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This story should be blockbuster because of it’s social significance. Mental illness in this country has been swept under the rug way too long. Now we starting to see the effects played out on the nightly news, with the proliferation of mass shootings and the very public meltdowns of the rich and famous.

Chapter One

A little Girls Dream

Forrest City, like most sleepy southern towns, still harborsubtle reminders of an old segregated South. Blacks and whites peacefully co-exist in a now social ambiguity, in which their lives are interwoven by history, and who’s future will indelibly remain tarnished by guilt and resentment. At a chance meeting, people from opposite ends of the social spectrum, their eyes askance, slowly lift calloused hands, engage in a firm shake, accompanied by hardy greetings, prefaced with Mr. or Ms., and suffixed by first names. There is honesty in that moment, an exhibition of personal pride ensues, tall tales abound, as they mutually inflate their personal lives, disguising inner feelings, while innately harboring a significant degree of animosity and a deep mistrust.

An antebellum courthouse dominates the town square, haunted by ghost of slave families ripped apart, auctioned off like cattle. A corruptible institution, were blacks are still incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates. On it’s crest, proudly displayed is a Confederate flag flickering in the wind along side Old Glory. Narrow downtown streets lined with picture windows, boxed store fronts, hand painted signs advertising specialty wares, protected by historical designations, and old world citizen’s Counsels. Where white owned Mom and Pop stores, patronized by the pampered privileged, thrive and survive leaving a legacy for generations. In front of the court house a daily ritual ensues, an old rusty bus pulls up, a herd of orange jumpsuit clad men, mostly black, ankles shackled together, futures uncertain, hobble up the court steps and disappear in the bowels of the legal system.

Once predominately black neighborhoods, where the pavement ends, now integrated with new less fortunate of all races, bastions of illicit trade and abject poverty. The cover of darkness conceals a place where thrill seeker’s unbridled addictions and lost travelers might meet their untimely demise. A confirmation of devout segregation, hidden in a grove of trees, a colored graveyard, overgrown with weeds and leaning tombstones, emit ghostly apparitions. A timeless scenery of rutted roads, lead to a series of dangerous train tracks. A toxic cloud hangs low, spawned by an antiquated and nearly defunct industrial complex, citizens unwittingly suffer shorten life spans. Sprawling plantations on the outskirts of town, inundated with do-ragged head Negroes and Mexicans bake in sizzling heat, self-loathing, their shiny brown and black skin glisten, sweat saturated clothes cling, aching knees buckle, near broken emotionally, labor in mosquito infested fields, harvesting seasonal crops, from daylight to dusk, and just barely squeeze out a meager subsistence.

Self-imposed segregation in school cafeterias, churches, and civic organizations is the rule rather than the exception. Founder’s day parades, which blacks boycott, disparities in housing and income levels, unshaven faces of unemployed black men, mattered eyes, meandering through the streets looking for a drank, day labor, or their self-respect. Most of who, never find either. Some find Jesus or Allah, after lengthy incarcerations. Others find an empty peace, after years of personal neglect, life altering addictions and self-imposed exile, from the lives of multiple offspring. For those sins, the punishment is premature death, finally making front page news, lost, but found in water-filled, mosquito infested ditches, shallow graves, abandoned houses or cramped prison cells. Their demise mostly go unnoticed, brief goodbyes, no insurance prompts, a burial layaway plan, a blurred High school photo atop a poorly written obituary, including a laundry list of unknown brothers and sisters, carefully placed in a junk drawer, the final resting place. Siblings meet, share phone numbers, hugs and fake tears, bonded only by blood, but sharing a common resolution, no longer having to ask the question. Who is my Daddy?

It was nightfall; an unsuspected, light dusting of snow partially covered the mélange countryside. Early spring in eastern Arkansas arrived with a tiny taste of winter. Gusting winds, forced a cold blast of air past a tear in the plastic insulation covering Tamura’s bedroom window. The icy chill woke her from, what was supposed to be a quick after school nap. She blindly reached for the miniscule alarm clock and brought it close to her face. Panicked set in, she had overslept, it was already 9:30 and she hadn’t even started on her book report. Confused and disoriented, she jumped up; she walked around in circles, and then placed her ear against the bedroom door. She could not hear anyone stirring around.

