Posted in Blog Series

Blog #8: What’s Done in the Dark

Nadia


“So that’s your plan?” I stepped closer to Robert. “Threaten to tell my family what I did all those years ago? Go ahead. Be my guest.” I swung my hand towards the front door. “But don’t forget to tell them your role.”

His eyes narrowed. “What do you mean my role? I had nothing to do with what you did.”

“I almost died that day and you knew why, yet you didn’t say a word to my family. How do you think they’re gonna feel when they know that?” I crossed my arms.

“But I saved your life, Robert said, frowning.

“Not in the version I’m telling.”

Robert shook his head slowly. “Why did you come back? After all these years, why did you come to me if you weren’t serious about us?”

“I had to right my wrong. I’m sorry I hurt you. That was never my intention.”

Robert flung his arms out and asked,”What the hell does that mean?”

“I thought I was doing what I had to do to make things right again. I made the choice to play God that day in the woods. That has haunted me all these years and the only way I knew how to fix it was…” I took a deep breath. I was finally ready to tell him everything.

“Was what?” His brows furrowed. “Making me believe you loved me, marrying me, all that was to right some wrong and I’m supposed to believe you had no idea I’d get hurt in the process? You can’t really be that stupid,” He said, clenching his jaws.

Once again, he said too much and shutting down was my go to emotion. I leaned against the wall and exercised my right to be silent.

“Oh, so you’re done?”

He knew the silent treatment well. He’d seen it often this past year. Once my plan was complete, I no longer needed to pretend I could really play the wifey type. A part of me believed I could. In the beginning of our reunion, I’d convinced myself that I was like every normal woman who desired to have the husband, the job, the children and be perfectly content. Shortly after our nuptials, I knew I’d made a huge mistake, but leaving wasn’t an option. I had to make up for the sin I’d committed. That was the only way God would forgive me and release me from whatever curse was placed on my life. I needed a normal life. I was starting to realize that maybe this was my normal. A life void of true emotions other than for my grandma and dad. A life where one man could never hold my interest longer than a couple months. Maybe I was my kind of normal and maybe I should’ve just been okay with that.

“If you think I’m just gonna let you walk out my life like I never mattered then you really don’t know me as well as you thought you did.” Robert stood within inches of my face. “You’re my wife dammit and this,” he wagged his finger between the two of us, “is til death do us part.” He quickly kissed my lips then turned around and left.

Rachel


“I’ll call you later.” I snatched my purse from the sofa and leaned down to kiss Mother before I left.

“You had to know you’d get this reaction. Nadia’s stubborn like someone else I know.” Mother looked at me with a raised brow.

“She’s past stubborn. After all this time she still blames me for what happened that night. How did all of this fall on me?” My throat tightened from the pain I’d carried all these years. “Getting rid of Wesley wasn’t my idea.” I stared at her and hoped she could feel the anger I had to conceal and endure because of her plan.

“You’re right. It wasn’t and I think it’s time we tell Nadia what really happened.”

“You do?” I couldn’t believe what she was saying. Telling the truth meant risking her freedom. I wanted a relationship with my daughter, but I didn’t want to lose my mother in the process.

“Sit.” She nodded towards the chair next to her. “There’s something I wanna tell ya. I wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving, but you need to know now.”

I did as I was told. I watched as my mother’s mouth moved and the words that came out felt like arrows aimed directly at my heart. I sat until the pain was too unbearable to take anymore. The next thing I remembered was running out the house, past Nadia, who was standing alone on the front porch, and to my car. I opened my purse and removed my emergency travel bottle of wine. I finished it as soon as I left the driveway.  I don’t remember the drive to the house, but somehow I made it.

“Hey. Where’ve you been?” My husband asked.

“I went to see Nadia.” I sat at the kitchen table and the floodgates opened. All the tears I’d held poured out.

“I knew this wasn’t a good idea.” He sat next to me.

“I don’t wanna hear it,” I said,looking up at him and wiping my eyes.

An instant scowl rested on his face. “Have you been drinking?” He grabbed my purse from my hand and looked inside. He pulled out three empty bottles.

“You promised you’d stop.” He pushed the purse back towards me. “This is your idea of taking care of yourself? Taking care of my unborn child.” He screamed holding the bottles in his hand.

