,” he said as he sucked his teeth. “I thought you understood that. I need you to hold me down while I figure out what I’m going to do.”

“I’m not used to this, JQ. You know I’m used to the partying, the clubbing, and hobnobbing with all those celebrity friends you used to have. What happened to that? Huh?” she asked as she wagged her finger in his face.

I tried to quietly make my way to my room but my mom heard me.

“Tiffany! Get in here.”

I groaned and walked into the front room. She stood over JQ in a dominant position. I felt bad for him; he looked like a wounded puppy. Deep inside, my mom was a bully and she didn’t mind kicking people when they were down; in fact, she found it entertaining.

“Yes?” I said quietly.

“Why are you getting home so late from school?”

“I had a drama club meeting. I told you about it…remember?”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why you’re wasting that time with that stupid stuff. You can’t act girl. You need to be bringing your butt home so that you can clean up my house. I almost slapped you for the way my front room looked this morning. There were clothes and shoes everywhere.”

If I had the courage I would have told her that they were all her clothes and shoes. She treated our entire apartment as if it were her personal closet. She was such a messy woman and she never had to pick up after herself because she always had me.

“Sorry,” I murmured.

“Whatever, just make sure my place is clean before you take your butt to bed. You know I don’t play. I want this place spic and span the way I like it, you hear me?”

“Okay…yes,” I replied, dejected. I was full of sadness and pain now. How could she treat me or anyone like this? How could she not encourage me with my acting? I felt like my heart had been ripped out of me. A terrible weight fell onto my shoulders as I stood there listening to her berate me and this man. It was as though a giant boulder landed on me and couldn’t be straightened out as my mother continued on this war path.

“Now, I called you in here to teach you lesson,” she said as she pointed to JQ. “This ain’t a real man no more.”

“Man, get out of here with that bull,” he said, slapping her hand out of his face. “I’m not gonna sit in here and let you disrespect me no more.”

He was angry. I could tell by the way his hands were starting to shake and the vein bulging from the side of his neck. I know he wanted to hit her. I felt the same way at times. I watched as he clenched his fist so hard that his nails cut into his skin.

“What are you gonna do? You gonna hit me? You put your hands on me and I can guarantee you that it will be the last thing that you do.”

He stood to his feet. “I’m out of here, I ain’t gotta put up with this. Move, you low budget prostitute!”

“Low budget prostitute? Who are you calling a prostitute?” she said, running up into his face.

“You!” he said to my mother. “You see, Tiffany? Don’t be like your mother. She’s nothing but a prostitute. She’s an easy prostitute, too. All you have to do is dangle some money, some clothes, some celebrities in front of her and she gives it up. Don’t be like her.”

“I told you not to talk to my child,” she said, slamming her fist down onto his chest.

“Move. I’m leaving.”

“Oh so you’re gonna walk out? Let me show you how I treat men that walk out on me.” She looked at me. “I did this to your daddy when he left. He wasn’t worth anything either. He didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of but he cheated on me.”

“I know why he cheated on you. You’re a no good woman,” he said, grabbing his belongings.

“What…what you say? Me…no good? I’m the best thing that has ever happened to your sorry no good behind.”

JQ looked at me with pity in his eyes. “I’m sorry you have to deal with this woman.”

“Get out of my house! Don’t talk to my daughter! You probably want her! Get out!”

I stood in the doorway of the front room watching, unsure of what she was going to do. JQ gathered a few of his things to leave.

“I know you can only grab a few things because you ain’t got no car,” she yelled at his back, “but all of your stuff is going to be leaving here today!” She looked at me and yelled, “Open the front windows!”

“Mom, I don’t want to be part of this.”

“Girl, quit playing with me before I knock fire from you. Open those windows like I told you to before you go live on the streets with him.”

I rolled my eyes and did what she said as she ripped through the house, grabbing all of JQ’s things. “Girl, let me show you how to deal with nothing dudes like him. When a man is no longer giving you what you want, you have to get rid of him. Don’t ever allow a man to use you or talk to you the way he talked to me. They will sit in your house and eat up all your food while giving you nothing. Only stupid chicks will stay with a man like that. Don’t be dumb.”

She came back to the front room and threw a pile of stuff out of the window and onto the street.

“Man! Watch where you’re throwing that stuff!”

“Shut up and move! There is gonna be a lot more where that came from. I’ll throw your things out too. Try me,” she yelled out.

“Man, shawty is wildin’,” I heard one of the men say from outside with humor in his voice. “I swear, if a chick ever did something like that to me, I would strangle her.”

“Seriously B, you ain’t lying. I can’t believe JQ is letting ole girl punk him like that. She’s fine but she can still get choked out.”

My mom leaned out of the window and laughed. “Really, Coop? You would choke me? See, you wouldn’t have these problems because you’re a person that stays on your hustle. Now your guy? He’s been in here slacking off. A man that’s lacking in the equipment department can’t afford to not pay bills at my house.”

The two thugs down below laughed uncontrollably. “Oh naw! Why you gotta do my guy like that?”

“Because, he told me that he can’t pay rent this month. I don’t give my goodies out for free.”

Coop yelled back up, “I’ll pay your rent baby, can I come upstairs?”

She smacked her lips, “Boy, please, you ain’t got those kind of funds the way I like it.”

“You don’t know what I have.”

“Well pull it out of your pocket and show me.”

“You gotta show me a lil something first.”

She rolled her eyes. “I swear I don’t have time for these kiddie games, when you’re ready to quit playin’, you know where I live. There is a position open.”

“Nah, I ain’t trying to go to jail. I’ll end up killin’ you if you did me like you’re doing my boy. You lucky he’s the respectful type.”

“He’s lucky he’s the respectful type. I’ve been waiting to give my gun a test run.”

The two men laughed some more. My mom left the window and went in search of more things to throw out of the window. If she could she would have thrown him out the window.

I could see the range in JQ’s eyes. He was furious and that vein was still there.

“I can’t believe I wasted my time and resources on you. You’re nothing but a slut. You’ll get yours,” he said as he left. “‘Lil mama, please don’t end up like her. Okay? You are something special and I wish I could take you away from all this.”

“I already warned you! Don’t you say nothing to her. You get to steppin’. You hear? Get now!” she said shooing him out. “Tiffany, hurry up, get this good for nothing man’s stuff out my window.”

He took one last look at me as I mouth the words, “I’m sorry!”

He nodded and left.

I only saw JQ a few more times on my block after that. When I did see him around the neighborhood, he steered clear of my mother. From what I heard, he never had anything good to say about her whenever her name was brought up. I didn’t blame him. I hardly had anything good to say about her either. She was mean and surly. She had a way at chipping at your self-confidence. She was very cold and had a mean personality especially when she didn’t get what she wanted.

I can’t bite my tongue about it all. She never made anyone feel warm or appreciated unless they gave her something in return. She was angry at the world, angry at anyone who came across her path. She was angry at me, too. I always wondered what made her that way. I wouldn’t find out until years later, but I still didn’t take pity on her.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

 

 

My saving grace was the days that I got to hop on a bus and see my granny. She was the world to me and she kept me on the straight and narrow. She did things with me and made sure I saw more than just my neighborhood. One day when I was fifteen, we went to Manhattan. I wasn’t the type of teen who wasn’t affectionate. I loved to hold my granny’s hand in public and lean my head on her shoulder when we rode the trains and busses. She was my world; she made me feel loved.

While we walked down the streets of Manhattan with our arms linked she asked, “How are you doing?”

I smiled, “I’m great now that I’m with you.”

My grandmother wasn’t old, she was only fifty at the time. My mom had me when she was only fourteen years old and my granny had her when she was twenty one. At the age of fifty, she’d been through a lot. My mother was the product of a rape and she kept my mother because she didn’t believe in abortion. She loved my mom as best she could but she had to work double shifts to provide.

From what I understand, my mother ran wild, and there was nothing that my granny could do about it. There were many days when my grandmother blamed herself for my mom’s behavior but I told her that it wasn’t her fault. I was right, it wasn’t my grandmother’s fault. If we’re fortunate enough, we all get to the age of personal responsibility.

My grandmother looked at me with her discerning eyes and said, “I’m not asking you so you can lie to me. How are you doing?”

I shrugged, unsure of how to answer that question. “I guess I’m okay.”

“How are things at home? You know I want to come over there more but it’s hard to deal with your momma. Some days I don’t know what’s wrong with my child. I swear I only hear from her when she wants something.”

“That’s just how momma is about everything.”

She shook her head. “She’s gonna regret it. One day I won’t be here for her to use and she’ll regret all the bad that she’s done. On the inside I know there’s more to her than what she’s showing.”

I tried not to scoff at her. I had yet to find any of my mother’s redeeming qualities. Whenever she was nice, it was only because she wanted something. She never gave something for nothing. The only reason she purchased me clothes was because people knew I was her daughter. She began to see me as an accessory. If I looked good, then she looked good. Men thought it was great that she loved me so much. It made her look nurturing. But that was far from the truth. “Momma is alright, I guess.”

“Baby, you don’t have to try to say nice things. She’s my daughter, not yours. Just do your best and be as respectful as you can. I know it’s hard.”

“It is hard. Sometimes she acts so crazy. I don’t know what to do. I try to just stay away from her and join some clubs at my school. I now have a couple of friends and I go over to their house after school. When I get home, I clean up and I go to bed. That way I don’t have to be bothered with her or any of those dudes she brings into the house.”

“They’re not bothering you, are they?” she asked.

I quickly shook my head, although it was lie. I hadn’t been molested in years but the men would give me stares all the time with sexualized remarks. The less time I had to spend in that apartment, the better. My mom was starting to accuse me of being fast. I didn’t want any of those men she brought home.

I could have told my grandmother anything but for some reason I was too embarrassed about being molested at such a young age. The guy was long gone, but the scars still remained and I just wanted to forget all about it.

“They’re not bothering me; I just like to spend time away from her and them. My friends are really cool. Now, I hang out with Shelly and Aaron more than anything. People call us the Three Musketeers,” I laughed.

“That’s good baby, you can always use friends. Never lose sight of that. Sometimes when you don’t get the best family, you can make one. You don’t ever have to go through this life alone; there are too many people in the world for you to be lonely. Do you hear me?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I’m serious. Appreciate the good people in your life, because they don’t come around often.”

“I know they don’t.”

“Good.” She kissed the side of my head and walked me into the Burberry store. “You know, one day you’re going to be able to walk in here and get whatever you want and it won’t be with drug money.”

I laughed. “You think I’m gonna be rich?”

“Think? No, baby, I know you’re going to be rich. You’re destined for greatness and don’t let anybody tell you different. I don’t know what you’re gonna do in your life but you’re going to be somebody, I can feel it. Maybe it’s going to be the acting that you’ve been doing that will make you rich but always remember to never let anyone stop you from achieving your dreams. Stay on the straight and narrow, let God direct you, and you can’t go wrong.”

I picked up a purse and ran my hands over it; it was gorgeous and it was real. It wasn’t one of those fakes that everyone was wearing from Soho. I wanted a real one so badly. When I looked at the price tag, my eyes almost bugged out of my head. It was almost $2500. I couldn’t fathom having that much money to spend on a purse. Now, it’s chump change for a purse; but back then, it seemed unattainable.

My grandmother looked at the price tag and laughed: “Girl, this is going to be nothing to you when you’re grown. When you get rich, you’ll think this is cheap. You’ll have so much. I’m already proud of you,” she said, beaming with pride.

“I hope so.” I laughed, “Because right now, I would have to sell a kidney to get that purse.”

“But I need you to remember that these material things don’t mean a thing. Giving up your soul for material things will lead you down the wrong path. The devil’s way is not the way. The only way is God’s way and I want you to remember that, you hear?”

“Yes, granny!” I said.

“Now, I’m not rich, nowhere near it, but I’m going to get you something out of here today.”

My mouth gaped open.

“Close your mouth because it’s not going to be one of these purses.” She walked over to the scarves and perused them. “This one is nice,” she said, as she ran her hands through the cashmere.