Shivering, she grabbed an old patchwork quilt, which was neatly folded at the bottom of her bed. She wrapped it around her shoulders, searched for the electric space heater, because the gas tank was empty again. Her mother, short on cash, had bet on a warm spring. Surprisingly, the temperatures had plummeted near freezing every night. She opened her closet door, its contents emptied on to the cramped bedroom floor. Lucky for her, the heater sat on top of the pile of dirty clothes. She held her breath; she haphazardly stuffed the pile back into the closet. She flipped the heater on and watched until the coils turned bright red. Like an eagle’s wings, she opened up the blanket and allowed the warm air to flow inside. As the warm air thawed her, she experienced some minor discomfort, which gradually grew, like a bad toothache all over. She knew what that meant; it was time for her period. She loathed that time of the month. Its arrival not only came with excruciating pain, but also transformed her into this sad, angry, unstable and confused entity. To wart off its affects, she popped a Midol and chased it with a cup of grape Kool-aide. She sat back on the side of the bed, placed her head in both hands. Hit by sudden sharp pain, she grabbed her left side and bent over at the waist.

A barrage of negative thoughts consumed her and a deep anxiety burned inside of her. She reflected on a strange event that occurred earlier that day. She was kneeling at her locker, making preparations for dismissal. She was beaming; the principal had just announced over the loud speaker, she was one of the students selected to the Beta Club. An academic achievement she was very proud of. Her big dream was to earn a college scholarship, graduate and enjoy a long career in teaching. From her experiences, she knew she couldn’t depend on a black man to take care of her. She had seen way too many women struggling trying to raise their children alone. She had vowed to never let that happen to her.

For the first time in her life, she felt relevant, but her joy was short lived. A little autistic white boy, named Justin, crept up behind her and tapped her on the left shoulder. When she turned around, he was standing there, wrinkled white shirt, ill fitting cargo pants, face beet red, pea sized eyes sitting deep in his oversized head, and green snot seeping from his right nostril. She found this somewhat odd. He rarely interacted with anyone. Finally, after a moment of awkwardness, he reached out and gave her a big hug. Afterwards, with a weird twinkle in his eyes, he said ” Tam! Are you a real nigger?”

Those words, like a stick of dynamite, blew her out of her socks. She quickly regained her composure and just played it off and said, “Justin, you are so crazy.” She knew he wasn’t wrapped too tight. She resisted the temptation to go on the counter attack. She calmly said, “Justin, now that wasn’t very nice. What made you ask me that?” His eyes were frozen in their sockets. He showed no remorse or emotion. He wiped his nose with his forearm, shrugged his narrow shoulders and walked away.

Now, the more she thought about it, the angrier she got, but not at him, but at the fact she had to live in this proverbial black bubble. Where she would always be viewed negatively, no matter her accomplishments. She tried to resist those emotions and grab hold of her spiritual upbringing. She reminded herself, that through Christ all things were possible. The negative emotions, won out, and kept pounding her relentlessly. She felt trapped in this black box, filled with tunnels leading to nowhere. She felt restricted and disabled by her heritage. She felt she was attached to a ticking time bomb, just about ready to blow, an unwitting participate in the craziness. She thought life was so unfair and why was she so unlucky, being born black?

After a while the pain began to ease a little. She stiffly got up and walked toward the full-length mirror hanging on her closet door. She wanted to know what made people hate her so much. She was afraid to look at first. She closed her eyes opened them quickly and shyly took a peek. What she saw was this beautiful young back girl, long jet-black hair, high cheekbones and light blue eyes. Most of her features were white, except for large lips, big round nose and ghetto booty. She thought, maybe that was it, in a black and white world, she was neither. Once she asked her mother why she was so much lighter than Yvette. She pulled out a tattered and yellowing scrape book. She explained it was a recessive gene, as she pointed to a fuzzy family photo taken after the Civil War. She was very proud of it and called a family heirloom. She would often boast,” We have a lot of French white folks and Quapaw Indian in our linage.” As if, that was a ticket out of oppression, she still felt unloved. She just accepted those revelations as the truth. Right now, she felt something was missing, like someone had removed one of kidneys while she slept.