“Don’t start with me today, John. I’m not in the mood.”

“You think you’re the only one going through something, Rachel? Well, guess what, you’re not. I stood right in front of my daughter at the foot of the grave of a man I killed for you,” he jabbed his finger towards me, “and for her… and I couldn’t say a word. She tried to attack me because she still thinks I killed her father. I went through all that without taking one drink.” He stood. “This baby is our second chance. We screwed things up with Nadia, but now we have an opportunity to get it right.” He motioned towards my stomach.

“We or I? I screwed things up. That’s what you mean, right? You were the hero that swooped in and saved us.”

“In my daughter’s eyes I’m the enemy,” he reminded me.

“Well, you’ll be happy to know my mother wants us to tell her the truth.”

John’s eyes widened. “What? The hell we are. We’re going to get through to her some way, but telling her or anyone else the truth is out of the question.” He shook his head. “I’m meeting with the attorney to sign the paperwork and things will be finalized with my dad’s estate. After that, we’re going back to Texas. We’ll figure this out together. The two of us.” He eyed the bottles then looked at me.

I was ready for this nightmare to be over. I didn’t want it to happen this way, but if John didn’t think of something my only choice would be honesty. I may lose my mother and my husband, but I’ll have the one person I’ve wanted all these years…my daughter….my Nadia.

Written By: L.A. Lewis

Edited By: Gina Johnson Phillips

Posted in Blog Series

Blog #7: If These Trees Could Talk

I stared at Rachel until I couldn’t stare any longer. My anger was at an all-time high.

“I’m outta here.” I’d almost made my escape before she spoke again.

“You need to hear this.” Rachel remained in her spot. Arms folded looking at me like she had some top-secret information that she was itching to share.

“I don’t know what information you have, but you can keep it.” I stepped back in the room so she could clearly hear what I had to say. “You don’t have the right to say his name. You don’t even have the right to utter the initials of his name.” I smelled the scent of her expensive perfume flowing through my nostrils.

“Then why’d you turn around?” Rachel questioned.

“To remind you to keep my father’s name off your lips. Using him to lure me back in your life won’t work.”

“First of all, I never mentioned your father’s name. Second, luring you back in my life was never my intention. Do I want a relationship with my daughter, yes…of course I do, but not like this.” She wagged her finger between the two of us. “I want you when you want to be back.”

“That’ll never happen. You had the chance to be a mother and you blew it.”

Rachel’s eyes watered. “If you only knew the truth. If you only knew the lengths I went to in order to protect you. I’m not the enemy. The man you’ve spent your life grieving over is.”

I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember lifting my arm, opening my hand, and connecting with her face, but the sting of my palm indicated that I’d done just that. I slapped my mother.

Rachel’s hand flew to her left cheek. Her wide eyes and opened mouth were aimed in my direction.

“That made you feel better? Doing what you’ve been wanting to do all these years?”

I thought it would. I’d dreamed of the day I could inflict pain on her. I wanted her to feel what I felt all those years ago, but surprisingly I didn’t feel good at all. I didn’t feel anything actually. The hurt was still there. Guess there’s no passing it on to someone else no matter how hard you try.

“I hope you do because that’s your one and only pass. The next time you strike me I will strike back.” Her red eyes showed she meant business.

“You don’t scare me. I’m not the same little girl you used to lock in the room for hours at a time and dare me to make a sound or else. She’s long gone.” I assured her.

Rachel tilted her head to the side and glared at me. “You think you know so much about what went on back then, but you don’t. You have no idea the hell I went through living in that house. Yes, I locked you in the room and dared you to make a sound because I wanted to protect you from his wrath. I knew when it was going to be one of those days and I didn’t want you to get pulled in. When Wesley had an episode, no one was safe.”

“You’re talking about him like he was some kind of animal? He was nothing like that and you know it!” I felt the tightness of my fist. I wanted to show respect, because after all she is my mother, but I couldn’t help what I was feeling on the inside. She’d pushed every button to get me riled up. This is the very reason I’ve stayed away all these years. Grandma Hazel preached over and over again how I’d cut my life short by dishonoring my parents, mainly my mother being that my dad was no longer here. Though life was rough, I still wanted to live it for as long as I could. I was doing good until this very moment.

