Zaid: An Urban Tale
Copyright Danielle Yvette
Published July 20 2014
Publisher: Mills Manor Press
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher and copyright holder. You must not circulate this book in any format.
Zaid: An Urban Tale
He watched her from his car window as she stood on the porch. Pink sweat suit and baby blue bubble coat. Her hair, in brown micro braids, fell into her face as she bent down. Below her thighs stood a baby girl. Two years old, almost three. Covered in a baby pink eskimo suit. Her little brown face framed by her bubble hood.
Zaid gripped the steering wheel. She had his mother’s face.
The baby laughed as her mother fixed her baby pink mittens on her tiny hands.
Zaid stepped out and stood in front of his car. His hands buried deep in his coat pockets. His breath was cloudy as he exhaled.
The woman looked up and saw him standing below her. Their eyes met, locked. Zaid had forgotten what this felt like.
The woman’s widened eyes narrowed. The skin of her forehead wrinkled, each layer a year he was not there. She looked away.
Zaid crossed the narrow street. The woman picked up the child and descended the stairs with fury. She was met at the bottom step by him. She tried to push him out of her way but he gripped her forearms with his hands.
“Amiah,” Zaid said. His tone low and quiet.
She stared at the ground. He stared at her face. Her jaw locked. Her large brown eyes were smaller than he remembered. Her cheeks slightly sunken, her complexion grayer.
“Hi,” the baby said. Her large brown eyes stared at him curiously. Zaid did not know what to say. His skin flushed with embarrassment. He looked towards Amiah for help. Two wet streaks fell from her eyes to her chin.
“Just go!” She pushed past him and marched away from her home. Zaid grabbed her arm and jerked her back. She fell to the ground, baby in hand. The baby, on top of her, cried.
“Aw, Honey. Don’t cry.” Amiah placed her hand on the baby’s face.
Zaid put his hands under Amiah’s arms and attempted to pull her up.
“Get the hell off me!” Amiah hissed. She shook his hands away. Ashamed, Zaid stood back.
“Come on, baby. Mommy’s gonna take you to school. It will be okay.” Amiah said to her daughter.
“Miah. Please. Talk to me.”
Amiah snapped her head back towards him. “What the hell we got to talk about!” Her face filled with anger Zaid had never seen in it before. Amiah picked herself up and brushed the dirt off her daughter.
“You ain’t worth me being late for work.”
“Amiah!” A voice called from the porch. It was Miss Lottie, Amiah’s grandmother. “Talk to this boy, girl. Hear what he got to say.”
Amiah narrowed her eyes at Zaid.
“Come on, girl. Give me the baby.” Miss Lottie called.
Amiah took the baby up the stairs to her grandmother. Miss Lottie kissed the baby’s face before taking her inside. She then returned to Zaid and silently followed him to the car.
Inside, Zaid stared out the windshield. Hands gripped to the steering wheel, although parked. Amiah stared out the passenger window. She removed a rubber band from her wrist and tightened it around her long braids, as she pulled them into a bun.
“You know she doesn’t even know who you are.” Amiah said. She folded her arms and held them against her chest. Zaid looked at her. His hands became sweaty, and he loosened his grip on the steering wheel.
“Ain’t that messed up?” She said while still looking out the window. Zaid’s hands fell into his lap.
“Yeah. It is,” he said. He touched his upper lip with his hand and stared at the dashboard.
Amiah looked at him. “Her name’s Amala.”
“I remember her name.”
Amiah’s lips tightened and she glared at him. “So you read that letter I sent to you then.”
“Yeah, I read it. I read it over and over again while I was up state.”
Amiah leaned forward in her seat. “Well how come you ain’t never write back!”
Zaid looked at her. Their eyes locked again. The anger in Amiah’s weakened him.
“I wrote to you. Everyday. I just never sent them.”
Amiah chuckled. “Bull!” She shook her head and leaned back in her seat.
“I did. I really –”
“You made sure you sent your letters to her! I heard about that. How she would go up to see you every weekend. I guess she was actually worth your time then –”
“Forget that hoe. She –”
“I already did!”
Zaid sat back. Amiah’s eyes were filled with tears that would not fall.
“I already forgot her. Do you know how many nights and days I spent wondering what it was about her that would make you leave me? Was she prettier? And she was. Was she smarter? Probably. I bet that nice college education took care of that. Was she sexier? Yeah, I bet she was more experienced than me. And I’m sure she demanded less of you than I did.
“I went over these things over and over again in my mind ‘till it made me sick. And the conclusion I came to was yes. She probably was better for you than me. But I know that she could never, ever love you the way I did. Never.”
Zaid paused. He touched her face and held it. The tears finally fell.
“Sorry.” He whispered.
Amiah removed her face from his hand and sat back. “You killed me when you left.” She said as she stared at her lap. “You made a part of me die, and it ain’t never coming back.” A tear fell from her chin.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“You broke me!” She turned towards him. Her face wet, eyes red and body shaking from sobs.
“Amiah, if I could restore every part of you I would.”
Amiah’s body collapsed. Hard sobs came from her mouth.
“Miah, I love you still.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him. She held him and cried on his shoulder. Her cheek was soft and hot and wet. He bathed in her warmth. Her sobbing body comforted him like a child. He kissed her hair. He rubbed her back. His pulse coincided with the feel of her heartbeat against his chest.