I remained quiet; I didn’t know what to say. My granny was about to get me something out of the Burberry store!

“What do you think about this, baby?” she asked.

“It’s really nice. I’ve seen a lot of fake ones that look like that.” It was the classic print that they were known for.

She shook her head. “They may look like this, but they don’t feel like this and they won’t last as long as this. I can guarantee you that. Feel this fabric, baby.”

I ran my hand along the soft texture and immediately fell in love. I’d never touched something so luxurious before. “Ooooh, you’re right.”

“That scarf is three hundred and sixty seven dollars,” the stuck up attendant said. She was a beautiful, young slender white woman. She intimidated me a little; she looked like she could have been a model.

My heart sank when I heard the price; there was no way that my granny could afford something like that. I removed my hands from the scarf and stepped back. “Grandma let’s go. I don’t need it.”

“We’re not leaving until we get what we came here for.” She winked at me before turning her attention to the stuck up blonde. “I don’t recall asking you the price and I surely don’t recall asking you for help.”

“I just wanted to let you know just in case you were thinking of buying it. It may be out of your price range,” she snapped back.

“Look, child, I’m not in the mood to deal with your attitude. So how about you step aside; we will just take this to this young lady over there at the register and she’ll ring us up.”

“You’re getting it?” she asked.

“Yeah, you’re getting it?” I echoed in surprise.

“Isn’t that what I said? Now hurry and move out the way as I get another one of these lovely attendants to help me. I’m sure they will want my money and wouldn’t mind the commission you’re not getting.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the woman said sarcastically and a little upset that she wasn’t getting the commission.

My granny showed her, I thought.

“See,” my grandmother laughed. “I’m ma’am now even though it was sarcastic. Money talks and bull walks out here.”

As we walked out of the store I wore my brand new scarf around my neck in awe. “Grandma, can you afford this?”

“You’re worth it, baby. You’re worth more than this. Just know that I love you, always.”

I smiled and gave her a huge hug. “I love you, too, so much.”

That particular day sticks out in my mind because it was a special moment. It wasn’t that she got me something expensive. It was about what it symbolized. She showed me that I was worth sacrifice. Lord knows that she couldn’t afford that scarf but she got it anyway because I was worth it. So many things happened to me that have tried to strip me of my worth but my granny always did her best to restore it.

Two weeks later, when I came home from school, my mom sat on the couch, crying. Although she wasn’t my favorite person in the world, I didn’t like seeing her hurt.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” I asked as I rushed to her side.

“Come here,” she said as she held me close. We sat and hugged for almost a full minute before she said anything further. Our first hug. “Life is so messed up. It’s not fair.”

“What’s going on? Are you hurt? Did somebody do something to you?” I don’t know why I cared after all she put me through but after all, she was my mother.

She shook her head and balled some more. “We always think we have more time, but we never do.”

I tried not to roll my eyes as I hugged her. I was sure that she was crying over the loss of one of her thug friends. She needed to start getting used to them dropping like flies when they led the kind of lives that they did. “Who died, mom?” I asked.

“My momma,” she balled.

My blood ran cold as I pried her arms off of me. “Who?”

“My momma, your grandma! She’s dead!”

I shook my head. “No, she’s not dead. I just talked to her last night. She sounded great.”

I ran to the phone to call my granny; it had to be a lie. My grandma was not dead. My mom was mistaken; it all had to be a mistake. It better be, I thought.

“Go ahead and try to call her. I’m telling you that she’s gone.”

I dialed her number over and over again, only to get the voicemail.

“What happened? Where is she? Why are you saying this?”

“She had stage four breast cancer and didn’t tell anybody. She fell out at work today. She passed away a few hours ago.”

“Then why are we here?” I yelled at her. “Why aren’t we with granny? Why didn’t you come pick me up from school?”

“There is nothing I can do! Her body is already on its way to the morgue!”

I shook my head in disbelief as my tears finally started to form. “Granny,” I cried. “Please don’t be dead.” I fell to the floor and sobbed. I could hold the heartbreak no longer. Grief poured out in a flood of uncontrollable tears as I laid there on the floor. It was the first time that I’d truly cried in years. All of my hopes and dreams died in that moment. I clutched the scarf around my neck and replayed everything she told me the day that she bought it. She knew she was going to die and she got me that as a parting gift.

I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. I got up, ran to the bathroom, and emptied the contents of my stomach into the toilet bowl. My mother stood in the doorway and sobbed. Hearing her cry only irritated me. She didn’t love my granny, not the way that I did. She disrespected her daily and now she was crying as if she actually cared.

I stood to my feet, washed my face, and passed by her.

“You mad at me or somethin’?” she asked, following me.

“No, I’m hurt that my granny is dead.”

“You actin’ like you mad.”

“I’m not mad! I just don’t understand why you’re acting like you’re all hurt. You never cared about granny. All she ever wanted to do was love you and you acted like she was bothering you all the time. Now she’s gone and it’s too late for you to fix any of it.”

“You think I don’t know that? That’s my mother who’s dead, not yours! So I suggest that you treat me with some respect. My heart hurts in a way that you couldn’t believe. I’m going to miss my mama and I’ll never get to see her again. So adjust your attitude before I slap you.”

I didn’t say anything to her even though I was seething. I had so much more to say; it was bubbling up on the inside of me, but I left it alone. There was no point in getting into a fight that I was never going to win. Besides, it wasn’t going to bring my granny back.

 

***

 

Nurse Brenda’s eyes look like they’re going to water as I tell my story.

I cough and she quickly gets up and gets me some water.

“Thank you,” I say gratefully.

“It’s not a problem child. I’m so sorry that you lost your granny that way.”

“I miss her so much. A lot of the decisions that I made probably would have never happened if she were still around. She would have whipped my butt if she saw me out there like I was. I still have that scarf; it still looks good.” I laugh. “She knew quality. I want to be buried in it.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Nurse Brenda says, reprimanding me.

“Matter of fact, I want it displayed somewhere to remind people about my life and not to follow after it. I want people to know how much I love that scarf and her.”

“That also says a lot about you and how you felt about her. You took great care of that scarf.”

I nod. “I did; it means the world to me. It’s probably one of the cheapest things I own now, but it’s by far the most valuable.”

“If you’re too tired, sweetie, we can continue after you rest.”

“No…no…if I go to sleep now…” I pause, thinking for a moment: “…I might not wake up and I really need to get this off my chest now,” I say, still coughing.

She nods.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

 

 

 

After my Mimi died things were never the same. I think it broke something inside of my mother and me. I still kept going to school but my heart was no longer in it. My mother went off the deep end as well. She dated an entirely new level of scum. Before her mom passed away I thought that her attitude couldn’t possibly get any worse. I was wrong. I watched my mother morph into a horrible human being. I tried to stay away from the house as much as possible to avoid conflict.

When I was sixteen, she dated a man she’d fallen head over heels in love with. She was so territorial of this ugly man that it was downright laughable. She was convinced that everyone wanted him, including me.

I still remember the first day she met him. She didn’t meet him on the stoop of Atlantic and Saint James but she met him in front of our apartment building. He drove up in a red BMW and it was love at first sight. I could see the dollar signs in her eyes. His name was Styles and my mom hoped that he would eventually propose. He was the man that she wanted to settle down with forever.

He had money. He was flashy. He wasn’t too tall, but taller than my mother. He was dark-skinned, had dreads, and was ugly as sin. He wasn’t the best man but she loved the fact that he was rich. Well, he was rich by hood standards. He had a name for himself on the streets and would buy her anything she wanted. He would even give me things. She thought he was a good guy but in reality, he wasn’t. He cheated on her, played her. But she still loved him and wanted to be with him no matter what. I think, like always, she was just in love with the lifestyle more than anything. Actually, I know that’s what it was. My mom was a paper chaser. Time hadn’t changed that.

No matter how much stuff he purchased for her or for me, there was always something that I didn’t like about him. One day when he stopped by, we all sat in the kitchen and ate the chicken that he brought over. My mother loved it when he brought food over. He was her savior that day just because he brought her over a measly bucket of chicken and a bottle of Belvedere.

We sat at my kitchen table, eating. It was almost as if I didn’t exist at the table because she didn’t acknowledge me.

“Styles, when are we gonna go to Cancun? I’ve been wanting to go for years now,” she said with a grin.

”We can go in the next four months. I got some deals that need to go down and then I’ll be able to do it.”

My mom was spoiled and so she pouted. “I don’t want to wait for that long.”

“I’ll tell you what, lil mama, look it up and tell me how much it costs and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, baby. You know I’m gonna need some new clothes for the trip, right? There is this fly two piece bathing suit that I want to get but it’s almost two hundred dollars.”

“Just let me know and I’ll handle that,” he said as she teared into the chicken like a starving third world child.

He didn’t have any table manners. His elbows weren’t just on the table, his entire forearms were on the table and he hovered over his food as if it was going to run off of his plate. His smacking…oh my goodness, his smacking! I hated to hear him eat. I only sat in the kitchen to eat because I was tired of being in my room. Usually the two of them ate in the dining room or in her room. If I’d known that they were going to grab seats at the table, I would have gone to my room. It was too late for me to get up because she would have said something and showed out in front of Styles. She loved to tell me off in front of people. She was just horrible and mean spirited.

“You looking forward to Cancun?” he asked me.

I looked up and I saw that he was looking at me. “Ummm.” I didn’t know how to respond.

“Oh no,” my mom interrupted. “There will be no kids on this trip. She isn’t invited. I don’t have the time to be bothered with her. I need a break.”

I mentally shook my head. My mother had been on a break since I was born. Rarely did she ever do anything for me or with me. We co-existed in the same house but she didn’t do much. I stayed out of her hair and never bothered her. I guess my presence alone got on her nerves. There wasn’t anything I could do about that.

“Don’t be like that; she can even bring that little friend of hers. What’s her name again?” Styles asked.

“Are you talking about Shelly?” I asked.

“Yeah, that girl. She’s a nice girl,” he said, licking his lips. I wanted to believe he was licking his lips because of the chicken grease but I knew otherwise. I knew that look; it was the same look he gave me.

“Did you hear what I said? I said no. I don’t want to take kids with us. I want it to just be you and me, baby. If it’s just us, then I can…” she leaned over and whispered something in his ear. I could have heard her if I really tuned in but I didn’t care enough to know. I’m sure it was something sexual.

He grinned. “Sorry Tiff, I tried. It looks like it’s just gonna be me and your momma doing that thing that I love.”

His face lit up like a neon sign and her laugh sounded more like an evil cackle than an expression of amusement as they both laughed.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I didn’t get my hopes up anyway. I knew she wouldn’t want me to go.”

My mom rolled her eyes. “Don’t try to make me feel guilty ‘cuz I ain’t fallin’ for it.”

“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I’m just telling the truth.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

She really got on my nerves but I knew to stay quiet. If I said anything else, she would have probably smacked me across my mouth. Styles could feel the tension between us. He shifted in his seat nervously and adjusted the full pockets on his coat. Apparently he was so hungry that he didn’t have time to remove his jacket before he attacked his plate like a ravenous wolf. A needle fell out of his pocket. I saw it but averted my eyes. My mother saw it, too, but she didn’t say anything. Styles didn’t just sell drugs, he was his own customer. That’s probably how he dealt with my mother so well in the first place. He was extremely laid back. It would take someone that was under the influence to be okay with her attitude.

My mother never got that trip to Cancun because a month later he was dead. They found him murdered in an alley. Someone shot him in the back of the head, execution style. My mother was devastated. She took his death harder than she took her own mother’s. I was beginning to think my mother was the black widow spider. These men were dropping like flies.

After he died, she snapped. She was never the same and the men that she brought around went from just evil to plain ‘ol demons. From that time forward, the men she brought into our home were even more filthy and disgusting. I thought the previous guys were something, but they were good compared to the next. I hated it and them. Where was the God my grandmother had spoken to me about?

 

***

 

“Chil’ this is a movie right here! You know, looking at you from television, I would have never thought you went through all of that. Well…I will say I saw something was wrong with you but my goodness! Them stylists and makeup artists know how to take away the pain and your story. Who would have thought?”

