I sat at the table across from my mother yet another Thanksgiving. Just the two of us. The way it had been ever since my grandmother passed last year. I really wanted to call Nadia and check on her, but hearing from me may have only made matters worse. I couldn’t believe my best friend was finally home for a holiday and I wouldn’t be able to spend it with her. This day sucked like no other.
“What’s that look about?” My mother was looking at me like I was crazy. Here I was being blinded by her bright orange pants, and the big rhinestone turkey on her sweater, and she had the nerve to look at me like I’d lost it.
“Nothing.” I pushed the food around on my plate. I loved holiday food and my mother’s a really good cook, but I couldn’t enjoy it today. I couldn’t stop thinking about Nadia. About my plan to move to Atlanta with her. She’d been trying to get me to come for years, and just when I was ready to kiss this dead end town goodbye, my mother had to go and open her big mouth. I’d just lost the only real friend I’d ever had and my chance to escape this place.
“You need to eat if we gone make it to the store in time. You know Black Friday starts earlier now.”
Yipeeee Black Friday. A time to go and spend money I don’t have on things I don’t need.
“I got my plan all mapped out. When you’re done I’ll tell you so you can be ready. I don’t need you slowing me down.”
“I won’t slow you down because I’m not going.”
Her eyes looked like they were ready to pop out of the sockets. “Not going! What da’ you mean you not going?”
I hate when she asks what do I mean about obvious statements. Isn’t “I’m not going” self-explanatory?
“You have to go. I can’t pull this off without you,” she continued.
“Mama, you and Sheila are gonna have to battle it out alone this year.”
Every year, my mother and her coworker Shelia Johnson always compete to see who can get the best items during Black Friday. It’s ridiculous if you ask me.
“Ohhhhh, I know what this is about.” She leaned back in her chair. “You mad because I told Nadia, huh?”
I broke off a piece of my roll and stuck it in my mouth, all while looking at my mother,the one who ruins everything. Always had and now that I was stuck here, she always would.
“Look, I done told you that girl needed to know. Her mama and grandma should be ashamed keeping her in the dark this long. Shoot, everybody should be thanking me.”
“Thanking you? Did you really just say that?”
“I shole in the hell did. Now that it’s out, we can all start living the truth. Ain’t you tired of hiding? Tired of pretending we don’t belong? Hell, we’re just as much a Freeman as the rest of them and it’s time for everyone to know.”
“Why now? You told me years ago and said not to say a word and I didn’t. You told me it would hurt Nadia if she knew, and yet, you told her. Just tell me why you did it?”
“Because I have nothing to lose. I was quiet and I told you to stay quiet because that’s what Mama wanted. People in this town had finally started showing her some respect. For as long as I can remember, she hated to leave the house because everyone would stare at us and whisper behind our backs. Mama’s life was hell here, but she couldn’t afford to leave. My daddy couldn’t be a father in the open, but he was in private and he took good care of us. Truth is, Mama wouldn’t have left even if she could. She loved that man, even if she could only have a piece of him. She wanted that piece.”
My mom stared as if she’d gone back to those days in her mind. Sometimes I wished I could see what she saw. Maybe that would help me understand her better. She always had a need to be seen. She said things to hurt people and she didn’t care. She was nothing like my grandmother who worked overtime to be accepted by people in this community.
“Well, she’s gone now and I’m tired of living like this.” She waved her hands around. “While they’re up there in that big house that should be ours.”
My mother has officially lost her mind.
“Just because you’re his child doesn’t mean you automatically get what he left behind. You should know that better than anyone.”
“What the hell that’s supposed to mean?”
Why did she always have to play the naive role. That drives me insane!
“When Grandma died what did Aunt Kate get?”
I knew that would pinch a nerve, but it was the truth.
“What did Aunt Kate get? Hell, what does Aunt Kate need? What does she do for us? What did she do for your grandmother when she was alive? She barely made it home before she died.”