He heard the sound of glass break. Then a moan in his ear. Hot liquid covered his hands. His eyes opened.
A dark figure. A pop. More glass breaking. Another moan. More blood. A scream. It came from his lips. He pulled Amiah away from him. She was drowning and could not speak.
Her face was in shock. She struggled for breath. Blood poured from her back. She twisted her tongue around in an attempt to speak, but only blood fell from her lips.
He pulled her closer to him and screamed for help. He felt her pulse slow down, before stopping.
He held the directions to the church in his hand. The funeral would begin at 10am. It was after nine. He put the paper down before opening his dresser drawer. Underneath white underwear laid a black gun. He held it in his hands. Being a snitch didn’t make you a bitch. They needed to know.
He had appeared in court as a murder witness. It wasn’t the first time he snitched. He took a plea bargain with the state, guaranteeing a reduced sentence of 16 months if he would reveal his cohorts in his drug operation. He did. The second time, he was tired of murder. Tired of death. So he stepped up. But look at what he lost.
He sat on his bed and placed the gun in his mouth. The taste of the cold, salty, metal barrow shocked him. It reminded him of the taste of Mr. Charles’s cock when he was nine. He removed the gun and gagged. He collapsed onto his bed. The stench of his vomit was comparable to the stench of the shit he cleaned from the bedpans at work. He closed his eyes and dreamed.
The ringing of the bell woke him. He looked at the clock. It was 2:22 pm. Amiah was in the ground. He grabbed his gun and placed it into his jeans before heading into the living room.
It was Miss Lottie at the door. He looked down, ashamed for not having attended the funeral. He expected to see the floor but instead he found Amala. She did not say “hi” this time. Her hair was freshly pressed and pulled into two little pigtails held with white bows. She wore a black pea coat and the white lace of her frilly dress poked beneath it. A round button was pinned to her. It was a picture of Amiah and Amala. It read, “Mommy’s little angel.” She appeared to be drowsy. Her head drooped to the side. She had his mother’s face.
They sat on the coach. Miss Lottie removed Amala’s coat. Amala laid her head in Miss Lottie’s lap. Zaid sat across from them.
“My little Amiah is gone.” Miss Lottie patted Amala’s back. Zaid shifted in his seat. She wasn’t just gone from him but gone from Miss Lottie and Amala as well.
“We sent her off good. A beautiful service for a beautiful girl.” Miss Lottie continued to pat Amala’s back. Amala fell asleep.
“Only twenty-two years old. Oh, Lord. You giveth and you taketh away!” Miss Lottie shrieked. She lifted her hand in the air and sobbed. “Jesus. Jesus. You are good. So good. We do not understand your ways or your will. We do not understand why you take some and leave others.”
Zaid disagreed. God was not good to him. If God was real then He did not care. And if everything that happened to him was His will then God was cruel.
“Zaid. I took care of that girl since she was Amala’s age. My Katie. She had a problem with those drugs. She could never get right. But the Lord saw fit that I take care of Amiah.” Miss Lottie shook her head. “It’s hard for a child to grow up without a mother. But you know that.
“I did my best with that girl. I made sure she went to school. And she was good with those books. Lawd, when she told me she was pregnant with Amala my first thought was ‘what about schooling.’ College and all that. She was too good not to go. I was so hurt.
“But she promised me she would go and she did. Baby and all. She worked during the day and went to school on the evenings. She is a hard worker. My Amiah.” Miss Lottie paused. “I did the best I could with all my children. I tried to raise them right, but they made their own choices.
“I’m too old to do it all over again. I’m 73 and I’m tired. My heart can’t handle no more children.” Miss Lottie patted Amala’s back and caressed her face. She gently removed the child from her lap and walked to the door.
“Miss Lottie.” Zaid said. She closed the door behind her and was gone.
Zaid buried his head in his arms as he leaned on the table. Miss Lottie had been gone for over an hour now. Amala had woken shortly after she left and began to cry. She had not stopped since.
“Mommy. Mommy.” Amala cried. She screamed and kicked her arms and legs. Zaid let her be. She reminded him of the way Hakeem cried when their mother died. Zaid was nine, Hakeem six. Zaid did not cry. Instead, he peed when he heard the news. He laid in bed next to his brother. He did not move for hours after Aunt Candace told them. He was too ashamed, afraid that someone would know.
Silence filled the room and Zaid felt relief. Amala would fall into a dream and for a few hours forget everything. He felt a pat on his arm. He lifted his head from the table. It was Amala. Face wet. Wide brown eyes puffy. She had Amiah’s eyes.
“I’m hungry,” she said. Zaid stared.
He picked her up and placed her into his lap. “I’m your daddy.”
Amala stared at him with her wide eyes then leaned her tiny head on his shoulder. She wrapped her arm around his neck and he felt a warm wet spot cover his shirt where her head lay. He felt her little heartbeat against his chest and hot tears slipped from his eyes.
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About the Author
Danielle Yvette is a writer of historical and contemporary literary fiction, focusing on the African American experience. She is a graduate of Temple University where she majored in English Literature. While a student, she fell in love with the classic works of Zora Neal Hurston, Nella Larsen and other writers of the Harlem Renaissance era. She currently lives in Philadelphia where she works as an educator. Connect on social media to learn more or email .