Since she was four years old, she’d kept an 8×10-framed picture of her father in his Army uniform, sitting on her dresser. She kissed every night before she crawled under the covers. It once made her feel safe and secure. She longed for his physical presence. She often had long talks with him. Asking him, when he was coming to see her. She believed the picture had magical powers. If talked to it, she would conjure him up. More than anything in the world, she wanted them to be a family again. The magic must have worn of. All of a sudden he just stopped calling and coming by to see her that tore her heart out. Now, time had passed and her hopes and prayers had gone unanswered. In her heart, she placed him in the category with other worthless black men; she had heard her female relatives complain so much about. Her anger boiled over and she screamed, ” I hate you!” She threw the picture in the bottom drawer, and the frame shattered. She kicked the drawer shut and it broke apart. Her hurt immediately went numb, her heart cried, but she couldn’t produce tears. She hoped her actions would put an end to her torment. As far as she was concerned, he was dead and gone. She didn’t want him in her life anymore, just one less complication. Anyway, she didn’t look anything like him. She thought. He is probably not my real Daddy anyway, she thought. He was midnight black and she was damn near white. She recalled a scene, at a family reunion, she over heard one of her Aunts talking loud, drunk on white liquor, saying she believed her father was Pappy Lee, nearly 70 by then. He was the owner the cotton plantation, the family slaved and share cropped on for over a Century. Rumor had it; he had raped her mother when she was 15. She got pregnant and carried her, when she married the man, she always knew as Dad. She wondered if there was any truth to that. She was so young at the time and chose not to believe it. She thought, maybe one day she would get up the courage to ask her mother about the family secret.

Now, she had a secret, she hadn’t finished her book report. Her mother would raise holy hell if she got wind of it. She put a towel at the bottom of the door, and then pulled out an old lantern, that ran on eight D batteries. Her Papa had given it to her, after their lights were shut off for a spell. She tied a pair of stockings around the handle and hung it on her bedpost. It would adequate light once she turned out the lights. She resumed her reading The Dairy of Anne Frank. Initially she enjoyed the book, but the more she read it, the more depressed she became. It was unbelievable, how Hitler had dehumanized his Jewish citizens, shipped them off to concentration camps, starved, gassed and stacked their dead bodies in mass graves. She had no idea humans could be so evil. Now, she had to somehow detach herself from her emotions and get the report finished. As usual, she had procrastinated, now the clock was ticking and she had run out of options. Submitting the report late would jeopardize her A average.

She heard heavy footsteps walk over the squeaky floor. She quickly put the book under pillow. There was a heavy-handed knock at the door.

Modina said, “Tam, what are you doing in there?”

” I just woke up.”

” Why you go to bed so early? You get that book report done?”

” I have been cramping real bad. Yes em. It’s all done.”

” Good, What you take?”

” Midol.”

” Good. That always worked for me. A hot shower can help also. Well goodnight. I’m headed to bed myself. You need to make sure you turn them lights off. The bill is so high. I can’t hardly pay it, as it is.”

” Okay, goodnight Mama.”

” Goodnight, baby.”

She flicked on the lantern, cut off the lights and pulled the book from under her pillow and continued to read. Her reading made her circumspect, she imagined she was trapped behind a wall, living in fear of being discovered. She had developed an emotional kinship with Anne, their conditions were similar, but for her, more so, her hideaway was in a deep dark recess of her mind. Where she got lost in a maze, hiding behind many compartments, dodging demons that sought to possess and dominate her. Each having it’s own personality and unique way of emerging, taken host of her body, speaking and acting on her behalf.

By now, her droopy red eyes labored across the blurring pages. Tired and overwhelmed, she decided to scan the remaining chapters; hoping she could glean enough information to complete her assignment. Frustrated and slowly loosing consciousness, she skipped over to the last chapter. After she read the final passage, her eyes began to tear up. She was devastated, when she discovered Anne died in a concentration camp, at age 15, along with most of her family members. She felt like she had lost a close friend, someone with whom she shared a commonality. She wondered if her demons, at some point discover her and like Anne, she would meet the same faith? A cup of tears poured down her cheeks and soaked the page. She combated a jaw-breaking yawn, by now so drowsy, she used her elbows to prop her head up. Finally she gave in, closed the book, hugged her pillow and drifted off into a shallow sleep. Immediately, her inter voice taunted and berated her for not getting her report done earlier. The fear of missing her deadline sprung her into action. She jumped up from the bed and looked at the clock. She was shocked it was already 11.00 p.m. She thought I got to get this done tonight. The teacher had warned us, late papers would down graded one letter grade. She walked over to her mother’s bedroom door, there was no light bleeding out from under her door. She thought. Great she is sleep, maybe now I will be able to get something done. She pulled the old Smith Corona typewriter out of the closet. She tiptoed back to her room and painstakingly began typing, using one finger at a time. After what seemed liked several hours, willing her eyes to stay open, she finally completed the report. Pressure oozed from her body. She held it up like a trophy, proud of her accomplishment. She placed the report in her book bag, said her prayers, and climbed into the bed, so exhausted she quickly drifted off into a deep sleep.