“I know; it was horrible.”

“It was those eyes of yours, though. They did show regret, hurt, and pain. There were times I wanted to go into that television screen and grab you up. All I could do was pray for you,” Nurse Brenda says as she pressed her lips together and shakes her head.

“You didn’t even know me and you prayed for me?” I ask.

“I sure did. I was there for you because God called me there for you.”

I look at her strangely.

“I mean God called me to pray for you. When God says pray, I pray. You guys aren’t immune to prayer. You all—the entertainers, actors, all those in this field you are in—need it the most.”

I nodded as a wave of shock went over my face.

“You know the devil was after your pretty behind since you were a child and he finally got you, just like the others. I know I am going off the subject a bit, but can I tell you something?”

“Sure,” I say.

“You and the other celebrities and entertainers are powerful. You all have a voice that so many want to follow. The devil saw that in you when you were little and did anything and everything to get you on his team. He wanted you on his team so that you could persuade others to his side. He used you. Just like he is using others.”

“Used me?” I ask, glancing at her, puzzled.

“Oh yes, his purpose is simple. He’ll go to great lengths with empty promises and lies to get you to choose him and live independently from God’s will. First, he will cause you many problems in your life, starting with messing up your family system. Then, he kept you from obtaining the things God has for you. So, if all of that was screwed up in your mind…BAM…!” She slaps the chair handle. “He’s got you. When he’s got you thinking God doesn’t care about you or God caused all these things, that’s when he moves in and steals what God has placed in you long ago. He steals it so that it can be used for himself and for his glory, so to speak. In the end, after he steals and uses what God has placed in you, he makes it his priority to kill and destroy you. Hence, why you are here right now. John 10:10 says, ‘The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.’ But God also says that, ‘I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.’”

I turn away, thinking about what she said but not caring to hear anything else about God. In my mind, He forsook me a very long time ago. “I don’t want anything to do with Him now.”

“So why did you call out to Him earlier? You called out to God earlier so I know He’s moving on your heart and wants you to know that He is here to give you life. The devil has got you where he wants you, but God wants you far greater than he does,” she declares proudly.

A part of me wants to be far away from here but there wasn’t any escape. All I could do was listen since I was bound to this bed.

Nurse Brenda continues: “Yes, the devil has got you where he wants you. The devil has made you believe that God doesn’t and didn’t care. But all along, it has been God’s hand that has kept you from the fate that you signed yourself into.”

“Where was He when I needed him?”

“Always there.”

“Where was He when my mother hated me?”

“Always there.”

I let out a short random laugh of disbelief.

“Laugh now, child, but it’s true! Jehovah Shammah!”

“Jehovah Sha-what?”

“Jehovah Shammah, which means ‘the Lord is there’. No matter where you go, He will always be there and He has always been there.”

“Not in my life; he was never there,” I say, throwing my arms up in a disgusted gesture. I regret doing that type of movement because my weak body felt it.

Nurse Brenda sits on the edge of her seat. She isn’t playing with me anymore. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And your right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:7-10,” she says. “You see, no matter where you go, what you do, or where you are, He is always there. He sees everything you have done. If you allow Him, he will take His one hand among the many that are reaching for you and take you away and grab you and lead you to safety. He wants to lead you to a place where you will know you are fearfully and wonderfully made. To a place where His eyes saw your substance. To a place where He still sings over you.”

The words hit home. They sounded like lyrics. My heart was softening, but I still felt anger towards Him.

“Oh trust and believe he was and is always there. You just shut yourself out to him like so many others have. You have slapped his hand away but he’s still reaching out for you.”

“But he wasn’t there. He never showed himself. Other hands have showed themselves and provided for me.”

“Yes, you do have other hands reaching out to you, too, and you are leaning towards them but I say to you that those hands don’t have the power of God’s one hand that is reaching out to you lovingly.”

I marveled at her loyalty and case for God’s love for me.

“I need him to show himself to me if that is true.”

“That’s the cry of every person on this earth but if you would just stop and look around, you will see that He has shown himself to you. Open up and see the hand reaching for you.”

I lay my head back, closing my eyes, now wanting to see that hand reaching for me.

“You will see it more clearly soon enough. So now back to these men. Such horrible things they did. I don’t know what is going on with them but I am praying for men across this nation, too. They need prayer,” Nurse Brenda says. “I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.”

I open my eyes and turn my head back towards her as I remember the men that had caused me so much pain and suffering.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

 

 

 

“You know, Nurse Brenda, I just couldn’t take it anymore. The looks they’d give me as they licked their lips. The winks they’d give me as I walked by. I wanted out so badly. I felt uncomfortable. And so the only thing that gave me hope was the fact that I could sing and act. The fact that I could dance gave me hope, too. It would be my ticket out of that world my mother had me in. I had hope that I would get out of the drug infested building and one day become rich and famous.

“Like so many, I grew up wanting to be famous. I would be in the bathroom as a little girl, singing in the mirror with my hairbrush in hand. I’d imitate those I had seen on television. I did all the dance moves in that mirror. I’d sway my hips, shook my booty…you name it, I did it. And did it well, I might add. I had no other teachers to teach me. They were my teachers and I learned well from watching them.”

“You didn’t take lessons? Sweetie, the way you shake your body on those videos makes it seem like you had some type of professional lessons.”

I laugh slightly. “No money for lessons. TV was my teacher. But when I did sign with the label, I did get a choreographer.”

Nurse Brenda shakes her head.

“What?” I ask.

“Television is teaching our kids too much and sending them straight to hell. Not just television, but the music too.”

My slight smile turns to a frown. “I’m sorry about that, too,” I say. “If I had known all of this would do so much damage to others I wouldn’t have done it. That’s one of my regrets.”

She pulls closer to me and says, “It’s ok, honey. The best thing is you still have time to warn others.”

But I didn’t have time, I thought. Only the time I have now.

“Well, let me try not interrupt anymore. Tell me more of how you learned to dance and sing and all of that,” she says excitedly.

Nurse Brenda sits back ready to hear more of my sad life—as I called it.

 

***

 

I was hot. I was sexy. I knew it, too. No one had to tell me I wasn’t. Shoot, all the boys on the block loved me or wanted me, but I wouldn’t give them the time of day. I was saving myself for that special ball player, entertainer, whoever was rich and famous. I knew I was going to make it one day. I had it. I just knew I did.

I wanted to be known by the rich and famous. Now that I think about it, I think I got those ideas from the drama club. Nothing could compare to the feeling of being on that stage and performing. I always went for the big roles. If I couldn’t be the main person, then I didn’t want to be in the play at all. I was a spoiled brat when it came to that kind of stuff.

However, that made me work harder than the rest and I usually got the role that I went for. I would do whatever it took. I can’t tell you how many days I spent volunteering my time with Mrs. Davidson, the Drama Club Director. If she ever needed anything, I did my best to make it happen. My sucking up mixed with my skills made me a shoe in for whatever I wanted.

I wanted to be known by the rich and famous. I wanted to be known by everybody in the world. Shoot, I wanted the millions. Nah, I wanted the billions. I even wanted to take exotic vacations and have my own yacht. I didn’t want to have to wait for a man to take me to Cancun like my mother. I wanted to have enough money to take myself out of the country whenever I wanted. The lifestyle of the rich and famous looked great. Compared to the hole in the wall apartment we lived in when I was younger, man they had it made. That was the life I wanted.

They made the lifestyle look so good and so easy. They made the lifestyle look desirable. I wanted to do what they did, and wanted everything they had. I just had to find the right person who would help me get there. I did find the person, but he wasn’t so right. He led me to so much trouble, which I will explain more about later. But when I was broke and had nothing, I said I’d do whatever it took to get there—and I do mean whatever.

Then, I had the night that changed the path of my life forever. It’s because of what this person did that caused me to give up everything and everyone just to be rich and famous. It launched me into getting out of my mother’s house. It was all a set up and it changed the direction of my life forever. I would like to blame someone or something but we all have free will. We all get to decide how we are going to react to situations. I made my decisions and they weren’t the best.

Of course, this involves another one of my mother’s boyfriends. I was seventeen at the time.

“Girl, you can sing?” I heard as I stepped out the bathroom. It was my mother’s new man, Mike. I quickly rushed to go to my room but he stopped me.

“And you look good too. Mmm…mmm…mmm,” he said like a Campbell’s soup commercial. “That body on you is—” he said licking his lips. “You can make it. With that body and that voice you can go far. Yes, let me take you there!”

I smiled and scooted away quickly. I didn’t want anything to do with him. He just seemed evil. His whole being made me uncomfortable. I wondered what my mother saw in him. She kept him around and he got the full run of our…her house. Not only that, but he constantly brought his triflin’ friends over. When my mom went to work at night, they smoked and drank loudly all night. I hated it. Why did he have keys to our house? Why didn’t my mother care that she had a teenage daughter and didn’t need to be put in situations like these?

“Mike, what are you doing?” I heard my mom say as I closed my door. I leaned against the door and breathed a sigh of relief. As much as I disliked my mother I was glad she was home.

Mother had a tendency to bring men of all types home. I was young and beautiful and some tried it. When I heard her voice, I was relieved because I didn’t know what would have happened if she weren’t home with me. He had a horrible look in his eye that told me he was up to no good. It was the same look that I got from the man that molested me. Something about him made me feel like something bad was going to happen if he stayed. I wished I could tell my mother. But I couldn’t. She wouldn’t have believed me.

My mother and I really didn’t have a relationship. I wanted that mother-daughter relationship but for some reason, she didn’t want it with me. Her main focus was men. Her main focus was finding and trying to keep a man. Of course, she never could keep them. After a few nights with them, they’d leave and never return. Or after a few months, they’d end up dead. I wanted to be enough for her. I wanted to be like some of those kids whose parents gave them their time and attention. Out of all of the plays that I performed in high school, she never came to one. I wanted her to love me but she didn’t. I don’t understand how because my granny showed and loved her dearly. Why couldn’t she take on that example?

Of course, for some reason, she blamed her lack of being able to keep a man on me. She always told me, “I should have aborted you. It’s your fault these men won’t stay. Don’t no man want a woman with a kid.”

For a long time I never understood what she meant but as I got older, I did. I was competition to her. Since I was little, people would admire me and forget her. She was no longer the center of attention. In her mind, she was second best after me. There was only one time where I thought my mom was the best. That was when she met ‘dreads’—as I would call him. But when he was murdered, she became reclusive towards me. She even blamed me for his death. I would constantly think, How could that be? No matter how I tried to get my mother’s attention and no matter how I wanted her to show love, it wouldn’t work. She hated me and I hated her now as well.

I remember she also used to say, “I only kept you because your grandmother said, ‘Don’t abort that child.’ I shouldn’t have listened. I should have gotten rid of you.”

Sometimes, I wish she had.

I was brought into this world wrong and now I was living in this world wrong. I was born at a juvenile detention hall. As I grew up, I realized that my mother really didn’t care about me then either. My thought was: If you did care you wouldn’t have put yourself in harm’s way and had me in Juvie? I understand she was young but I’ve seen so many young mothers love their children. There is no excuse for her, none at all. She didn’t get wiser with time, she got crazier. I should have known coming out of the womb that my life was going to be hard. But however hard it was, I had to get out of it, somehow and someway. I wasn’t going to let being born in a correctional facility stop me. I wasn’t going to let being around a mother who hated me stop me. No, I was going to do whatever I had to do to get out of here. Singing was my passion and I would do whatever to get to the main stage.

I looked at myself in the mirror and slid my hands down my hips. He was right, I did look good. I sounded good and I could move my body good, too. I smiled and imagined me on stage, a larger stage than the one we had at school. That was all I wanted then. That was my only way out of all the madness that was in my life. I turned on the music and practiced my dance moves. In my heart I knew that I would eventually get noticed. I just needed the help. I just needed that one opportunity.

As I danced to the music my phone rung. I quickly rushed to answer it. “Hello?”

“What’s the matter?” Shelly asked.

