A request from a stranger

A scorching September Saturday in 1997. There’s rowdy cheering and laughter of children running and hopping around outside, and metal squeaking of the playground equipment filtering into a 3rd floor apartment window of an East Harlem tower.

“You are very pretty” Babs blurted in a high pitch “…you remind me of my younger self” she sheepishly chuckled.

She forced her golden-brown hands into a prim fold on her lap with her back upright in a stiff hold to mirror her caramel toned guest.

“I’ll take that as a compliment” Ella replied with an obligated smile and nod.

She refrained from an expression of disgust – that questioned Babs’ gray tooth that the right side of her smile revealed. Instead, she openly glanced around the room. Her eyes lead her head in turns and lifts while examining her surroundings.

“How long have you lived here?” Ella asked.

shoes hanged on black pole

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“About 27 years now” Babs replied eagerly while nodding her head up and down, “Since right afta you was born.”

The conversation pauses into an ear aching silence.

The two women sit on opposing sides of the taupe walls filled with a broken in brown and black corduroy couch, square mahogany coffee table, and the two tufted Parson’s chairs that they are seated in. A nectarine toned haze spotlights a corner of the ceiling from a table lamp’s shade. The household vacuum seems to be missing in action based on the appearance of the rundown dusty carpet.

Boiling from the smothering heat, Ella uses her right-hand index finger and thumb to pinch a black coated elastic off her left wrist. After it has been removed, she lifts her hands to scoop her long Jet Black coarse curly hair into a high bun. It sits like a disheveled crown with random ringlets springing from her temples.

“The air conditioning should start cooling the room off soon,” Babs says in an adoring observation. “I always knew you was gon have a head full of long hair Ellie,” she smiles.

“It’s El-la,” Ella snaps with an exaggerated enunciation. “No one has called me that since I was a baby,” she glares back at Barb.

“I named you Ella after my mother,” Babs says tenderly. “My family called you ‘Ellie’ to tell between the two of yous.”

Ella stares emotionless at Babs.

“Baby Ellie!” Babs continues. “…that’s what your aunts, uncles and cousins would say when dey come ova to see you.”

Ella’s frown turns to a slight delighted grimace.

“…but you got a nice upbringing with your Irish father and…,” Babs pauses in deep thought. “I’m sure Valentina let you think you was a Dominican like her all these years. I couldn’t be a rich house wife like your father wanted, but I always wanted you in my life.”

Ella releases her tense shoulders with an audible outward breath.

“I’m sorry sweetie,” Babs softly responds. “I figured… you were here to learn ‘bout your past. Do you want to know where you came from? How you got dat scar on your left arm?”

She points towards Ella’s left side while holding gaze.

“My mother told me I was an active baby and didn’t sit still while she held me, and the doctor gave me my shot,” Ella explained knowingly.

“Yes, me, ya motha, took you to the doctah,” Babs corrected proudly. “Yo daddy would call me and ask ‘bout you… I told him dat story.”

Silence swarms into the room while the two women stare at each other. Their blinking  eyes are the only movement in the slowly cooling off room.

“Your father,” Babs starts to break the silence “He ain’t want no stripper raising his baby…hell…he ain’t want no black stripper to be his baby’s mama,” she chuckles.

Ella continues to listen.

“It doesn’t matter to me that you’re here to request my help for your blood transfusion,” Babs stifles on a tear. “I gave you all I got in the beginning and I’ll give you all that I have in me to make sure you continue to live your life.”

“I am…just in a world of shock. Disbelief. I thought I knew myself…and where I came from – ALREADY,” Ella chokes on a sob and holds it in. A shallow well forms under each eye.

Babs makes a quick step across the room with both hands extended towards Ella.

“I never wanted you to find out this way,” Babs says while clutching Ella in her arms.  “…but it feels so good to be holding you now”

“I thought…” Ella sobs “I thought…I just… don’t understand…to find out that the woman who raised me … she lied…she’s not my mother… I feel incomplete.”

woman standing in dim lighted room

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A Mother’s Day Tale

Daylight beams through a bay window as it frames the view of the back yard of it’s neighboring home. Near the windowsill, Doris, a middle-aged blonde sits sideways hugging her knees to her chest while scowling at the children playing.  She tucks her shoulder length hair behind her ears then re-wraps her arms around her bent legs.mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpeg

Doris’ mind deeply analyzes the sight she is reviewing.

Hmmph, that little Mia is getting darker and darker as she plays in the sun. Don’t those Johnsons know to put sunblock on THAT child?