A series of strange and cryptic dreams soon followed. Tamura found herself walking down a desolate path, made of brick, lined with a grove of Cucumber trees, a light westerly wind prevailed, street lights flickered through the leaves and projected a vibrant shadow puppet show upon the ground. Like a little child, off on a fantasy adventure, she stopped, in amazement and played a little game. How many animal shapes could she recognize? She saw: a donkey, birds, rabbits and a lion. Her ears perked up to the sound of running water. To her left was a fast moving river. It was much smaller than the Mississippi. A patchwork fog lifted off its surface and on its banks grew a single pink dandelion. Nearby, gold fish as large as catfish leaped high in the air and snared large red fire flies and dove deep into the dirty river bottom with their snack.

She walked over to the edge of the river, knelled down and picked the dandelion. She playfully began to pluck several of it’s petals, as she said, “He loves me, He loves me not.” The remaining petals blew haphazardly into the wind and floated onto the river’s surface. She stood up and walked closer to the muddy bank to watch the rapids catapult the petals down river, until they disappeared around the river’s bend. At that moment she caught a glimpse of her reflection and was surprised by her nudity. The earth began to tremor, causing her to loose her footing; she fell to the ground hard and caught on to some undergrowth, which prevented her from sliding into the river. She regained her balance and alertly scanned the landscape, until she came eye to eye with a Great Mastodon, standing on a block of ice and grazing on a small patch of grass. It released a deafening roar and slowly turned and moved in her direction, engaging her an intimidating glare. It shifted its hairy, clumsy body toward the water’s edge; but had second thoughts about negotiating the raging waters. It slung its elephant like snout high in the air and discharged another deafening roar. This time, the earth cracked, shaking leaves off trees and causing twilight to fall prematurely. For a moment, she stood, feet nailed to the ground, petrified. Finally, she gained her courage, covered herself with both arms and ran down the slippery path, making a beeline, off in the direction of a bright yellow light emanating from a distant valley.

Darkness soon encapsulated her exodus, as she scampered down the path at a break neck speed, at times loosing her balance, her bare feet struggled to cling to the slippery bricks. Heat from an assailant’s snout burned the back of her neck. She picked up her pace faster and faster, keeping her eyes trained on the distant light. An incandescent moon, acting as her beacon, rose of from a murky swamp, lighting her path. As it sank in the west, it separated her from her shadow. It was foot race between the two, which she attempted to out run. Soon, up ahead, she beheld a new moon, much smaller, resting on the ground. Encased in the moon was an antediluvian movie theater; perched on top was a large, blindingly bright billboard marquee. A dazzling array of colorful lights rotated around it. Flashing. “Now Showing” Gone with the Wind”. This gave her a minor sense of security. There would be other people there. They would protect her, she thought. She got so excited. She loved old movies. The smell of popcorn and cotton candy permeated the air. Now, miraculously she was fully clothed. Mesmerized by the flashing lights, she walked up to the front of the booth. At first glance, it looked abandoned. Magically, carnival music began playing, a revolving door swung around. Seated was an oriental lady, dressed in a pink paper kimono with long, curled, multicolored finger nails, holding a huge roll of tickets in one and a dagger in the other. With out moving her lips, She asked, “How many, you buy?” Tamura held up a single finger in the air.

The woman said, “Three quarters please!”

Tamura dug into her tight jean pocket and fished out a single dollar bill. The lady, expressionless, except for grand smile, slid a ticket and a quarter through the square opening beneath the glass window. Again she noticed, her lips did not move when she spoke, the voice sounded like was coming from behind the red velvet curtain and that fascinated her. The women’s face was pancake white and her green eyes were cold and distant. She pointed with her dagger. “Enjoy the movie, take the double doors to your right.” she said.

Tamura nodded her head and joyfully skipped over to the double doors. Once there, she got confused. The door on right said “Whites Only” and on the one on the left said “Coloreds Only”. She did not understand what that meant. She paused for a moment, she wanted to make the right decision; She reached for the door on the right, bells and whistles went off. She heard Yvette screaming in the background, “Tam! Tam! Don’t go in there. It’s a trick. You need to wake up!” At that very moment, the theater disintegrated into a pile of sawdust.