She could always tell when something was up; she was a good friend. I always loved hanging with her and her mother. At least her mother cared for her and loved her. Her mother even allowed her to have almost everything. I guess being the only girl amongst boys had its perks. Her mother would show the same love to me when I was around. I was sort of jealous of her life. I wanted a mother like hers and that’s why I was always around. There was love in their house. I did everything I could to be around and fit in.

After school, I would go to her house for dinner as much as I could. I would even go to church with them every now and then. In the mornings, I left early for school so that I could eat breakfast at their place. It’s a shame that I felt more comfort at a house that I didn’t live in.

Shelly and her mother had a cool relationship. I’d watch as they would discuss things. Her mother listened to her. Her mother was loving and kind to her. Shelly at times didn’t realize how lucky she was to have a mother like she did. They laughed and talked, and they included me. It took me a long time to get used to that. Shelly’s mom didn’t treat her like she was a nuisance or invisible. She wanted her daughter and she loved her. That is what I wanted.

Shelly was a cool girl. I wanted to be like her at times, too. I wanted the family life she had. I wanted that freedom she had. She just had the life I wanted now. Even though I didn’t have it like her, Shelly always made sure to put a smile on my face. She always reassured me it would get better one day. I was thankful to Shelly; she made my life heaven. We always had fun. She always seemed to know how to cheer me up. Shelly and I did a lot together. Our fun times made up for the bad times. We had the typical spats that girls would have, but we always remained friends. I always did my best to keep what my Mimi said in mind. I tried to cherish my friendship with her as much as I could.

“Nothing is wrong.”

“Yeah right, girl. What is it?”

“My mother’s boyfriend is here,” I said with an attitude and an arched eyebrow.

“Ew, that creep.”

“Yeah.”

“Did he try anything?”

“Licking his lips. The usual.”

“I don’t know; you need to get out of there. I hate that you have to live there with that man coming in and out like that,” she said with concern.

“I’m trying. I just need that one opportunity. That one open door and I am busting through. When I finally move out of here, I’m never looking back. I hate it here.”

“I know girl. Well, tonight might be that door opening for you,” she said excitedly.

“Huh? What you talking about?”

“Girl, get ready we are going out tonight.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Okay, so this guy I met is going to get us into that club I was telling you about. Tonight there will be so many producers, talent agents—you name it, they will be there. You need to get ready now.”

“Really? Okay I am down to party. I need to get out of here.”

“You still have that fake ID, right?”

“I sure do.”

“Good, because he got you on the artist spotlight list. You’ll be performing tonight.”

A surge of nervousness shot through my entire body. She couldn’t be serious. There was no way that I was doing that. “Tonight! What? No…I’m not ready.”

“Girl you are ready and—”

“I have no music. I’ve never been to the studio. Them things cost and I just don’t have it. Who’s going to play for me? What will I sing?” I asked.

I knew all of the things that I needed to make it and I didn’t have any of them. First impressions were everything and I refused to look like an idiot in front of a room of people that could make stuff happen.

“Girl, you don’t even have to worry about all that. The DJ will put on a hot beat and you will sing to it. It’s like free-style rappin’, but free-singing. Just get on there and start singing your song. The DJ will back you with something. You got them lyrics girl so just sing it out.”

“I—I don’t know about that,” I said nervously.

“Oh, come on. You never know what that can do for you and the career you want. You have a pureness to your voice and people are looking for that nowadays.”

I sighed. “Shelly, why do you always put me in these situations?”

“A ‘thank you’ would be nice.”

I paused. “I’m sorry, but I am just not ready, you know? I don’t mind going to the club. I need to get out. I’ll just mingle and dance.”

“Come on girl, just get up and sing. So I need you to get ready now. I’ll be by to pick you up around eleven tonight. Okay? You never know what could come from this. Don’t miss out on doing this just because you’re scared. Everybody is scared the first time. You’ll do fine.”

I sighed again. “Okay. But if I look like an idiot on that stage, I’m blaming you. I’ll see you later,” I said reluctantly.

“See you soon girl! Get cute!”

“I’m already cute.”

“We get fly!” she said as she hung up the phone ending in our known phrase.

“Yeah, we get fly!” I said a little skittish.

As soon as I hung up the phone my door swung open, startling me. I thought I had locked it.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

 

 

It was my mother. She came right at me, grabbing my hair and throwing me to the floor.

“Girl, what are you doing?” she said as she stood over me. “I saw the way he was looking at you. Don’t be trying to entice my man like that. When you are in this house, cover up! You know I don’t play that. See, that is what’s wrong with you little hoochies now! You play around with grown men then you act surprised when something happens. Go for them little boys because my man ain’t what you want.”

I stood up and brushed myself off. Then, I looked at myself in the mirror. “What are you talking about? I’m in sweats and a long t-shirt. I’ve covered up from head to toe.”

“Don’t talk back to me. I will slap you in your mouth.”

“Why do you always take up for these men who care nothing about you?” I asked in frustration.

If she were lighter her face would had been bright red as she screamed at me. “You a fast little girl. Every time I bring a man home they always want you. I’m finna teach you a lesson one day. Keep tryin’ me.”

“It’s not my fault that you are always bringing in men that are filthy and disgusting and who never want anything but what you have to offer them.”

“Excuse me?” she said, getting in my face. Her anger was radiating off of her in waves but at that moment I didn’t care. I was upset, too. I had enough.

“You heard me. Stop opening your legs and maybe you can find a decent man that isn’t trying to sleep with an underage daughter of yours. These men ain’t right. When are you going to be my mother and not some whore?”

She did as she promised and slapped me right in my mouth. It was loud and the sound reverberated through the room. I didn’t feel it because I was too shocked to register the pain but it was hard enough to knock me to the floor. After that, she completely lost it. My words must have really stung; the truth hurts. She beat me. I rolled up into a ball to protect myself from her wrath. When she noticed she wasn’t doing much damaged, she stopped.

“You know, I’m so sick and tired of you. I don’t know why I let you live here. After everything that I’ve done for you, you have the nerve to stand in my face and disrespect me,” she said before she stormed out.

“You haven’t done anything for me,” I said quietly, still on the floor.

Sometimes it was like that. She would get so angry and resort to beating me for no reason. Well, this time she had a reason. I hurt her feelings. The abuse was becoming more frequent lately. When she got upset, she chose to lash out at me. I equate it to her new man. I thought that she hated me because of the jerk that she let in our house, but now I see that it wasn’t him at all. It could have been anybody. As I got older, more feminine, and prettier she treated me worse. I was what she wasn’t: young and desirable.

However, her never standing up for me wasn’t anything new. It had been that way since I was young. She resented me because she viewed me as competition. I wasn’t trying to be her competition. I just wanted her love and approval. All I wanted was for her to love me, to like me, to enjoy being around me. Isn’t that what most children want from their mothers? I never got that from her. She was incapable of it. So whenever one of the horrible perverts she brought around made a pass at me, she would go insane and she wouldn’t direct it at the person who deserved it. I didn’t come on to those men at all. They always came on to me each and every time.

I remember a while back, when one of her men expressed interest in me, she acted so ugly. If it were my daughter and some came at her like that, I would have beat the breaks off of that jerk, sent him to jail, and never spoke to him again, but not my mother. In her eyes, I was at fault.

When I came in from school, I pulled off my heavy coat and I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. He was sitting on the couch and spoke to me as soon as I came through the door.

“What’s up, lil mama?”

I saw him around the neighborhood a few times but I didn’t know he was dating my mom.

“Hi,” I said as I walked to my room.

“It’s like that? All I get is a ‘hi’?”

“Yes,” I said.

“That’s messed up. You looking good in them jeans tho,” he said.

My mom emerged from her room. “Who is looking good in their jeans?” She ran into me and narrowed her eyes when she realized he was talking about me.

“I was just telling your daughter that I liked her jeans,” the loser said.

“She ain’t got no business parading around here like that! Pull your shirt down! What is wrong with you? You need to wear shirts that cover your butt. I’ve told you that, stupid.”

“I’m just trying to go to my room,” I said quietly.

“Well, get out of here and go there. Why are you standing here like an idiot?”

I didn’t say anything, I just walked away. The following day the one gift that I had underneath the Christmas tree was gone.

“Mom, where’s my gift?” I asked.

“You don’t deserve anything. You’re a horrible daughter. Why would I buy you stuff when you’re walking around here like one of those fast tail girls? I swear, I’m surprised you haven’t ended up pregnant yet. So as a punishment you ain’t getting nothing from me.”

Her friends that she had used to get me gifts but they stopped because she told them that I was bad and didn’t deserve anything. She was a liar but people believed her anyway; my side was never taken into consideration.

The men that she was bringing through the house have slapped my butt and even tried to kiss me. It was absolutely disgusting but she didn’t stop them. She allowed it, and blamed and punished me for it afterwards. I was a kid but she didn’t care. When I tried to tell her, she would slap me. Her lifestyle of getting quick money and gifts outweighed any concern that she had for me. I was inconvenient for her.

That is what I remembered as I laid on the floor. All those times she stuck up for those men and not me. Why did I love her? As she stormed out of the house, I wondered why I bothered loving her. I hated myself for caring about what she thought of me. I hated myself for wanting her to love me. I wanted to hate her just as much as she hated me. She was doing the same with this jerk as she did the others. She allowed them to disrespect me and she just didn’t care.

“I can’t wait to get out of here!” I screamed at no one.

Shelly’s offer looked so much better at that point. I should have been more prepared but in that environment I had no help and no money. So, I was going to sing tonight and I was going to put on one of my mother’s club dresses. I was going to make those men drool and then I was going to wow them with my voice. I knew the right dress would help and have the men wanting me. Men helped women that they wanted to sleep with. I didn’t want to be like my mother; I wanted to be better than her. But I did know that some of her tactics did get her things. Well, I was going to use some of her tactics to get me a record deal. Tonight was going to be my last night here.

After she left, I went to my closet and pulled out one of her old dresses that she didn’t care about anymore. I snuck it from her while she was at work one time before. It was a red spandex dress with cut outs on the side. I put it on and felt sexy. It fit perfectly for this type of event. Yes, I picked out the perfect dress. I was ready.

“Sex sells, doesn’t it?” I said staring hard at my reflection in the mirror and bouncing my booty. I needed a way out and I was going to get one. I had to get the attention of someone…someone famous.

I heard the front door slam and then her man running after her.

“Baby, where you going? Don’t leave like that!” he said, opening the door.

I didn’t hear her respond.

The door closed again. I guess she had to leave to get away from me. She typically left after an argument or when she didn’t like something. She didn’t know how to talk anything out. She either avoided situations, abused you physically, or acted like a completely deranged psycho. There was no in between with her. I didn’t know where she went and I didn’t care, but that man was still in the house. I wished she had taken him with her.

A few hours later, he was passed out on the couch, drunk and high. I couldn’t believe she just let any ‘ol man stay with us. How could she leave this man here like that? I wondered. I dismissed my ill hatred towards my mother and went back to get ready. It was almost time for Shelly to pick me up. I needed out of there and a party would lift my spirits, but a record deal at the end of the night would be even better for me. That’s what I was after.

I sat in front of my mirror and put my makeup on. At seventeen, I was a catch. I looked good. I guess that’s what my mother wanted and envied. She wanted what she no longer had, which was a seventeen year old body and men chasing after her like in the past. That’s why she hated me; she was truly jealous of me. She was jealous of this body that I had. I couldn’t wait for the day where she would lose everything, including the looks she had left. She would be all alone and then I would rub it in her face. I laugh at the thought.

Again, I dismissed thoughts of my mother and looked closely in the mirror. For the first time that day, I had a smile on my face. I sung along happily to the music as my body moved to the rhythm. I got myself ready, ready for a great night. That was the night things were going to change for the good. Yes, that night everything was going to get better. I was on my way to getting noticed—so I thought.

I was all smiles and ready for my new future. I imagined the money rolling in, being in a huge house, and even dating or married to the finest celebrity—preferably a basketball player because they did make a lot of money. It was going to be the life. The life that I always dreamed of. That night, I would be on my way to leaving 495 Washington Avenue. I would say goodbye and never look back. I wave in the mirror imagining what it would be like. Yes, that was the life I wanted. I was going to have it one way or another.

