Cash sleeps peacefully in his car seat in the back. I can’t avoid looking in the review mirror to watch him sleep. His mop of maroon red hair reminds me of Patrick, dear old dad. For a second, I wonder how he holds up in prison.
Arnie talks just above a whisper not to wake Cash Moneymaker up. That name, right? I’m surprised the hospital let them walk out of with an infant named CASH MONEYMAKER.
“Thanks for coming to dinner with us tonight. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen my favorite little sister-cousin.”
I hate it when he calls me that… An abhorrent reminder of our terrible family tree.
“Yeah. It was nice. It’s a bummer Jessica couldn’t join us.”
Arnie sighs as he slowly rolls to a stop at a red light. “You know why she couldn’t join us?” He questions with hand gesture air quotes. I’m not sure if he’s really asking or being rhetorical… He continues without my response. “She’s out with her girls… enjoying her youth while she’s young! She don’t cook, clean, or take care of Cash. I do all that. She never picks up her phone. She gets in late at night. If I didn’t work overtime, we wouldn’t be making ends meet because she doesn’t chip in with her check at all… Jessica couldn’t join us because she’s a ghost!”
That sounds rough.
The light turns green and he looks back at Cash through the review mirror as he drives forward.
“I was going to break up with Jessica the night she told me she was pregnant; did you know that?”
I quietly shake my head no and moan subtly, “Nah-ah.”
“You know I only married her thinking about what my mom might of wanted… did you know dad didn’t marry my mom until after I was born? Netty was the only one born in wedlock…” He chuckles. “They of course told everyone they were married when they moved in together, but they weren’t yet.” He adds.
It’s weird. Our father had children with a set of sisters… Aunt Betty got breast cancer, fought it for three years, and died right before Arnie’s 16th birthday. Arnie and Netty went to go live with dad’s mom- Grandma Patricia. Aunt Betty never kept Arnie and Netty away from Grandma Pat, but Jewel never lets me see her. Maybe if I ask, I could go see her.
“Not to change the subject,” and by not trying to I totally am trying to, “how is Grandma Pat?”
“Good. Really good. She asked about you last week, I told her all the cool things you have going on and I left out all the drama- like the baby, D, and Aunt Jewel dying.”
“I get I disappointed everyone by getting pregnant as a teen too, but ironically, they baby, D, and my mom are the three main things giving me hope.”
“You really gonna marry D? Just because he knocked you up?”
“No… I mean sort of… I mean, D and I are going to get married one day any way, but due to this, we’re moving up our timeline.”
“You should put the baby up for adoption.” He says bluntly as he turns onto the street that leads to Bobby’s house.
“Well, tonight was great up until right now! Not everyone is like you, okay? D, is not you. D and I are nothing like you and Jess. I’ve been in love with D since we first met as kids. My love for him only gets stronger over the years. I love him more now than I did before I was pregnant. You have no idea the lengths he would go for me, how much he has already sacrificed for me, and how much more he is giving up for my sake. Sometimes, I think he’s too good for me, but I’m wired to love him, and if I don’t have to live without him, I won’t. Marriage wasn’t even on my mind, but he proposed to me. He got his parents blessing, he got my mom’s okay, and our families are surprisingly behind us. Life is always going to be hard, much of it will suck, but its not so much about where you’re going in life, but who is on the bus with you, bussing it through life with you. Derek is with me. Only death will separate us.”
The minute Arnie stops in front of Bobby’s house. I get out and slam the car door. Cash wakes up crying. As much as it sucks to disturb Cash from a peaceful slumber, I get satisfaction in charging away from Arnie with the final say in my court.
“Going Once, Going Twice… Sold?”
I stand amazed. I marvel at the beautiful, jungle styled nursey at Netty’s and Deshaun’s that used to be the office, across from the room I stayed in…
“We want you and the baby to stay with us.” Deshaun says.
“For as long as you need. We want school to come first to you.” Netty adds.
“You can focus on school and motherhood…” Deshaun falls silent.
“And if motherhood proves to be too challenging, we would be willing to take custody for you.” Netty shares the true motive of the baby room. They want my baby.
I take a deep breath in. I exhale as I count backwards from ten in my head. For some reason, this sweet offer pisses me off. Why do people think I can’t handle school and motherhood? Doing homework and raising kids isn’t a challenge for me. I did that with my sisters. They came out of my mother’s womb with me as their full-time caretaker. I was seven, went I was putting bottles of baby formula together and changing Albany’s diapers. When Jewel and Bobby were busy partying all weekend, I took care of the three of us.
And as a kid, even though I missed a lot of school, I never fell behind making honor roll every year until high school, where my grade went down for a lack of attendance. One teacher accused me of cheating, saying I couldn’t pass my tests if I wasn’t in class learning the material. Well, that one teacher was wrong! Obviously. Therefore, I left and I went to Brink.
“Thank you… this is really sweet… but I have to decline your offer.”
“We’re not going to offer something like this later.” Deshaun says firmly.
“That’s okay. D and I got this.” I say, proudly holding my bulging belly.
They chime in about how were too young to get married. I laugh because Netty married Deshaun when she turned 18 and he’s five years older than her. They started courting when she was 17 and half, but they were friends since she was 11 and he was 16. He was her youth leader in middle school and in high school. Granted, they didn’t kiss until their wedding day, but he groomed her to be his wife. And they are lecturing me about getting married too young… I can’t!
My phone pings with a fresh incoming text. It’s from Kaylie. She’s here to pick me up.