She woke up in a daze, and then she rubbed her eyes. Yvette’s face now came into focus. She stood over her, hands on her hips, stone faced, trying to dislodge her head from her neck, screaming, “Wake up! I’m going to tell Mama. You gonna miss the bus! I have been trying to wake you up for the last hour. Now, the bus is here! I guess you are walking!” With a sneer on her face, Yvette abruptly turned around and walked out of the room.

Tamura sat up; regrettably hung her head low, sucked her thumb, and tugged at strands of her hair. She ran over to the bedroom window; fear engulfed her, as she watched her sister mount the bright yellow school bus, filled with screaming kids. She watched until it slowly pulled away. Searching for a solution, she ran several scenarios through her mind. Should she call her Mama at work and pretend to be sick? No, that wouldn’t work; surely her sister would eventually sell her out. She weighted several other options for a while, before deciding to get dress, walk to school, and just ask for forgiveness. She took a quick shower, brushed her teeth, and put on tight matching short set. She checked her book-bag, proudly pulling out her book report, pointing her finger at it, she said, “This your fault!” She crammed it back into her book-bag, ran in the kitchen, grabbed the sack lunch her mother made, and tore out the front door in a steady jog. She estimated it would take about 35 minutes to get to school. She was in such a hurry; she forgot to lock the front door. She made a U-turn, secured the house, stuck the key in her pocket and regained her momentum. She was in a race against time; she began taking extra longer strides, then burst into a jog, but got winded and went back to long strides. She knew by noon everybody in Forrest City was going know that she had walked to school. She thought. You can’t keep any secrets very long in a small town.

By the time she arrived at the first stop sign, she heard loud music and a growling muffler, fast approaching her from behind. She was nervous until; she looked back over her shoulder and was relieved it was a car she recognized. It a neighborhood wannabe thug, she knew only as “Mook.” He slowly nudged up beside her in his gold, freshly detailed car, rims sparkling, stereo bumping, and dual exhaust idling, emitting plumes of black smoke. She decided she would just ignore him. She kept her head and eyes straight ahead and she picked up her pace. Her plan was to politely wave and speak, and keep on going. Her mother told her he was trouble.

He came to a screeching halt, reached over and rolled down the car window on the passenger side. He was sporting a dingy a wife-beater, exposing a hairy chest and his massive arms. He placed the car in park, stuck his neatly braided head partially out the window, and flashed a sneaky looking gold tooth grin. He put her in the mind of Chris Rock. He yelled out, “Tam, Is that you. What you doing girl? Ain’t you supposed to be in school?”

“Um, Yes, I headed that way right now. I over slept, missed the bus and I decided to walk.”

He smacked the bucket seat. ” I’m headed that way. I can take you. I know you don’t want to be late.” He said, grinning from ear to ear.

Tamura, kind of trusted him, she was knew his sister. But her mama always told her not to get into cars with people you don’t know that well.

“I’d better not. How is Kesha doing?”

“She’s good!” He slapped the seat again, “Come on girl. I was headed up that way anyway. I don’t bite.” She kept walking and watching him out of the corner of her eye.

Tamura thought, well he’s not a total stranger and I know his sister. She was scared and tired. She had never walked to school before and wasn’t quite sure how long it would it would take. She knew if she were late, there would be a heavy price to pay. She found her self in a catch 22. She could not think straight, looking to save her skin and against her better judgment, she said, “Okay!” He opened the door and she jumped in, and immediately began to regret her actions. The car smelled like incense and she spotted some half smoked roaches in the ashtray. This made her a little nervous. She thought, what if they got stopped and the police find drugs in the car. There goes your college degree and career, that’s if she survived her mother’s beating.

“Hold on girl, we are going for a little ride, as he popped the clutch, the tires squealed, digging into the pavement, spewing a long trail of black smoke out the back end. Tamura braced herself, when her head jerked forward. He tightened his fist around the black gearshift knob, carving a spider web of veins into his biceps. In between shifts, he’d snap his shiny grill in her direction, licking his lips like a viper seeking prey, and violated her with a long lustful gaze. She turned her head in disgust and stared out at the blurred scenery rushing past her window.