“You were blessed to see him at his best. I shielded you from seeing the true Wesley. I risked my life for yours and the thanks I got was disrespect. I could’ve been trifling and allowed him to do the same to you. Let him use you as a punching bag when he was drunk or had lost all his money gambling.”

“If things were that bad why’d you stay? You seemed to be really happy when he was buying you clothes and jewelry and cars. Was he a monster then?” I asked waiting for her to admit that he was good to her.

“Yes he was. Those things didn’t mean nothing to me. What I wanted more than anything was out of that house. Out of his life, but I was stuck. There was no way out until…”

“Until John shot him. Is that why you refused to testify against him? You were happy he was dead. Did John kill my dad for you?” My heart raced and no amount of deep breathing would calm it down.

“You sound foolish. I don’t rejoice over someone’s death, not even someone who treated me like trash.”

I didn’t believe one word she spoke. She had plenty of time to cook up these lies to win me over, but I wasn’t as gullible as she must’ve thought.

“Was it your idea for John to go there that night? Did you set him up?” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know the answer, but I needed to know. I had to know the truth.

“What? Hell no! Why would I do something like that?”

“People go to great lengths for freedom. Listening to you just now put a whole new spin on this mystery I’ve been trying to solve all these years. I know my dad wasn’t the most liked man in Bayou, but I’d never heard anyone hate him enough to want him dead… until now.”

“You sound ridiculous.” She laughed nervously.

“Do I? For the first time since his death I think I’m finally getting the answers I needed.” I stepped within inches of her face. “I know you had something to do with this and you better believe I won’t stop until I get to the truth.”

Rachel took a deep breath. “Go ahead. Get to the bottom, but be prepared for what you discover once you get there. I’m telling you I had nothing to do with what happened that night.”

“Y’all ironed out all ya differences yet?” Grandma Hazel walked past us and sat in her recliner.

“If only it were that easy.” Rachel spoke barely above a whisper.

“Doll, someone’s at the door for ya.” Grandma Hazel announced with a smirk.

I happily made my escape from Rachel. I couldn’t stand hearing her defame my father’s name another minute. The man I knew and loved, the man I still love, was nothing like the person she’d described. My dad gave me the world, even when Rachel protested that I didn’t need anything else. He made it his business to keep a smile on my face and after his death she successfully wiped it away.

I opened the door hoping to see Tasha or Tony standing on the other side, but Grandma Haze’s pleasant look told me it wasn’t.

“Surprise!” Robert wrapped his arms around me as soon as I walked onto the porch.              “My grandmother told me you were in town so I decided to stop by and see ya.” He stepped back and licked his lips as he scanned every curve of my body.

I moved away from his embrace. “What do you want Robert?”

“Ah, baby girl. What kind of greeting is that for the man you love.” One side of his mouth lifted into a sly smile.

“I would hardly call it love.” I leaned against the wall and crossed my arms.

“Really, because I have papers that proves otherwise.” He closed the space that I’d intentionally placed between us.

“You need to go.” I pointed to his car..

“You need to grow the hell up and stop playing these childish games. How long did you think it would be before I found you?”

“I wasn’t hiding.”

“So, you changed your number and left in the middle of the night because you wanted me to find you?” He questioned. “I’ve searched for months. Wondering if you were okay. If you’d come home, but you never did. Thank God my grandmother talks a lot, otherwise I’d never known you were back here. Honestly, this was the last place I thought to look. You vowed you’d never step foot in this town again.”

“Which shows how much you really know about me. I may not like Bayou, but I love my grandmother and it’ll take more than some bad memories to keep me away from her.”

I heard a noise and looked behind me to make sure no one was listening. There was no sign of Rachel or Grandma Hazel. I needed to get Robert away from here. What I didn’t need right now was advice about my life from Grandma Hazel.

“Still haven’t told your family.” He shook his head.

“Neither have you. If you had I’m sure your grandmother would’ve been ready to share it.”

“I was allowing you to take the lead, but since I see your leading gets us nowhere, I guess it’s time for me to take over. You can join me or I can do it alone, but before I leave here your family will know the truth about what happened in the woods and everything else you’ve excluded them from.”