I imagined me signing my first contract. That first contract that would bring in millions. I imagined signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. I imagined winning my first Grammy. I imagined that million dollar wedding I was going to have and it being on television for the world to see and drool over. The contemporary styling ballroom that would have teardrop chandeliers, a horseshoe-shaped balcony overlooking the built in stage. Perfect for my first wedding. I even imagined that daughter I would have and love dearly. I would show her the love I never received.

I also imagined the concerts I would have. Lights flashing. Crowds singing along to my music. My backup dancers and us dancing the night away. But the most important thing that would complete my life would be to win an Oscar. It will all start tonight after the artist spotlight. After tonight, my life was going to be what I had always dreamed of. Yeah, I was sounding delusional but it was the only thing that gave me hope. I was going to make it. I was going to kill the spotlight tonight. I was going to sing like my life depended on it. Shoot, it did depend on it.

As I continued to smile and think about everything that was going to happen to me very soon, there was a knock on my door.

Was my mother back? I asked myself, sighing.

Not again, I thought. Just don’t ruin this for me. If my mother saw me in this dress, she would go crazy. Out of anything, that could ruin this night for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

 

 

 

“Yo! Turn that music down. It’s too loud. Don’t you know I’m trying to sleep out here,” he yelled.

He was awake. I sighed, but totally ignored him. How dare he tell me what to do? This was my house. I continued to sing, even louder this time. So loud to make him upset. It was working though, because he did get upset. He started to turn my doorknob, but luckily it was locked. Since he couldn’t open it, he pounded hard on the door.

“Didn’t I just say turn that music down, girl?”

I stood by the door and furiously shouted: “You don’t live here! You’re not my father! So shut up and go away now!”

He didn’t like that. Next thing I know, he was pushing against my door, trying to get it open. I heard loud thuds.

No this jerk ain’t trying to get here, I thought. What’s the matter with him?

“What are you doing? Get away from my door,” I said, opening the door.

He stood on the other side with an angry look, but I didn’t care. My temperature was rising. I wanted him out. I was tired of always having to walk on eggshells around the random men she let stay over. Didn’t he have his own place? Why couldn’t he go there?

“What do you think you are doing?” I demanded with an attitude.

That was an enormous mistake. I shouldn’t have opened the door. The next thing I knew, I was back on the floor, holding my face. I couldn’t believe it; he had just hit me worse than my mother would. I felt something wet on my fingertips. I looked at my hand, and saw that my nose was oozing bright red blood.

He kneeled beside me and grabbed my hair. Twice in one day, my hair had been grabbed. Twice in one day, I had been dragged. He dragged me from the door to my bed.

I grabbed his hand trying to get him off of me. Within seconds, he punched me in my stomach. I was barely able to say the words: “Stop, you’re hurting me.”

He didn’t care. He picked my stiff body up off the floor and threw me on the bed. “No…no…what are—”

He slapped me again. Tears rolled down my face. Where was my mother, I thought. She was supposed to be a mother who protected me, her daughter. She was nowhere. I cried out in pain. I cried out for help. He continued as he used all the force he had to beat me. My vision went fuzzy and I tensed my muscles.

I can’t believe what was happening but with all my might I screamed, “God, please help—”

“God will not be able to help you know,” he said with a sinister look.

His fist crashed against my face, knocking me back to the floor.

I cried louder. But the music from my place and throughout other apartments were blaring. No one would hear my scream. No one would hear my cries for help. The music drowns out my cries the same way that they did when I was five. Except this time, my own music was adding to the noise.

He stood over me and I saw the nasty sadistic grin on his face. It was evil, like something had taken over his body. Something evil was now in this room egging him on.

“Oh, how I’ve been waiting for this moment,” he said.

He walked quickly to the door and locked it. It scared me because now there was no easy access out of this room.

I take a minute to think about how I was going to get out of this situation. I look up at my nightstand. The lamp, I thought. I quickly grab for the lamp and take that opportunity to attack him. I rush towards him to strike him over the head, but somehow he stops me. In the process of me trying to strike him over the head with the lamp he grabbed it, smiling. Yes, I truly believe something had taken over him. He looks possessed, I thought.

I watched as the lamp drops to the ground. He then grabs me by the neck. His hands clamp tightly around my throat. I clearly wasn’t fast enough to attack him. I should have went for his groin. That would have stopped him.

Stupid, I thought.

He threw me back on the bed and punched me in the stomach again, forcefully. The pain was unbearable. My stomach felt as though it had fallen out of my body from the blows.

“Now, where were we?” He asked, still with that sadistic evil smile. The smell of alcohol hit me like a ton of bricks. I tried to turn my head since there was no way out of this.

“You’ve been looking real good lately. I just can’t help myself anymore,” he said, kissing my neck.

I squirmed underneath him as he pulled at the top of my dress. He glides his fingers across my chest and sensitive parts. I made a last attempt to free myself but it was to no avail; he had me pinned down.

He starts ripping at my clothes. I continued to fight him off. Still, that doesn’t work.

“No…no…” I can only scream at him while pushing him away as best as I could. Since I am smaller than him, there is no way out.

He looked me in the eyes. Still there is evil as he raises his hands up to my hair and tangles his fingers in it. With his other hand, he pulled it up to my face and cups my cheek in his hand.

“You know you want this,” he said.

“You disgusting pig,” I said, spitting on him.

He just laughed. “I’ll be easy with you.”

Again I screamed hoping someone would hear me. Hoping someone would save me. But still, no one was there to help. I lay there all alone, gazing up at the ceiling. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was truly alone with no one to help me out of this.

“Let me just enjoy this moment,” he said as he runs his hands down my curvaceous body. “Beautiful. Relax, baby girl. It will be over soon.”

“Enjoy this moment?” I asked. “You actually enjoy raping me?”

“Shhh, girl. It’s consensual. You want it. The way you walk around here enticing me. The way your body moves when you come near me. Your mother surely thinks so and she will think that no matter what you tell her or anyone else,” he said, laughing again.

He was right. She wouldn’t believe me. No one would. I turn my head from the ceiling to the closet door and close my eyes allowing the tears to fall to the sheets on the bed. I didn’t want to see his face. This surely wasn’t consensual.

He sits up on top of me. The last thing I remember was him unbuckling his belt with one hand while holding my throat. Then, the sound of his zipper coming down.

Minutes later he was finished. It seemed like it lasted forever.

“Ah, you were so good. That was truly amazing,” he said, climbing off of me.

I lay there in a daze, looking to the side as my eyes remain glued to the closet door.

I couldn’t believe it. I had just been raped. He had taken advantage of me.

“Y—you raped me,” I said, muttering up the words.

“N—No, baby girl, you wanted it. Remember?”

“You raped me!” I screamed.

“The way you’ve been walking by me shows you’ve wanted it for a long time. I just gave you what you wanted and needed. You were better than your mother…that’s for sure,” he said, laughing.

“You pig. You disgusting, ugly pig.”

Once again, he charged at me and slapped and punched me. He didn’t like the truth either.

When he was done beating me he tells me, “Next time turn the music down when I say turn it down. You do as I say from now on, girl. You hear? If I say turn down that music, you do it. If I say lay down, you lay down. You do as I say from now on.”

I cried and balled up on my bed, speechless.

As he left my room, he turned around and said, “Oh, and keep this on the low. We don’t want your mother to know what we just did,” he said, winking at me.

I saw him stumble out of my room, still laughing. Then, the front door slammed and I burst out in screams and cries. The sound of my wailing and suffering echoes through the apartment, but still no one hears.

Where was anybody to help me? Didn’t they hear my cries? Nope. No one heard. The music was just too loud.

 

***

 

A doctor enters the room and pokes his head through the door, interrupting me.

“Nurse Brenda, you’re still here? I thought you were off.”

“I am,” she smiles. “I just stopped by to pay one of my favorite patients a visit.”

“Aww, see, that’s why we love you.” The doctor smiles: “Don’t you just love her?”

“I do,” I say shakily. “She’s something special.”

“That she is,” he says. “Alright Brenda. If I don’t see you again, have a good day and get some rest. I think you work more than I do.”

“I don’t think that’s possible but I surely will try,” she replies.

Just as quickly as the doctor came, he leaves. I let out a huge sigh and try to catch my breath. Telling that story has shaken me up. I’m telling things that I swore I would never speak of. For so long after that, I patched my wounds and bandaged my heart but I never got over what was done. Rape and molestation stays with you forever. I did feel guilty. I felt lonely. I just couldn’t move past what had been done to me. For so long I hid it. I hid it with singing and entertaining and hair and makeup. No one knew the pain that still lay deep inside of me.

Many times over, I wondered how I put myself in that type of situation. I should have left. I should have ran away long before it got to that point. But where was I to go. All I knew was that I needed to quickly make it out of this world I was in.

“Are you okay?” Nurse Brenda asks.

“Yeah, it’s just that looking back, I was such an innocent girl but by the time I got into the industry, I wasn’t so innocent. I started out with great intentions but because I was so desperate for fame and money and desperate to get away from my mother, it led me here, a place of no return.”

Nurse Brenda doesn’t move or say a word so I continue.

“What I saw on television was a fairytale. My head was filled with a deceptive vision of wealth and fame. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done an about face. I would have said ‘no way’ but what got me was the money. Yeah, the money got me. The money he flashed before me. The fame he promised me. I had been through a lot and I had worked my butt off for so long with no rewards. Being broke led me down this path. Being molested and raped led me here. Having a deadbeat mother led me down this path. Taking the deal led me down here, too. I truly wish I would have said no. I wished I would have chosen another path. If I had said no, I would have avoided the robberies, the sex, the drugs, the beatings, the attempts of murder on my life, the murders of others, the having to do what he said do and so much more.

“This industry is not what it is cracked up to be. Getting to the top is definitely not worth it anymore. Now, I am paying for it. I don’t want another young girl to go through this. But I know because of who I am many have followed me and now I’m leading them straight to the place I am going to…hell. That’s what eats me up. That so many young women are following me and what I do, and want to be like me and want to have what I have…but it all comes at a price. It’s not worth it.”

I couldn’t finish. I sob even more as Brenda doesn’t move. I think she’s in shock although she won’t show it.

“Brenda, can you do me a favor?”

“What is it, honey?” she asks, puzzled.

“Can you tell my story so that no one else ends up here like me? They really need to know.”

“Didn’t you just think that if you revealed these things your time here would end just like that?”

I look at her, confusingly. “I never said that to you.”

She smiles slightly. “I will tell your story only if you do something for me after you finish telling me your story.”

I cough and nod.

“Okay…so go ahead and tell me more,” she says.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

 

 

 

I blame myself. If only I had turned down that music; if only I had left earlier.

I scream again as I laid there, crying my eyes out. I was in so much pain, in so much shame.

I looked down at myself and saw that the dress I had on was torn. Blood dripped down my leg. My hair was messed up, my makeup running down my face. I cried for my mom, the mom that I always wanted. I cried for someone to help. But still, there was no one. No one was there to help me.

Why God? Why? Why did you let this happen? I cried.

If anything, I thought God would be there. Didn’t the Pastor always speak about how God would never leave us nor forsake us? I truly felt forsaken. I felt alone. How could God let this happen? How could a God that claimed to love me allow something like that to happen to me?

I turned over onto my stomach and cried into my hands. This was too much. This was embarrassing. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Did I have “rape me” on my forehead? What was it about me that made men think they could invade me and disrespect me in that way? Was my mother right all along? Was I sending the wrong signals to these men?

On the bed, my phone vibrated and rung. I didn’t even grab to reach it. I just let it ring.

Of course it rang again, but I let it go to voicemail. I couldn’t face or tell anyone of my ordeal. I couldn’t talk to anyone.

A few seconds later it rang again.

I continued to cry.

The phone stopped ringing but quickly rang again. This time, I grabbed it. It was Shelly. I turned it on and cried into the phone.