” What’s wrong Tam” You ain’t scared is you. He let out a demonic laugh, “Ha! Ha! They call this the box, as he continued to methodically shifted gears, hoping to impress her with his knowledge of the racing technique. Full of himself, he started to brag,” This here is a 1967 Pontiac GTO, a classic! They don’t make these no mo. You won’t see too many black dudes driving this. A white man offered me a lot of money for it one time. I said, “Naw.” Now, he kept his eyes on the road and talked out the side of his mouth, “I’m gonna to hold on to this puppy, it’s a classic. Its gonna bring me a pretty penny one day, that is, if I decide to sell it. My daddy left it to me. The first time he ever gave me anything. He got kilt during crap game up in Helena. Some nigger said he cheated him out of a dollar. Can you believe that shit?” He angrily gripped the gear stick, burned rubber, as he shifted through the box again. He flicked his blood red eyes back and forth, from the road to her. Petrified, she sat with her eyes straight ahead and watched his muscular body movement out the corner of her eye.

Tamura managed to squeeze out,” I’m sorry to hear about that.”

“Look at you!” he hollered. “All grown up now and shit”. Alarmed and embarrassed, she turned her head, stared out the window; then nervously reached up and twisted a large strand of hair around her index finger. All she could think about was getting to school on time and avoiding her Mama’s temper tantrum. Her stomach started to growl. What a stupid mistake this was, she thought. She kind of figured this clown might be up to something and now she was at his mercy. On the other hand, she mused, he is kind of handsome, but way too old for her. For brief moment, she imagined that he was her boyfriend, riding her around town and wondered if he really thought she was pretty. She always heard that from dirty old men. It sounded different coming from a younger guy. She was a little smitten by it.

Mook was the type of guy that didn’t cotton to any form of rejection. He was narcissistic jerk. He continued to playfully shift gears and flash his gold tooth smile in her direction. He said, “I remember you when you was just a tadpole. I always liked you, but that sister of yours got a mouth on her. Yo mama acts like she hates my guts.” He reached in the ashtray and lit up one of the roaches, inhaled deeply, then snorted smoke through his nostril, choked, coughed and tried to hand it to her. She waived it off and politely refused. She began to worry, she knew better than to get it this man’s car. What if the police pull us over and she gets locked up, fear rose up into her esophagus. She started to get sick to her stomach. She debated whether she should ask him to stop and let her out, but she didn’t know how to say it and didn’t want to be viewed as a silly little girl.

” I see you still got them old pretty eyes. You know they are pretty. I’m sure you have heard that before. Right? You got some pretty ass legs too. “He began to moan and roll his eyes around in his head and finally said, “Damn! I forgot! I have to see my Probation Officer today… got into a little trouble. Me and some other dudes, they say we broke into old lady Ginny Maes’s house and took some jewelry and a VCR. I tried to tell them pigs they had the wrong Nigga. I guess they didn’t believe me. Anyway, I got some probation off it. I need to stop by my Auntie house for a minute, she left me some money to pay my probation, keep my ass out of jail.”

She nervously said, “Is there anyway you could drop me off at school first?”

” Naw that would be out of the way. We go right by there, it will only take me a few minutes for me to run in there and get the cheese my Auntie left for me. These probation people ain’t no joke. They will lock your black ass up if you don’t pay them.” He suddenly made a sharp right turn pulled down a bumpy dirt road and the car started to fishtail. Tamura held on for dear life. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you there on time,” he boasted.

He stopped in front of a rusty run down metal trailer, windows broken out, and weeds knee high in the front yard, gnats swarming a round. Sitting in the dirt driveway, on concrete blocks was an old stripped down car, with the hood missing. He said, “I’ll be right back!” as he jumped out, leaving the car running. Tamura’s’ head was on a swivel, near panic, she looked around, trying to get her bearings, just in case she had to make a quick escape. Her mind began to play tricks on her. She feared that at any moment, a group of masked rapist, guns drawn would jump out of the woods and take her captive. She didn’t want to end up on a milk carton like one of her classmates. Just when she was about to get out and run back to the main road, when Mook ran out the front door, holding his pants up with one hand and scarping down a sandwich with other.

He yelled, “Hey Tam, you hungry? She got some food and shit in here, left over from a cookout. Come on and get you something to eat. It’s free; we can go as soon as I find the money she left me. I’m trying to get her on the phone now.”

” I don’t know. I really need to get going.” I guess I am a little hungry. ”

“Come on in and get you something, it’s free. We got time.” as he looked his gold watch. “Cut the car off for me and grab the keys for me. I’m just about to run out of gas. Just turn it to the left and pull it straight out.”