 

Posted in Blog Series

Blog #6: A Family Affair

       I watched as Tasha fumbled with her fingers, waiting to hear me say that I won’t hate her once she tells me whatever news she had to share.
       “Well?” Her eyes met mine. “Tell me you won’t hate me after I tell you this.”
       I stood next to Tasha. “Sit down.” I pointed to the step.
       We sat, and for a moment we were both silent. I took my friend’s hand in mine. “I could never hate you. Whatever you have to tell me can’t be that bad.” After the day I’d had, I needed it not to be that bad.
       Her eyes watered.
       It was that bad. I braced myself.
       “I’ve wanted to tell you this ever since I found out, but I couldn’t. Mom made it clear that we weren’t to say a word to anyone until the right time. I guess it’s time.” Tasha shrugged her shoulders.
       “Then tell me.” I urged her.
       “You remember a few years ago when my mom was sick a lot?” Tasha asked.
       I nodded. I remembered it well because Tasha called every day worried that she would lose her mother.
       “Well, when we were told she had breast cancer, she immediately thought the worse.    She felt like she was going to die and wanted me to know the truth about our family.”
        The screen door creaked open behind us.
        “You told her yet?” Karen questioned right before she downed whatever clear liquid she had in her glass. Most likely vodka. Her drink of choice.
        “I’m trying to tell her now.” Tasha slightly turned in Karen’s direction. She kept that position for a second before rolling her eyes and facing me again. If the situation weren’t so frustrating, I’d probably laugh at the antics between Tasha and Ms. Karen. That woman has worked Tasha’s nerves ever since I could remember and probably before that. I’d never understand why Tasha chose to stay here in Bayou and deal with Karen for the rest of her life.
        “It don’t take that damn long to tell somebody y’all cousins. Hell just say it. Nadia, ya’ll cousins. See how easy that was?” Karen turned the empty glass to her mouth. “I need a drink.” She walked back inside leaving Tasha and me sitting there in a stunned silence.     Mine was from shock and Tasha’s was probably from being pissed that once again, Karen had to take over and do things her way.
       “Cousins?” I scooted away from Tasha so I could really see her face as she explained her mother’s words.
        Tasha took a deep breath. “When she was sick and thought she was dying she..”
        “Can you skip all that and just tell me what she meant?” My level of frustration and aggravation was at an all time high. I no longer had the time or desire for this rollercoaster conversation Tasha was taking me on.
         “We’re first cousins. My mother and your mother are sisters,” Tasha explained.
         I absorbed her words and no matter how I tried, I still couldn’t get them to make sense in my head. “What do you mean they’re sisters? What are you saying my grandparents gave your mother up or something?”
         Tasha shook her head. “Not exactly.”
        “Then what exactly?” I stood up and folded my arms. I needed answers and Tasha’s meek and mild attitude wasn’t helping.
        Tasha stood too. “We have the same grandfather. Your grandfather had an affair with my grandmother and my mother and Aunt Faye were the products of that affair.”
        Immediately the name entered my mind. “The children across the street. The children across the street were your mom and aunt. The children across the street were my grandfather’s children?”
        Tasha nodded.
        Now it all made sense. Now I understood why the hate was so thick between my grandmother and the children across the street. Of course she hated them. Who wouldn’t?
        “I know this is a lot to take in.” Tasha talked and I barely listened. I was still imagining what it was like for my grandmother to walk out of her house everyday knowing the children playing in the yard right across the street belonged to her husband.
        “I have to go.” I was in my car and pulling off before Tasha could say another word.   The short drive to my grandmother’s felt like an eternity. I wanted to go to her and hug her and tell her how sorry I was for all her pain. I know I didn’t cause it, but I still felt the need to comfort her.
        “Grandma Hazel!” I called for her as soon as I walked through the door. “Grandma Hazel!” I called again when she didn’t answer. I walked in the living room where I’d left her relaxing in her chair. She was still there with her arms folded over her stomach.
        “Grandma Hazel.”
        She didn’t move. My heart stopped beating as I watched her closely. I couldn’t see her chest rise and fall. I panicked.
        “Grandma Hazel!” I shouted as I shook her forcefully.