Five year old Mia resembles singer Alicia Keys, but with light hair and gray eyes.

Doris’ head shakes disappointingly.

Tah! She’s just full of joy playing with her older black brothers and sisters like they all belong together…like they belong in this neighborhood.

 Ha! Those kids…and their fake lawyer parents…

Her lips frown as if she smells a rancid stench while her head nods side to side.

…they throw backyard parties and blasting that hip hop music.

Her expression changes to cheerful as she thinks of her offspring.

MY Bethany has gone on to Grad school with an amazing life ahead of her.

She’s come a long way, and I’m so proud of her. Why, my darling already has a promising job lined up in New York City. I’m so glad she’s made good decisions. Her life’s choices were even better with my guidance – I’m sure.

It will be a true delight when my Bethany comes home this weekend. She usually comes home  with flowers and a balloon that says “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Doris smiles while stuck in deep thought.

Last year, Mia and her siblings gave their mother, Mrs. Johnson a gold necklace to celebrate her. She’s a good mom.

…I guess.

Doris releases a huff as she disappointingly admits to Mrs. Johnson being a good parent.

Mrs Johnson was busy being so delighted with her new new jewelry…

she sent the kids over that Sunday afternoon with cookies to say “Happy Mother’s Day!”…

…It was thoughtful of them.

Her face turns to a grimace.

The kids don’t like me.

They think I’m the mean old lady next door. So, of course they didn’t want to even say “hi” to me let alone show up at my front door to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.

Doris reflects on the last Mother’s Day.

“Happy Mother’s Day Mrs. Smith!” the older kids said in unison while Mia chimed in late with their practiced announcement. The oldest boy handed me a tray of cookies, but I couldn’t stop eyeing Mia. I could feel her honey brown gaze see into my core. Time stood still as I admired her silky caramel coiled hair and her chick-let toothed smile. If only Bethany was older and settled in her life… she could’ve been a better mother to her half-breed baby, sweet Mia.

Death to Ms. VAL-entine

A white shiny casket presents a butterscotch tinted female figure while somber chapel music plays. She lays at peace while the waves of her chestnut colored hair flow past her shoulders almost endlessly. Her Husband, Troy and best friend, Olivia stand nearby observing the lifeless shell that used to be Val.

“I can’t believe this is real,” Olivia whispers to Troy.

“Me either,” he replies. “I miss her so much,” he chokes on a sob and cups his hand over his mouth.

Inaudible, Val’s agonized soul explodes like a grenade, rattling through her bombshell frame.

WHAT  the FUCK  happened HERE?! I’m not supposed to be dead right now! I’m supposed to be burying Troy right now and living happily ever after – dating boy toys and going on shopping sprees. Arrrggghhh!

I’m too gorgeous to die….and who the fuck asked for daisies! Troy knows I only prefer red roses. Hmmph his cheap ass probably tried to save money. Even in my death he’s penny-pinching. He probably ordered carnations, but Olivia made him spend the extra few dollars…Liv…hmmm, my fave mechanic turned bestie always looks out for me. As for Troy,  I …bet…he… asked one of his boys to drive us all to the burial site in his old clunker Expedition. I can’t even die as the princess I’ve always been. Wahh!

Val’s body permanently rests,  but her soul is sleepless and rationalizing.

I don’t get it. How did my plan with Olivia fail?

Val reflects on what lead her to this rigor…mortis.

“So, tomorrow night,” Val whispers on the phone “I’ll go to do my usual grocery store trip around 7:30.”

“…and I will call the house telling Troy there’s been an accident and for him to come right away,” Olivia adds in.

“Yes, but make sure to stop by as soon as it gets dark to cut the brake line on the BMW, the black car” Val instructs.

I’m sure Olivia did it correctly.

Troy and Liv, admire in a daze on the dearly departed Val.

“I miss my wife so much,” Troy whimpers.

He turns, and bends at his waist towards Olivia. She quickly reaches up towards his shoulders to embrace him.

“Do you know what happened to her?” Olivia asks in a low murmur.

“Something about her brakes in her white Mercedes gave out,” Troy whispers back with a confused frown.

“…and your car is okay. Right?” she asks.

“No problems,” He blurts in between his whimpers.

“Oh,” she replies in a sullen tone.

Olivia continues her squeeze on Troy and gazes up to the  sunlight showing through the stained glass window. It spotlights onto the casket as Olivia’s eyes glisten in a bright beam, and her  frown turns to a delightedly sly grin. Val’s demise is Olivia’s prize.