“Tiffany…what’s the matter?” she asked, concerned.

I couldn’t talk. All I could do was continue to cry.

“Tiff. Tiff. What happened?” she screamed.

I finally mustered the words: “H—he raped me!”

“What? Who? Who raped you?” she asked.

“He raped me! Why, God? Why?”

“I’m coming over now. Stay there!”

Ten minutes later, Shelly was in my room. She looked at me and couldn’t believe the scene before her. The look on her face conveyed anger, pity, and sorrow.

“Oh my goodness, Tiff. Who did this to you? Was it that man?” she asked.

I still lay on the bed, not saying anything. I was in a daze. Tears streamed down my face. I was unable to articulate anything. I didn’t want to talk and I didn’t want to say it again. I didn’t want to admit that I’d been raped…again.

“We have to get you to the hospital. Come on and get up.”

She lifted me up, trying to get me off of the bed. I was dead weight. “Come. I can’t carry you. You have to walk with me.”

I wouldn’t move. She took her phone out of her purse and called her brother.

“Aaron! Aaron! I need you over at Tiffany’s. She’s been raped. We need to get her to the hospital quickly.”

“What in the world is going on here?” I heard my mother ask from the door.

“Ms. Johnson, she’s been raped. That guy of yours did this to her. Help, let’s get her to the hospital.”

“You sluttly little whore,” my mom said in a sinister voice. She looked like she wanted to attack me again.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I at least had hoped my mother would show sympathy after seeing all this, but she didn’t. She was pissed…at me.

“James! Baby! James!” She said, looking around quickly. “Where is he?”

I couldn’t understand how she could still be calling him ‘baby’. How she could be looking for him, unconcerned about my welfare? For goodness sake, he just raped me, I thought, still staring in a daze. I wanted to cry more, but the tears wouldn’t fall. I felt embarrassed. I felt bad that my friend was witnessing this scene. Shelly was seeing exactly how little my mother cared for me. I wanted to hide under a rock and never emerge again.

Shelly came and held me. She rocked and consoled me like a mother should. “We’re going to take you to the hospital, okay? As soon as Aaron arrives, we are going to the hospital.” She kissed the top of my head and then the tears fell again.

I shook my head no. “I just want to take a shower,” I said.

“No, you have to go to the hospital.”

I shook my head again.

“Yes, you have to go.”

“But what about tonight?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about tonight; there will be other nights. Right now, we have to take care of you. You need to get to the hospital.”

“Where is James, girl?” My mother asked, running back into my room.

We didn’t say a word. I didn’t care where James was. I hoped that he’d gotten hit by a bus, shot up, or killed like many of my mother’s other deadbeat boyfriends.

“I asked you a question, girl! Where is James?”

No response. My mother did all the talking.

“You slut! You slept with my man. I leave you here for one second and you sleep with him. Ugh…why do you always ruin everything for me? Because of you, every man leaves.” She came over to me and berated and hit me. She hit me while Shelly was still rocking me. Shelly tried to shove her back and that ignited something inside of me. She was my mother, not Shelly’s. My friend shouldn’t have to deal with her; she shouldn’t have to fight my mom for me.

This time I fought back. All the anger and all the hurt I had been through made me now take it out on her. I flailed wildly as I got up from the bed. My mom was shocked as I struck her back. I used it to my advantage and attacked her like a wild animal. Shelly had to pull us apart but I was too strong. My rage was too strong; it was giving me strength that I didn’t know I possessed. I heard Aaron enter the house and run into the room.

“Aaron, help me get them apart.” Shelly screamed.

Aaron grabbed my mother as Shelly finally grabbed me. My mother was kicking and fighting as Aaron grabbed her by the waist. Her feet were off the ground. She was still going wild with rage.

“I hate you!” I screamed. It felt so good to say it and this time, I really felt like I meant it.

“I hate you too b—” she said.

I screamed like a wounded animal.

“I should have aborted you. My life would be so much better if you weren’t here.”

Tears continued to flow down my face. This was a nightmare and a night I’d never forget.

“Aaron let’s get her to the hospital,” Shelly said.

“Oh no you are not taking her to the hospital. Put her into the shower and call it a night. I want you both out of my house. Now! She’s not going anywhere.”

I came out of my daze and said, “You are a sorry piece of—.” I couldn’t believe my mother would try and save and protect this man of hers.

Good thing Aaron was holding her. She tried to get out of his hold, but he held her tightly.

“You want the evidence of all this to be washed away. You don’t want to get him in trouble. Look what he did to me and you don’t care? I’m your flesh and blood and you don’t care? What type of mother are you? Better yet, what type of woman are you?” That’s when I knew that going to the hospital was the right thing to do.

“You mean nothing to me, slut.”

“Well, I’m going to the hospital. I’m going to tell the police and both you and your man will be in trouble. I’m sending you to jail.”

She laughed. “Go right ahead. Ain’t no one afraid of no jail. But you know where you’ll end up? Huh…huh? In the foster care system where they’ll do worse to you?”

“I want you to rot in that jail cell,” I said, trying to lunge at her.

“I wish you the same, you whore!”

“Why do you hate me so much? Why can’t you just be a mother like Mimi?” I said crying.

“You thought Mimi was such a nice old woman. Huh! Well, let me tell you something. The same thing happened to me and guess what Mimi did nothing. Nothing at all!”

I stopped and listened as Shelly still held onto me.

“You’re the product of a rape. That’s why I wanted to abort you. That’s why I wanted to give you up; I still want to give you up. But my mother, your Mimi, wouldn’t let that happen. For years I was raped by her brother and she did nothing. You never had a father, I lied.”

“But you didn’t have to take it out on me,” I said, feeling sorry for the both of us.

“She said I was a fast girl, that fast girls get what they deserve. So she made me have you. She thought it would, ‘slow me down!’”

“No, Mimi didn’t know. She’s not like that. Did you tell her?”

My mother didn’t answer.

“You were into so much when you were younger. She told me the stories. She said you were stealing, sleeping around, hanging with the wrong crowd a—“

She interrupted me. “I did all that as a way for her to notice what I was going through. It was a cry for help. She didn’t hear my cries and that is why I tormented her so.”

“I’ve been crying for help, too,” I said, frustrated.

“I surely don’t care about you and your cry for help. What you’ve just been through doesn’t even compare to the things I’ve been through. You think your little rape here was something? No, try living in my shoes and going through the things I went through.”

She walked over to where my scarf was and spat in it. “That’s for your little ‘ol Mimi!” She dropped the scarf onto the floor.

I screamed as I get out of Shelly’s grips and lunged for my mother.

“Get her out of here,” Aaron told Shelly.

“I’m trying!” Shelly said, pulling me back as best as she could.

I look at Aaron and scream, “Please grab my scarf.”

My mom laughed. “You’re so stupid. After everything that she’s done, you still want that scarf? I should burn it!”

I balled up my fist, because if my mom touched it, I was going to kill her. I was still pumping with adrenaline. If she laid a hand on the scarf that my Mimi gave to me again, we were going to have a lot of trouble.

Shelly could feel my rage; she quickly did as her brother told her and blocked me from my mother as she dragged me out of the room. I had to fight the urge to spit on my mother, but I swallowed it, along with my rage. Aaron waited until I was out the front door before letting my mother go.

“I don’t want her in my house again, you hear? Don’t bring her back. Find someplace else to live, you slut. You are not welcome in my house no more!” my mom yelled at the door.

Aaron met us at the elevator with my scarf. He picked me up and I wrapped my arms around him, crying. Once the elevator doors opened on the first floor, he rushed me to his car. I heard Bernice ask, “What happened to her? She looks terrible.”

I couldn’t stand Bernice! She was an evil, nosy woman who sat in the same spot on the same crate all the time. She thought she knew everyone’s business and she didn’t mind blatantly asking about your business as if you owed it to her.

No one said a word.

“Her mother said she was a fast girl. I guess it is true,” Bernice said. Everyone laughed as I sat in the car, crying.

Couldn’t anyone see my pain? I wondered.

My mother didn’t help the situation. She came out saying, “Yup, she is a fast girl. She slept with my man. She couldn’t wait until I left the house. As soon as I leave she puts on one of my old dresses, entices him and sleeps with him. She’s an awful child.”

As we drove off, all I heard was my mother screaming: “You no good whore. You better not come back. You hear? Don’t you come back!”

We rode away as I leaned on the window and cried the rest of the way to the hospital. I held my spit filled scarf tightly, wishing my Mimi were still alive and still here to help me through all this. Who could I turn to now? I wonder. This was supposed to be a night filled with excitement and a possible record deal. That was all ruined now. Nothing good ever happens to me, I thought. All that kept happening were setbacks and discouraging moments. I was wounded now and scarred for life. I would never be the same after all this. Never.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10

 

 

 

 

I was in the hospital for a few days. He really got me good; a fractured rib and a bruised face. But thank God Shelly, and even Aaron, stayed with me. They were my family. They held me down and were there for me when I most needed them. They knew that I wasn’t in a condition to talk, so they didn’t talk. They gave me what I needed the most: their presence. I just needed people to be there for me and they provided it.

We all sat in the hospital room watching a little television. I hadn’t really spoken since I got here. But what Aaron was about to say got me excited.

“So you know my guy…? He’s into music and he’s looking for someone to sing a hook on his next song. I told him about you and he wants to hear you. So maybe when you get out of here we can go and see him?”

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

“Yeah!” He said, smiling. “You know that I’m going to hook you up. I know you need this right now, especially after missing the Artist’s Spotlight.”

“Aaron!” Shelly said, trying to hush him and not mention that night.

“It’s ok,” I said, smiling back.

I knew that I shouldn’t have been thinking about music at a time like this but I needed a way out. I was young and I didn’t have any money. I had missed my opportunity and this opportunity I wouldn’t miss. I was going to have to do something—and fast. I needed my life to turn around quickly. There was no way I could go back home. No way I could go back to the way things used to be. I knew this wouldn’t be my big break, but it was a start. All I needed was a start. I just needed to get in front of the right person and then the domino effect would happen. Nothing and no one was going to stop me from pursuing my dreams. No one was going to ruin this opportunity and I would make sure of that.

“You know I appreciate you guys. Thank you so much! I don’t know what would have happened if the two of you had not showed up. My mom and I probably would have killed each other.”

Shelly and Aaron smiled. Aaron nodded while Shelly got up and gave me one big hug.

“Come on, you’re smothering me! Watch the ribs! They’re bound tightly, but I’m fragile.”

We all laughed.

“So when you get out we will go to your house and get your things. You’ll be staying with us,” Shelly said.

“What about your mom?”

“Don’t worry about that. She says it’s cool. Shoot, she is looking forward to you coming over. You actually like her cooking.”

We all laughed hysterically again. It was good to laugh; I needed it.

“I don’t even know if I can even go home to get my things. She’s probably thrown everything out on the streets. People probably have picked through my stuff already. I’m just glad that I have my scarf,” I said with a slight smile as I snuggled it. “Thank you for washing it, too!”

“Well, it’s time to discharge you.” The nurse said, walking in with paperwork.

“Already?” I said, a little sad.” I wasn’t ready to leave the comforts of the hospital yet. The food was horrid but everyone there was nurturing. In the normal world, people didn’t care about you.

The nurse was in her fifties. She was caring while I was here a few days. She made sure I was taken care of. She was spunky at her age and she also had a motherly instinct. She was also easy to talk to at night when Aaron and Shelly weren’t there. She would stop by when they left just to talk with me. It was comforting and what I needed.

“Well, Tiffany, just sign here and here. Then you can get dressed and we will get you a wheelchair and wheel you out.”

I sighed. “Thank you for the late night talks and everything.”

“Anytime, sweetie. Anytime! Hopefully I won’t see you soon.”

“I don’t plan on being back like this. Only to visit you,” I said.

“You remember that and remember what I told you. Make the right decisions from this time forward. The enemy is after you, child. He wants that gift that you have. Allow God to use you and everything will be alright. And don’t sign any deals that make your stomach churn. You hear?”