        Her eyes popped open. “What the hell! What’s wrong with you? You trying to give me a heart attack!” Her wide eyes stared at me.
        Relief flooded my body. “I thought you were dead.” I was still trying to calm my breathing.
        “Dead? Hell I’m sleep, but I’m half dead now.” She held her hand over her chest.
        “Don’t ever do that to me again.” I leaned down and hugged her.
        “You feeling better? You rushed out of here like the house was on fire,” She asked when I finally let her go and sat on the stool next to her chair.
        “Why’d you stay?” I asked the questioned I’d wondered ever since I was able to fully process the news I’d just received.
        “I couldn’t run behind you. I’m not as fast as I used to be.” Grandma Hazel laughed.
         I shook my head. “That’s not what I mean. Why’d you stay with Grandpa Will?”
         Grandma Hazel’s eyes narrowed. I understood the look of confusion very well. “What kind of question is that? You wanna know why I stayed with my husband?”
        “I want to know why you stayed after he cheated on you. After he had children with another woman.”
        She tilted her head and her eyebrows squished together. It was apparent she never intended for me to find out. “Who told you?”
        “A better question is why didn’t you? You hated those people and now I get it. Why couldn’t you tell me that?”
        Grandma Hazel looked away. “Your Grandfather was a good man.” She looked at me.          “He was a good provider and a good father. He made his mistakes and I forgave him for it. There was nothing left to say about it.” She raised her brows and gave me a quick nod. Her nod was her period, final,no more questions to be asked or answered.
        “That’s your story and you’re sticking to it right?” A voice came from the entryway.
         I looked up and into the face of the last person in this world I wanted to see today… or ever for that matter.
         I stood. “What are you doing here?”
        “I heard you were here. I wanted to see you.” Rachel walked into the living room and sat her designer purse on the sofa. She wore a fitted dress and heels, her signature look.   Nadia could never remember a time her mother didn’t wear a dress and heels.
        “Hey Mother.” Rachel leaned down and kissed Grandma Hazel’s cheek.
        “Hey.” Grandma Hazel was unusually quiet. Intuition said she’d set this up. I should’ve known there was a reason she kept mentioning Rachel yesterday.
        “You look beautiful.” Rachel’s watery eyes scanned my body.
         She stepped closer to me.
         I stepped back.
         She looked hurt, but it didn’t matter.
         “I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation when I walked in. I’m guessing your grandmother finally told you the truth.” Rachel looked at me for answers.
         I remained silent. I had no words for her.
         “She ain’t hear nothing from me.” Grandma Hazel suddenly found her ability to speak again. “I don’t talk about it and I don’t want to hear about it.”
         Rachel laughed. “I should’ve known it didn’t come from you. No, it couldn’t have come from you because if it had you’d tell it all. Isn’t that right?” Rachel looked at       Grandma Hazel who’d become a mute once again.
         “Right Mother?” Rachel folded her arms. “You wouldn’t have your granddaughter running around here with a half truth would you?”
         Grandma Hazel stood and walked in front of Rachel. “I called you here to fix things between you and your daughter. My life is none of y’all’s concern. I don’t wanna hear about this ever again do I make myself clear?” She looked back and forth between Rachel and me.
         “Very clear.” Rachel’s narrowed eyes showed she wasn’t done, but I was… for now.
I tried to hold it in, but I couldn’t remain silent a minute longer. “I’m so sick of all the secrets in this family. I’ve been here two days and everywhere I turn there’s another secret to be discovered. Why can’t we all be honest for once? This is why I don’t come home. I always leave more confused and with more questions than before I came.”
         Grandma Hazel looked at me. “You’re right, there are more secrets to be discovered, but the only ones you should be concerned with are the ones your mother’s carrying around, not mine.” Grandma Hazel walked to the entryway then stopped. She turned back to Rachel and me. “You walked in here so anxious to share the truth. Why don’t you start by telling your daughter the truth about her father.”
        With those words, she was gone. Rachel and I were left alone, smothered by the silence that wrapped around us. More questions. More secrets. More lies. The life I had when I arrived in Bayou two days ago felt like a distant memory. Who are these people? Hell, who am I?