Oblivious

A  coffee-brown haired femme sits cross-legged on her navy blue Egyptian cotton dressed king bed. Her coral gel manicured fingers hold her smart phone to her right ear. Her head tilts back  on the tan colored tufted headboard behind her. She gleefully chats with her supportive mother.

“This romantic weekend away for Christmas was ALL his idea…” she says then pauses to listen to her mother’s reply.

Her eyes stare into the ceiling in a dreamy daze while listening on the call.

“YES! I can tell mom… ” she says reassuringly.  “My ring is coming. I always knew he was the one,” she sighs in relief.

The pleasant ping of another call chimes through.

“Speaking of…” cutting off her mother’s sentence.

“…he’s on the other line. Call you later mom. Love you,” she says before switching lines to answer the other call.

“Hey” his voice says in a rushed monotone.

“HI baaa…” she gleams until she she is cut off.

“How are you?,” he abruptly ends her sentence.

I’m Great!…but…uhh…Soooo…when should I be ready for our weekend away?” her excitement divulges.

“well uhm… That’s what I was calling to say…” he slowly states.

Her pink glossed smile turns to a frown.

“That may not be happening,” he spews out.

Her heart hammers through her chest to release from its agony.

“…but you promised!…especially since you didn’t even get to meet my family on Thanksgiving,” she pleas.

“I know. I know,” he says.

“I have another surprise for you though… N-New Y-Year’s,  N-New Year’s Eve is going to be great for us!” He delivers in an upbeat stutter.

“Ohhhhh,” an exhausted sigh releases from her mouth. “So, I have to wait another month to be with you?”

Her eyes squint and scan the room while searching her thoughts.

“Listen, don’t be upset. I just have a lot with work and my mom,” he insists.

“This is not a real relationship!” her voice raises. “I haven’t even met your friends or family…”

“YOU WILL!” he yells.

“You will baby…soon,” his voice lowers to calm the brewing storm.

She hears the creaking of a door squeak  open then closed in the distance behind him.

“Hi honey!…the business trip got cancelled,” a mature womanly voice announces after her entrance into the room he’s seated in.

The sound of steady high heel taps get louder as they near him.

“Hi baby!,” he replies to this mysterious figure followed by the smack of a lip to lip kiss.

“Umm…hello?,” she says confused and almost speechless by the realization.

“Oh yea, so, Rob I’ll call you later. My fiance just got home,” his cheerful voice declares before ending the call.

“Wait! What?! ROB!…are you kidding asshole?” rolls off her tongue.

The call ends before the last of her words are audible.

“I don’t believe this SHIT!” she pouts while eyeing her pre-packed silver upright suitcase.

Her legs unravel and swing to hit the floor. She digs her index finger and thumb into her mouth to take out her dental retainer and place it in the blue plastic case on her night stand. Her feet scamper across the room to grab a worn pair of jeans and pink sweatshirt on the walk-in closet floor.

“This bitch thinks she can step in and ruin my life?! ” she screams. “Who the hell does she think she is?”

She ferociously grunts while stumbling to quickly get dressed.

As she walks from the bedroom, through the hall, to the small cottage’s front door; her angry foot thumps cause the fish residing in the narrow throughway to jostle around.

“I love him. I can’t lose him,” she thinks to herself. “When the hell did he get engaged?”

Her right hand reaches forward, turns the gold knob and …her feet are glued to the cherry wood floor.

“No,” she tells herself softly. 

Wells of water form under each eye as she closes the door and pivots back to her bedroom. The droplets scorch down her face while she slowly treads back to her bedroom. Her jeans followed by her sweatshirt are removed from her slim frame in a slothful manner when she reaches her bed. They lay inside-out on the floor near where she stands. Half dressed she plops on the bed face first while her wailing is muffled by the pillows surrounding her. 

“Bing, bong bing,”Her smart phone cheerfully chimes in the back pocket of her jeans on the hardwood floor.

The simultaneous vibrating  & ring make her pause and roll her body towards the music coming from her gadget. Her right arm dangles over the side of the bed and snatches the phone from the floor. The screen reads ‘Jonathan’ while continuing to scream and shake its alert in her hand. She stares at the screen, wipes a tear, and places the phone on the nearby nightstand.

Seconds later the chiming and shaking starts again.    

“Bing, bong, bing, bing, bong…” it attempts to tempt her.

…but it rings and rings…