I nodded and dismissed what she said. She patted me on my arm and handed me some forms to sign. As soon as I signed the papers in the proper places, I got up and got ready to leave.

“Well, let’s go,” Shelly said. “We are going to have so much fun at my house, roomie.”

I smiled as they wheeled me off, forgetting about what the Nurse had told me.

 

 

***

 

Spending time at Shelly’s house wasn’t so bad. I got to act my age. Her mom didn’t yell unless we deserved it, she kept food in the house, and she was loving. I’d been there for a full week. I was able to get into Shelly’s clothes. It was rough because I felt mildly embarrassed having to wear my friend’s stuff. Everyone at school had already seen her outfits. I couldn’t wait for the day to have my own. It’s one thing to do wear each other’s clothes for fun, but it’s another thing to have to do it.

One thing that wasn’t negotiable was going to church on Sundays. Ms. Green didn’t play about the Lord. You better be up by nine and ready by ten so that she can get to church by ten thirty. Usually I was happy to go to church with them whenever I did but this time, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to sit in the house of another person that had forsaken me. I was still very upset with God. My face was still recovering as well. The swelling had gone down, but it was clear that I was recovering from a black eye. My ribs didn’t feel too hot either. I was bandaged up and moving, hurt.

However, I put on the purple dress that Shelly gave me and wore a pair of her mom’s simple black pumps.

Their church was small. It was a church made up of only about fifty people so everyone knew each other. I liked that about it but not on that day. Not when all eyes were on me and my face. If it were a mega church then I could have strolled through there and no one would have given me a second glance. Instead I saw looks of pity and curiosity on their faces. I hated it.

“You want to sit in the back?” Shelly asked me.

I nodded but her mom stopped us. “No, Tiffany, you will be sitting in the front. You need to hear what God is saying to you. I know times are hard but it won’t last. You need to be all up in God’s face and I’m not going to let you zone out in the back.”

I respected her so I gave a gentle nod before begrudgingly heading to the front pew. She sat directly behind me and Aaron sat on my left, while Shelly sat on my right. Service started and I mildly paid attention. I didn’t want to be there. I stood up when I had to stand up, sat when we were supposed to sit, and sang when we were supposed to sing. My head and heart weren’t in it.

The Pastor started, and I did my best to tune him out, too. I just wanted to go back to Shelly’s house and lie down. He must have been speaking very well because he had the room eating up every word he said. The Pastor looked to be in his mid-seventies. He had a medium complexion with craters in his skin and a huge gap in his teeth. On top of that, he was in dire need of a haircut. What made people flock to him was his love for people. He truly loved people.

Shelly loved her Pastor Charles though. She always talked about how sweet he was. She also loved his wife, Pastor Caroline, too. She was no joke either. She loved people but she also knew how to correct them.

As he preached, I looked around and remembered the conversation Shelly and I had about church and money. It was a nice church even for its small size and I did see that nice car parked in the parking lot. I wondered about that but Shelly was always sure to correct me like she did the last time when I brought up the nice car.

“I don’t understand why Pastors need to get a salary or even ask for tithes and offering.”

She looked at me. “What do you mean you don’t understand why? Well, why should you get money to sing or be President of a company?”

“Huh?” I asked.

“You talk so much about how much you want to sing and get money and have a boat with a big house, but what will you be doing for people?”

“I’m entertaining them; that’s all they need.”

“So while you are entertaining them, they are still in the projects while you are living well. You see, I don’t understand why people talk about the church and tithes and offering. You all don’t get mad at these Fortune 500 companies who don’t help those below them. These executives are getting millions while those below them are getting minimum wage. You also don’t get mad at these people that ask for donations in charities and do nothing with the money but live large. You all don’t get mad at these rappers and singers and entertainers who never give back but as soon as the preacher says tithes and offering—which is in the Bible—you all get upset and start to whine and boohoo.”

“Yes, because we work hard for our money.”

“You do realize that you are paying tithes and offering to these singers and entertainers, right?”

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“Yes you do, especially when you buy their music. They are your Pastors. You gobble up every lyric and every word every time you listen to them. They are giving you a strange gospel with scripture and verse. The next time they put out an album, you pay more tithes and offering for their products. Then they go out and buy a nice big house and car while you don’t even have a pot to piss in.”

“Shelly,” I said, hurt by her words.

“I’m sorry, but it is true. What have they given you?”

I couldn’t answer her because she was right.

“Let me tell you something. Pastor Charles and Pastor Caroline aren’t the kind of people who skim money from the congregation. They do get a salary from the church, which they deserve. You see, you sing for people for only about two hours at a concert and Pastor Charles and Pastor Caroline are on call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. When someone gets sick, they get up and go to the hospital to pray for them. Sometimes they drive all night to get to that person. When someone can’t pay their rent, who do they go to when welfare says no? To the church. And Pastor Charles and Pastor Caroline go and take the money that was taken up during tithes and offering to help that person and other families who aren’t even part of this church.”

“Well, not everyone is like Pastor Charles and Pastor Caroline. What about those Pastors with nice cars and houses while their congregates are living terribly.”

“Isn’t that what I just said about the entertainers? We paying them for their music and we living well below them. At least Pastors out there help the people. You see you are being lied to, Tiffany. You don’t see the many people who come in begging the church for money and Pastors giving it to them. You don’t see them having free Thanksgiving Meals on Thanksgiving Day. You also don’t see them having to pay for the building they are in or paying for electric bill and more. Where do you expect them to get the money? Oh yeah, and you definitely don’t see how when the Pastor started the church, it came from his own pocket.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Exactly. When Pastor Charles and Pastor Caroline and many other Pastors started the church, they worked a regular job. Pastor Charles was working a city job and Pastor Caroline was a nurse. Pastor Charles always had the call to preach and so while he worked six days a week, he took his money and opened a church. It got so much for them that they had to leave their regular jobs to preach full time and they are still making less than the jobs they had before.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Why do you want to sing? Because you love it, right? It is your passion to entertain people, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, it is their passion to help people and preach the Gospel. What you all don’t realize is that it takes money to help people. But before they had the money, they used their own money. Paying the rent each month at a storefront that cost seven hundred and fifty dollars, and as time went on, it grew to over two thousand dollars. It all came from their pockets at that time. In the beginning, they paid everything until congregates like my mom and others started coming in and putting in the mandatory ten percent.”

“No…ten percent. That’s too much!”

“Well, the government asks for twenty percent or more and they do nothing. This country is still in debt. We should be asking to see their records. The church isn’t in debt and they help people when the government says no.”

“Well, I don’t agree.”

“You should. Because Pastors like Pastor Charles and Pastor Caroline help people with the money they receive. They give back. They are not like you entertainers who just spend money on everything and do nothing. They actually give back. They are doing what God commanded them to do. That’s perfect examples to follow. I do hope that after you get rich and famous, you don’t act like these entertainers now who waste the money they get from people. I hope you take your millions to help others and to assist in their times of need.”

I thought about what she was saying as she continued.

“Another thing I don’t understand is these entertainers are getting millions and some billions, so why don’t they give back to all their fans? We invested in them, brought their merchandise and everything… can’t they at least give each one of us ten grand, fifty grand, or whatever? I’m just saying. It is like the stock exchange where I invested in you; now just give me a return, too.”

“Why should they?” I asked.

“Well, you need to hold these entertainers, business men and women, and our government accountable like you are doing with these Pastors. Also, don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. I’m just saying.”

One thing’s for sure: as I kept coming back to the church, I saw Pastor Charles and Pastor Caroline and how they did with the tithes and offering. Shelly was right; they were helping people and so were so many other Pastors. Sometimes, Shelly was beyond her years and I respected her correcting me. However, I was still mad at God and nothing would change that.

 

 

***

 

“That friend of yours, Shelly. Yes, she is wise beyond her years and she is speaking the truth. Yes she is,” Nurse Brenda said, happily.

I nodded and added, “I learned how right she was about all of that and more as I got more into the industry.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Brenda. I would be in meeting after meeting with well-known executives and even celebrities who countlessly said they never cared about the people. All they cared about was getting more of their money to fill their bank accounts with and influencing or controlling their minds. That’s all they cared about. They cared nothing about you and me. But I learned that the Pastors across this nation actually cared about people. Pastors out there really wanted to help.”

Nurse Brenda nodded her head.

“Can I let you in on a little secret?”

“Sure,” she said, waiting to hear what I had to say.

“A lot of the Pastors that you hear out there now are plants to destroy the Gospel. Some who claim to be Christians and Pastors aren’t really. If you really want to know who the true Ministers of the Gospel are, look on the street corners, the ones who are preaching. They are warning the people and are helping. Look at the small churches on every corner; those are the ones people should be looking to and going to. There are forces out there that would do anything and everything to stop and discredit the true men and women of God.”

“So true, my dear.”

“But it was I who helped in discrediting preachers and the church. In my anger at God, I helped turn so many away from Him.”

“You were angry, dear.”

“That I was and I still am, but I shouldn’t have led so many to hell. I should have listened to Pastor Charles’s warning,” I said. “He warned me and I didn’t listen.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

 

 

 

 

After church ended, I said my pleasantries to everyone and stood in the back of the church. I didn’t want to talk to anyone but everyone wanted to give me an encouraging word and hug. I wasn’t in the mood to hear any of it. They all could save it as far as I was concerned.

Then, Pastor Charles started approaching me. I looked around for Ms. Green and hoped that she would say that it was time to go. I shuffled nervously from one foot to the other. He was coming directly to me.

“Good Afternoon, Sista,” he said, coming towards me with a smile on his lips.

His smile was contagious and I couldn’t help but smile back at him: “Good afternoon.”

“How are you doing?”

“I’m doing okay,” I lied.

He gave me a discerning look, “Now we both know that’s not true. I don’t have to be a prophet to see that you’re not doing too well. You’ve been abused and hurt.”

“Everyone knows that,” I said, looking around.

“Not me. I just know what God has told me,” he said with his smile never fading.

Just like that, tears pricked at the back of my eyes. Why did he have to make me cry? I didn’t want to cry in front of all of those people. I could feel their eyes on me even more.

“You’re right, but I’m going to be okay.”

He gave a gentle nod and said “We all have choices, you know. You get to decide how this is going to shape your life. You can be a vessel of honor or dishonor. I urge you to open your heart to God and let him use you for his glory.”

“I’ve been used enough,” I said spitefully. As soon as it left my mouth, I regretted it. It slipped out. I was bitter but I didn’t want anyone to know; I didn’t want him to judge me for it.

“I’m so sorry that you feel that way,” he said in an understanding tone. “I’m not going to keep you long but I just want to tell you that God loves you and he wants a relationship with you. You are going to do some amazing things with your life, I can see it. But you get to choose what they are.”

He paused and thinks for a moment.

I clapped my hands together waiting for him to continue. Please hurry up, I say to myself.

“There will be a time where you will get to choose life in Christ or death with Satan. I pray you choose life. I pray that when the enemy comes you will turn away. Don’t let the riches and fame he presents to you distract you. It will only lead you to the wrong path and to death. Don’t make the deal with the devil, you hear?”

“I don’t understand,” I said, confused.

“Allow me a few more minutes to explain. Can I tell you a story?”

I didn’t feel like hearing a story but knowing Pastor Charles, he was going to tell me anyway. He led me to the last pew and grabbed a Bible.

“I believe God gives warnings before they happen. I believe this is upon you and you need to know this.” He opened the Bible and reads: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

“I read all of that to tell you that when the devil comes to you and takes you up on an exceedingly high mountain, don’t accept his offer. Don’t worship him. Do what Jesus did. In the end when Jesus resisted the devil, He and we got a far better deal. The devil’s riches only last for a short time but God’s riches last a lifetime. You may not understand it now but in time, you will. All I ask is that you remember these scriptures and remember how the devil will tempt you after this ordeal you’ve been through. For he will use all you have been through to get you on his side. So, remember that Jesus loves you no matter what. He will always reach for you because He loves you and wants you to experience life more abundantly.”

Again, I didn’t want to hear what he was saying. I nodded so that he could stop talking. I wanted to leave.