Written by: L.A. Lewis

Edited by: Gina Phillips Johnson

Posted in Blog Series

Blog 5: The Children Across the Street

      Grandma Hazel stared at me for what felt like eternity. I mentally prepared myself for this announcement that my grandmother was struggling to tell me.
     “Grandma, what is it?” I finally asked.
     “Doll, your mother’s pregnant.”
     “Pregnant?” My knees felt weak. Thank God there was a chair right behind me. Grandma Hazel sat next to me and placed her hand on my leg.
     “I didn’t want you to find out like this, but you needed to know before someone else decided to open their big mouth.” She looked up as if Ms. Betty could hear her.
     All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind. My mother, the woman who was responsible for setting my dad’s killer free, has gone on with her life as if nothing ever happened.
     “So much for God answering prayers,” I whispered.
     “What’s that ‘posed to mean?” Grandma Hazel leaned closer.
     I looked at the weariness in my Grandma’s eyes and I hated that I was the cause of so much of her pain. The one thing she wanted more than anything was for me to mend my relationship with Rachel.
     “Do you remember that day in court?” I lowered my head to avoid her sadness. I don’t know if she shook her head or not, so I just continued. “I remember it clearly. I sat on the front row behind the prosecutor who looked to be only a few years older than me. I couldn’t believe my dad’s fate lied in the hands of child, but I still trusted that the solid case against John, and my testimony, would lock him up for life. I just knew we had this, and then it happened. The Defense Attorney called Rachel to the stand and I was told I wouldn’t testify.” I paused for a moment as the floor became a blur through my tears.
     “Doll, you can’t keep doing this.” Grandma Hazel finally spoke.
     “I watched as Rachel stood and sashayed to the front of the courtroom. I still remember the tight black dress and red blazer she wore. I can hear the sound her six inch heels made as she strutted across the wooden floor. She demanded the attention of every man in there, including John. The man who murdered my father sat across from me with lust in his eyes for my mother.”
     Grandma Hazel rubbed her hand over my leg. “She can’t help how men look at her, Doll. Ever since she started developing guys were drooling over her. Your Grandpa Will used to have a fit when he’d catch one of em’ looking.”
     Grandma Hazel’s words flew right over me. My mind was still deeply engrossed on the day Rachel assisted in freeing my dad’s killer.
     “She stood on that stand, raised her hand, and swore to tell the truth. She swore… on the bible to tell the truth, and she lied. She looked at that judge, who looked at her as if she was some kind of rare delicacy that he was hungry to devour, she looked at him and she lied. She told him she believed what John did was an accident. An accident.” I didn’t realize I was screaming until I glanced over into the widened eyes of the couple sitting across from us.
     “Doll, you have to calm down,” Grandma Hazel whispered right before she offered them a smile and a wave.
     Reliving that day always caused my heart to race. I felt the same amount of rage twenty years later as I felt sitting there listening to my mother letting my dad’s killer off the hook. To this day, I still can’t believe it. Still didn’t want to believe that she cared so little for the man who loved her more than anything. My dad would’ve never forgiven so easily if the situation were reversed. He would’ve spent his entire life seeking justice, just as I thought we would if by chance things didn’t turn out our way, but Rachel’s testimony showed me I was all alone on this quest to seek justice.
     I stood and wiped my eyes. “I’m ready go.” I told Grandma Hazel, who wasted no time grabbing her purse and joining me. I’m sure I’d embarrassed her enough.
     We drove back to Grandma Hazel’s house in silence. I walked her inside and waited for her to settle in her recliner.
     “I’m about to take a drive. I’ll be back later.” I leaned down and kissed her cheek.
     “You going back to the grave?” Grandma Hazel removed her shoes then lifted the foot rest on the chair.
     “No, not today. I just need some time to clear my head.”
     I knew exactly where I was going, but I couldn’t tell her. I didn’t need a lecture. What I needed was a friend and there were only two people in Bayou that fit that description.  Since Tony was dealing with his own issues, that only left Tasha.
     I parked in front of her mother’s house, which happened to be her grandmother’s old house. Tasha’s mom, the oldest of five, inherited it once her grandmother passed away. This was the house that sat directly across the street from Grandma Hazel and Grandpa Will’s old house. Tasha’s mom and her mom’s siblings were the infamous, “children across the street.” The children Grandma Hazel and Rachel couldn’t stand. I’d never heard Uncle Ken say anything about them one way or the other. I assumed he held the same sentiments as his mother and little sister though.