“I really appreciate this offer. I feel super loved, but I don’t need to take it. I can handle D, school, and the baby. I have to go, my ride is here.”
“The Darkness Gets Exposed”
Sliding into her car like a whale balloon, I sort of forgot we had a nasty fight. Remembering the last thing I said to her makes me want to climb right out. Why is she picking me up?
“Thanks for coming…” I say.
“I’m sorry.” Kaylie says turning off her ignition and pulling out her keys. “I had no business trying to force a huge life decision on you like that… I was wrong about that dream anyhow.”
Now I’m curious. As I struggle to put my seat belt on, I ask her what the dream did mean.
“Well… I think I know what the dream was about…” Kaylie admits nervously.
“I’m sorry too.”
“I get why you said what you said though… if I’m right about the dream…”
“What do you mean?”
She proceeds to tell me about her dream. She sees a dark figure looming over me at night while I sleep. She seems me crying in Derek’s arms. I’m without clothes but he isn’t. She saw me give birth to a girl. She knows what I name the baby, but she won’t tell me.
She sees me place my baby girl in the arms of a light skin black man, he could be mixed. He has a maroon red afro, a matching goatee, and he dresses like he’s stuck in the 70s- paisley patterns and orange and yellow colors. He stood next to a woman with porcelain white skin and bright red hair. She had the most gorgeous aqua eyes. She wore clothes like she was in the 80s.
Then she sees the dark figure follow me as I age. Derek tries to help me, but I never let him. Before Kaylie saw anything else, she woke up.
“So based on that you think I give the baby to a couple that looks like my Grandpa Marion and Grandma Pat? How do you know I’m having a girl?”
“I know you’re having a girl because my dream from God said so… and yeah, I thought you were supposed to give your baby to a biracial couple, but I got it all wrong. The man is your dad, and the woman is your grandma, and after your daughter is born, you’re going to reconnect with them. But the dark figure… Kurt hurt you, didn’t he… he’s really the baby’s father, not D, isn’t he?”
I break down and cry. The burden of keeping that secret from everyone I love and care about hurts. Holding in such a filthy, dirty secret weighs on my heart. The more I cry… the lighter I feel. Like somehow, I’m letting go of all the darkness that shackles me.
Kaylie rubs my back… It’s soothing… Kaylie leans over and hugs me as she cries with me. Sometimes, it’s a relief to have someone sit with you, hold you, and grieve with you. Nothing needs to be said. No one needs to tell what to do to get past your pain. People who do that aren’t strong enough to bear the pain with you. But the person daring enough to empathize with you, and to labor in sorrow with you… that’s a true friend…
But how could she know the sex of the baby? I haven’t told anyone. Not even my sister. How could she know about the jerk? Just my mom and Derek know and neither of them would tell a soul. I’m a fool to ask when I know her answer. She’ll say that God told her through the dream…
I pat her on the back for I’m all cried out. She pulls back and sits back in her driver’s seat. We wipe our wet faces with our fingers. I rub my snot on my forearm like a little kid… not the most sanitary thing to do. Taking in a deep breath, I try to get back to normal… Finally, I ask something that really bothers me about God, “Why does God let awful things happen to good people?”
“Because He loves everyone.” She says…
We start laughing hysterically. I don’t know why, but the laughter perks up my downcast soul like a shot of a pure high straight through my whole body and mind. I seriously feel like we smoked some seriously good weed, but better! It’s like it’s a sunny, warm summer day, and I’m being hugged by everyone I love at once, while staring at the night sky. Those are my three most wonderful types of things in the world and this moment feels like all three of those things are happening right now. There’s a literal warmth coursing through my body. There is this energy, this presence all around us.
“I love you Savannah.”
“I love you Kaylie.”
Kaylie stops laughing, “I didn’t say anything.”
I stop laughing. I look at Kaylie and she looks back at me.
“I love you Savannah.” I hear softly but I don’t see Kaylie’s mouth move.
I check the backseat to see if Derek is with us, but he’s not. I want to freak out and panic, but I can’t. I have too much joy.
“A warm sunny, summer day… A starry night… Hugs from your favorite people like Genie and Albany, and Derek, and Arnie, and Cash, and Netty and me…” I hear and see Kaylie say. She adds, “God loves you very much Savannah. He has a plan for you and for your baby. The final days with your mother will be the best of times you’ve ever had with Jewel. Your father is getting out of prison soon and you’re going to get a letter in the mail from him, Netty will deliver it to you. Write him back. And don’t be afraid of the truth, expose the darkness and you will get justice. Turn Kurt in. Don’t wait any longer…”
There’s no doubt in my mind anymore. God is real.
All my life I didn’t understand
Who I was and especially the Great I Am
It didn’t matter how much everybody talked
I didn’t see what they saw that gave them their faith walk
So many times, I wanted to believe
But with all my terrible garbage I couldn’t perceive
Then something crazy happened to set me free
God audibly spoke to me
Now all I got on my mind is that God is real
He is real. He is real. He is real.
I feel like I’m falling in love all over again, but it’s stronger
I feel like I’m worth it, like life is worth living much longer
Jesus- died for me
Holy Spirit- sealed me with this revelation
Now I know G-O-D as FATHER
I don’t know much about dads because I never really had one
There’s this peace I have that somehow, I got this
God, I love you
Thank you for loving me
The poem doesn’t have a solid meter or rhyme
But it’s what’s in my heart this time (SMH-blah!)