My aunt is Katherine Matthews…The Katherine Matthews, but she’s Aunt Kate to me. Aunt Kate left Bayou many years ago to pursue her acting and modeling career. She was determined to be a success and her determination paid off big time. She lived all over the world. She now called Paris home. In my mother’s eyes, Aunt Kate’s success was a constant reminder of her own failure. My mom once had dreams too, but unlike Aunt Kate, she never acted on them. Instead, she stayed behind with my grandmother, much like I’m doing now. My grandmother robbed my mother of the life she could’ve had, and my mother was robbing me of mine. Guess it’s a family curse that skipped Aunt Kate and landed on me.
The knock on the door was a welcomed distraction.
“I’ll get it.” I was up and out of the kitchen in no time.
When I opened the door and saw Nadia on the other side, my heart came alive. I had no idea why she was there, but even if it was just to argue, at least she was here.
“Can I talk to you?” Nadia stayed on the porch.
“Sure, you wanna come in?” I opened the door wider.
Nadia shook her head. “I’d rather talk out here if you don’t mind.” She peeped around me and into the house.
I opened the closet and grabbed my sweater. I joined Nadia on the front porch.
“You okay?” I stepped around to face her.
Nadia stared at me with eyes that showed no emotion at all.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, putting my hand on her shoulder.
“I probably shouldn’t be here, but you’re the only person I can talk to.”
“You can always come to me. You know that.”
Nadia took a deep breath. “Rachel’s here.”
“Oh no. Did you talk?”
Nadia sat on the first step of the porch and replied, “We did.”
I joined her on the first step, and tried to read an expression that just wouldn’t come. Nadia was good at not showing her true feelings. You never really knew how she felt unless she told you, or on those rare occasions when she’d break the wall and let it all out.
“And nothing. She came. We talked. And that’s that.”
“Okay.” I knew when to stop asking questions. Pressuring her for answers only caused her to run away.
“But that’s not why I’m here.”
I swallowed hard and waited for her to tell me why she was here. I waited to hear her say that we couldn’t be friends any longer. That now that she knew the truth, she had to side with her family. I braced myself for the impact of her words.
“Robert’s here too.” She announced.
“Robert? Here in Bayou?”
She nodded her head.
“Nadia, I promise I didn’t say a word about you being here.”
“I know you didn’t. His grandmother told him.”
“I can’t imagine that went well at all.”
She looked at me. This time I detected a hint of sadness in her eyes.
“Oh no.” I placed my hand over my chest. “Does he know why you left?”
She was silent. I hated silence.
“No, but he’s refusing to let me go. I told him why I went back to him. I almost told him everything, but he blew up as he always does when things don’t go his way.”
“When you say everything does that include…” I didn’t want to say it out loud just in case my nosey mother was lurking behind the door.
“I thought about it. I really did. Being here these last few days has shown me that secrets never stay buried long. If he finds out what I did he may follow through on his til death do us part threat.”
“So, what are you gonna do?” I asked.
“Nothing. I’m going to stay here with Grandma Hazel a while longer, then I’ll figure out where I’m going next.”
“You’re not going back to Atlanta?” I was kind of disappointed in a selfish kinda way. My best friend had a problem and I was thinking about myself.
“I can’t go back there. I need a fresh start and the only way to get it is to move.”
“He’s going to find you again you know. He’ll never stop looking for you.”
“Then I’ll keep running. Robert wants what I’m not capable of giving. I’ve run out of love and as bad as I wish I could love him the way he deserves… I just can’t.”
Stalking had never been my ideal hobby, but when it came to my wife I had no choice. Three months ago, Nadia fled in the middle of the night, leaving nothing but questions behind. I knew she was hiding something from me and I would find out what it is. Judging from the intensity on her face as she was talking with Tasha, I’m guessing whatever she’d done was pretty serious. I’d find out what it was. She knows I don’t give up until I get what I want. No matter who I have to use to get it.
Written By: L.A. Lewis
Edited By: Gina Phillips Johnson