     Tasha’s mom, , stood on the front porch with a too tight jogging suit on, and glared in my direction. Her eyes narrowed as she tried to figure out who was parked in her driveway. I stepped out and walked to the porch.
     “Hello Ms. Karen, is Tasha home?”
     She studied me a minute longer before she spoke. “Yeah, she’s inside.”
     “I’m Nadia Freeman, Tasha’s friend.” I reintroduced myself. It’s been years since we’ve seen each other, so I understand the look of confusion. In fact, I expected it.
     “Nadia Freeman.” The way she wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something foul, told me she knew exactly who I was. What I didn’t know was what I did to deserve such a greeting. In the past she was the only person who seemed to approve of our friendship. Tasha and I would hang out at her house. It was the only place we didn’t have to worry about someone running back and reporting to Grandma Hazel or Rachel that we were together. The whole town must’ve known about the rift between the two families. Everyone but us kids.
     “Is Tasha home?” I asked again, ignoring the look she was still giving me.
     “Tasha!” She slightly turned her head, and kept her eyes on me as she hollered inside the house. “You have company.”
     She refused to look away and I returned the gesture. I know Ms. Karen hadn’t seen me in a while, but you’d think she’d remember that I don’t intimidate easily, not as much as she used to fuss at Tasha and I about our attitudes.
     The door opened behind her. “Hey Nadia.” Tasha came out looking like a much younger version of her mother. She smiled as she made her way to embrace me. Something we couldn’t do at the store. What I loved most about Tasha is that I never had to say much for her to know what I needed. We were in sync that way. Years and distance didn’t have anything on our connection.
     Tasha released me and we both started to head up the steps when Karen stood at the top step, blocking our entrance. She folded her arms and smiled a wicked smile.
     “Mom, can you move?” Tasha tried to lightly move her to the side, but Karen didn’t budge..
     “You two have been friends a very long time.” Karen said, her smile still plastered on her face. “The older you get the more you start to look alike. Now I see the resemblance everyone else saw when you two were little girls.”
     “Mom.” Tasha left my side and stood next to her mother on the top step. “Go inside.” Tasha ordered.
     “Why? Because I said you two look alike?” Karen laughed. “You’re just as bad as those people.” She pointed to the empty land across the street where my grandparent’s house once sat. From what I heard, years after they purchased the land and built the house Grandma Hazel currently occupies, the little old wooden house they used to live in mysteriously burned down. No one ever figured out what happened, but arson was highly suspected. Everything in the house had been turned off so there was no way it was from a malfunction with wires or anything like that.
    “Stop it now.” Tasha narrowed her eyes.
     Karen pointed in my direction. “This is a grown woman. She’s not a baby and neither are you. Why shouldn’t she know the truth? Hell I told you a long time ago. She’s your friend isn’t she?” Karen questioned. “What? You think she wouldn’t want to be friends once she knows that the two of you are related?”
     Tasha kept her eyes fixed on her mother. I could see the fire in them from the side view I held of her. I felt her anger even through the space that separated us, but my thoughts were still locked around her mother’s words. We’re related? How?
     “If a friend can’t handle the truth, then she was never really your friend.” Karen swirled around and left us standing there alone.
     I didn’t know if I could mentally handle any more than I’d already been exposed to these past few days, but once again, curiosity wouldn’t let me leave without answers. It seemed that every turn I made in this town exposed more secrets.
     “What was that about?” I stepped closer to Tasha.
     “I’m so sorry about that.” She shook her head and rolled her eyes at the space her mom once preoccupied.
     “Save the apologies and tell me what she’s talking about? What does she mean we’re related? Related how and why is it such a big secret?”
     Tasha’s eyes watered. “I don’t agree with how she did it, but my mom’s right. It’s time for you to know the truth, but please don’t hate me.” Her voice cracked at that request.
     The thought of hating Tasha never crossed my mind, but for some reason I knew what I was about to hear was about to change our relationship forever.