“Do you mind if I pray for you?” he asked.

“I don’t mind,” I lie.

He grabbed both of my hands and prays: “Dear heavenly and gracious Father…”

 

***

 

After church I felt lighter but still angry with God. However, I was ready to get my own clothes. I wanted to see if she threw my things away. I was tired of wearing Shelly’s stuff. Her mom was talking about buying me clothes. I didn’t want to go home to get my things but I knew I needed to. I didn’t have anything with me but that skimpy dress that I wore, my shoes, and my Burberry scarf. I had to try and see if there was anything left of mine at the house. Shelly’s mom was already taking me in, I couldn’t expect for her to clothe me as well.

So, I had to face the music. I had to go home.

Usually the door was open around the time that I came home, but not this time. It was locked. I looked at Shelly—who was with me—and sighed nervously. I rang the doorbell. I was shocked to see who was at the door. It was him. James was at the door. She let the man who raped me back into her house. He was in basketball shorts and a wife beater; he had a disgusting grin on his face.

I took a step back as he yelled, “Babe, she’s here!”

“Who?”

“Your daughter,” he yelled, winking at me.

I heard her all the way from the back. “Oh no. Oh no! I told you not to come back. You’re seventeen now. It’s time for you to live on your own. I don’t have time to deal with your mess anymore. I’m done. I was serious when I told you not to come back here. It’s finally time for me to get my life back. I can finally do what I want without having to worry about you.”

“How can you still be with this man af—after he raped me? You should worry about me. When was the last time you worried about me?” I shouldn’t have been surprised that she let him come back, but that didn’t make the betrayal sting any less. Did she love me at all, even a little?

She sucked her teeth. “He said you would say something like that. He didn’t rape you. You offered it to him. It was consensual.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “What?”

“He said you were strutting around and inciting him. I believe him, too. Why else would you be in one of my dresses? I see that you’re smelling yourself and you want to be me. Guess what? I pay my own bills. If you want to be a grown woman and screw like one then you need to act like one for real. You are not going to stay in my crib, eat my food, and screw my man. You lucky you’re my daughter because if you weren’t you would be in the morgue right now.”

“What?” She had already taken his side. She never stopped to ask what happened or hear what I had to say. She’d already decided that he was telling the truth. She made her mark in the sand and she was willing to give me up over him.

“You a fast little girl and with my man. How could you?” she asked, with a look of hurt in her eyes. She had the nerve to really look hurt, as if I did something to pain her.

“Wait, you think I wanted him? And even if I did and even if what he said was true you still want him?” I was trying to wrap my head around all of it.

“He’s a man. As long as he comes home that’s fine with—”

“Do you hear yourself? You are delusional. Something is mentally wrong with you.”

“No, idiot, you are delusional thinking your little hot fast self can take another man from me. No, not this time. Now get yourself out of my doorway and find you someplace else to go. My mother put me out when I was seventeen and now it’s your time to go.”

Mimi was a good woman. When she was here she loved me and cared for me. It made my mother jealous because she thought for some reason she never got that. But she did get that from my grandmother. My mother was just an evil woman who did evil things to people who loved and cared for her. Her hurts and pains clouded her judgement. Since she was the way she was, my grandmother had enough and put her out. When I was born, my grandmother showed me so much love. But when she died that loved stopped and I’ve been in a bad place ever since.

I watched my mother with her hands on her hips. She stood with the door open. I was consumed with a rage that I’ve never known. I knew that it would be a long time before I saw her again and I was hurt that it was ending this way. A part of me hoped that she would be sorry and possibly show a little remorse for what happened to me since it happened to her, too. My mom was stubborn; I knew that she wouldn’t do a one eighty but she could have shown me a little sympathy. She had none. She only thought about herself and her pains.

I looked behind her and James was grinning at me from the couch. He had the nerve to grin after what he did to me. He even had the nerve to wink and motion that he had more for me if I wanted it.

I did the first thing that came to mind. I didn’t have to worry about her consequences anymore. I didn’t have to wonder if she would put me out; she was already putting me out and treating me like a random person off of the streets. So I punched her dead in her face. Her head went back; she held her nose, then looked at her hand. She was bleeding. She bled the same way that I bled after James hit me in the nose. Seeing the blood spew from her nose was intensely satisfying. The look of disbelief on her face almost made me laugh. Trust me, I don’t condone hitting parents. You should respect them, but this woman deserved it. She was no parent. She didn’t care about my welfare. All she cared about was hers.

“Tiffany, no!” I heard Shelly say through the ordeal.

My mother recovered quickly. She grabbed my hair, dragged me down the hallway to the stairway and tried to throw me down the stairs. She punched and kicked my head, neck, and chest. Again, Aaron came to the rescue. When he saw us fighting after getting off the elevator, he held her. But James came out and yelled, “Get your hands off my woman.”

Aaron let her go. I got up and grabbed my mother. We both went down fighting. I kicked and punched back. I fought for my life that afternoon. I fought even with bandaged ribs. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let her get the best of me.

“So you want to hit me? Oh, I’m going to kill you!” I screamed. I gave her everything I had. I beat her for the years of emotional and physical pain that I endured from her and because of her. I beat her because she didn’t love me. I beat her because she didn’t love my Mimi the way she should have and I beat her because it made me feel better.

There was nothing anyone could do as I continued to punch and beat my mother. Shelly screamed for me to stop but I was in world of my own, getting out all of my rage. I slapped and punched her some more. I was tired. Tired of all the pain she had caused me. Tired that she believed this man. Tired of it all.

“Come on, Tiffany. Stop. Stop.” Aaron tried to reason with me as he tried to pull me away; meanwhile, James stood there, laughing. That’s how much he cared about her; he laughed as he watched me pummel her.

Aaron finally got me off of her as he brought me into the house to get my things. Shelly stood outside blocking the door so that I could get everything. My mom threw my things around my room but for the most part everything was still there. I silently said good riddance to that room. I was okay if I never saw it again. So much hurt and pain occurred in that room. I knew now that I couldn’t stay. I packed everything that I could.

“Girl you better move from my doorway. Someone call the police! I want her arrested.”

I heard Shelly say, “Go ahead, call the police and we will have him arrested. The police are still waiting on us to give them a name. It’s not too late.”

I didn’t hear my mother say anything.

As I left the house I didn’t look back. But I did realize I was homeless now. Yes, I could stay at Shelly’s but I had no family. I didn’t’ belong anywhere and that hurt. I was frustrated that I was a little sad about leaving. There was nothing for me there and my mom didn’t want me. Why was I sad and mourning a place and a woman that wasn’t any good for me? If it weren’t for Shelly or Aaron and their mother, I’d really be out on the street. Thank God for them, I thought.

I got into the car and truly didn’t look back. There was nothing to look back at but bad memories that I didn’t want to relive. It was time for me to move forward, even if it hurt.

I sat quietly in the car, shaking my head.

“Girl, what is the matter with you? Why are you fighting your mother like that? I know she did some horrible things but regardless of that, you don’t hit your mother. God don’t like that.”

“Don’t start, Aaron.”

“Don’t start, Aaron,” he said, mimicking me.

“That woman birthed me but she is far from being my mother. I don’t have a mom as far as I’m concerned. She’s dead to me.”

“Dang, did you learn anything in church today?” Aaron asked.

I shrugged. “I wasn’t listening.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12

 

 

 

 

I cough as I’m flooded with all of the memories. Those are the times that I’ve tried so hard to forget.

“Drink your water, sweetie,” Nurse Brenda says.

I take a few sips and lean my head back on the pillow. “You know, as much as I hate to admit it, I really wish that my mom loved me. That’s all that I wanted. Even after everything that she did or didn’t do, I wanted her love. If she would have apologized, I would have happily stayed and accepted her apology, but she didn’t. She would beg these men to stay but me she just let go. She made me feel like I was less than a person. I too was lost and hurt and she didn’t help. I think she wanted my life to be just as miserable as hers was.”

“I know, but some people just don’t have it in them,” Nurse Brenda says, “and it has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t mean that you’re any less or that you’re a bad person. She was fighting her own demons. She had her own struggles, pains, and problems. She didn’t know how to handle it. But know that like everyone in this world, she has to answer to God for what she did to you and what she did in her life.”

“I know, but that still doesn’t make me feel better. I know it should, but it doesn’t. But I knew one day she would need me and I would give back to her everything she gave back to me.”

I sit back thinking about it all. A giant hole found a permanent home in my heart all those years ago. All that my mother did to me was like a spear in my heart. It hurt. I felt the muscles in my heart tighten with incredible force as I remembered this part of my past.

Nurse Brenda quickly places her hand gently on the side of my face, calming me. It was the touch I needed not just now, but throughout my life. A warm gentle touch that I had so longed for. It was here and just what I needed.

“I should have listened to the Pastor and that story. But, like so many others, all we wanted was fame and fortune. We would do anything to have it and anything to keep it. I didn’t understand it then but I understand it now.”

I touch her hand as it continues to calm me.

“So what happened after that?” she asks.

I smile dimly as my heartbeat slowly accelerates. “The start of a new beginning for me. This is how I get into the industry and it isn’t pretty. This is right before I decide to sell my soul for riches and fame…”

I gasp for air, trying to catch my breath.

“Tiffany…Tiffany…are you alright, dear?” I hear Nurse Brenda ask.

But before I can continue I signal that I can’t breathe.

Nurse Brenda runs out and calls for a doctor. I look above me and the creature returns, smiling, and ready to take me to my final destination. Death was now lurking right in front of me as its hands and the hands of the other creatures reach for me.

I try to fight with every last breath I have, but I knew it was time…for I had said too much…

 

 

 

If you have not accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, I invite you today to accept Him. Before it is too late, ask Him to come into your life and be your Lord and Savior. Recite this prayer:

 

Lord, I know that I am a sinner. I ask you today to come into my life to make me whole and to make me clean. I believe you died on the cross and rose three days later just to save me. I am eternally grateful. From this day forward, I promise to serve you and only you. I give my life, my heart, my soul, my mind, and my body to you. In Jesus’ Name! Amen.

 

Congratulations and welcome to the Kingdom of God.

 

 

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Sherylynne L. Rochester was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is an author (Altered Destiny: A Hustler’s Choice, Altered Destiny: Second Chance, Chronicles of A Vixen), singer, songwriter, and while in High School she sang with the Girls Choir of Harlem. She received her bachelor’s degree in business management and audio recording at Five Towns College in Dix Hills, Long Island, and it was there she realized her lifelong passion for writing. Sherylynne is a Praise and Worship Leader at Prevailing Word Ministries, and loves to bring people closer to God through music and worship. Her ministry and purpose in life is to help people find God and experience Him and the love He has for them. She resides in Pennsylvania, where she is hard at work doing the will of God and working on her music and next novel.

 

Visit sherylynnerochester.com to contact Sherylynne and to check out some blogs that will alter your destiny.

 

Like Sherylynne’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SherylynneRochester


Chronicles of A Vixen

Experience the confessions and suspense of this Urban Christian Fiction from best-selling author Sherylynne L. Rochester. In this book, world-renowned Video Vixen and Pop Singer Tiffany “The Vixen” Johnson is spending the final days of her short, illustrious life in a hospital bed where the doctors have all but pronounced her dead. With fame and fortune and having everything she ever wanted, it doesn’t even matter now. All she wants is love and peace but they won’t allow her to have it. They are afraid she will tell her story and expose them. Now, the hands of the enemy are ready to consume her soul before she confesses all. With an attentive and God-fearing Nurse, she will not let them take her. Not if she can help it, in part one of this series. Subtly, Nurse Brenda implores her to first reveal her family life, the agenda of those in the industry, and even tries to help save her before it’s too late. Will Nurse Brenda get her to expose those in the industry that have done this to her? Or will Tiffany die without revealing and exposing what the world needs to know.

  • ISBN: 9781310787850
  • Author: Sherylynne L. Rochester
  • Published: 2016-04-26 16:35:18
  • Words: 30509
Chronicles of A Vixen Chronicles of A Vixen