She shut the car off, struggled a bit getting the key out, finally succeeded, grabbed the keys and followed him. Once inside, she was shocked, the place looked like a flophouse. It had a strange smell, dirty dishes piled up in the sink, empty beer cans and liquor bottles on the coffee table. It made her skin crawl. He was busy looking in the refrigerator, pulling out plastic containers covered with aluminum foil. She looked at him and thought he was cute, but he was so much older than her. It was so nice of him to think about her. It made her feel special. The thought allowed her to let her guard down. For the first time in her life, she felt another person cared about her.

“Go on, get you want ever you want. They got sodas over there in the cooler. ”

She made herself a ham sandwich and grabbed a cold coke out of the cooler. She sat down on the couch and devoured the sandwich in three bites. He said, “Wow, girl you were hungry. Go ahead and make you another one.”

“No I’m good. ” She started to feel herself getting sleepy. “Don’t you think we need to get going? I don’t want to be late for school.”

“I need to find some paper work for my PO, then we can head out.” He said, as he walked through the looking through drawers and shuffling through piles of mail. Mook was up to no good. He though, I know I had some condoms somewhere around here. That old girl is looking sexy as hell. She was having carnal thoughts as well, but none that she would allow herself to act out, but she could not keep her eyes off his body. She got a little tingly inside. She wouldn’t tell him, but she always had a little crush on him, but his sister knows. She sat down on the couch, patiently thumbed though Jet and Ebony magazines. He snuck up behind and started massaging her shoulders, she jerked forward. ” What are you doing? You find your paper work? I really need to go, please.”

“What? Just giving you a little massage that’s all. You look tense and shit”, he said as he continued to rub her shoulders.

“I really need to get school, the sandwich was great. Thank you so much”, she said feeling a little ashamed, his touch caused her panties to get moist. She knew what that meant; she had discovered masturbation over a year ago. She had been doing it on a regular basis ever since, but she was still a virgin. She allowed him to continue the massage. He reached around and grabbed the large nipple on her right breast. He began kneading them. She was becoming aroused and did not resist.

” Mooky, this is not right. Don’t you have a baby by that girl Eva? She is still your girlfriend right?”

” Naw, we ain’t talking no more. She ain’t got nothing on you.”

She thought that was a wonderful thing to say. In a daze, she felt all grown up. She found herself caught up in the moment. All the attention was new to her. She felt wanted and needed. He slid a hand down between her legs. She reach down and removed his hand.

“No!” she said, not sure if she meant it.

“Come on girl, I just want play with it.” he said getting aroused.

She could feel his hardness, with that her breathing elevated. He managed to get a finger upside her. He began moving it in and out at a rapid pace, until she screeched with pleasure. She said, “You know you are wrong for this. I’d better go.”

She immediately pulled his hands away. Overcome with passion, he jumped on top of her pinning her down to the couch. To her surprise he was already naked from the waist down. She tried to push him up, but he was too strong.

“Lay still girl.” he panted in her ear.

” No, I’m a virgin!” she screamed as he tore her panties from her body, forced himself inside her, pumped like a wild animal, hurting her terribly, in a matter of minutes, he exploded. She crying and struggling to push him up off of her, finally he met no resistance. They both set up on the couch. He kept his head down, realizing the magnitude of what he had just done, he was remorseful.

“Tam, I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. Please say, you are not going to tell anyone. They will put me in jail.” He sadly said, with his head hanging low and wringing his hands.

She stuck her thumb in her mouth and sobbed. She reached up and pulled on a strand of her hair and looked down at the floor. She screamed, “How could you do this to me. I trusted you. You sister is my friend! I can’t believe this. Where is the bathroom? He got up and pointed to a tiny room down the hallway. Blood was streaming down her thighs. She ran into the stinky bathroom, and she immediately threw up. She used a half a role of toilet paper to clean herself up. She felt dirty and abused. This was his plan all along, she thought.

Visibly shaken, racked by pain, she wobbled out of the bathroom.

” I need to get to school, looks like I’m going to be late after all.”

He began pleading with her, “Tam! Please, tell me you are not going tell anyone. I’m already on probation. They will lock my black ass up and throw away the key. ”

She screamed at him, “You think I’d be crazy enough to tell people you raped me. If my mama found out I got in the car with you, she’d kill us both. I need to go. Please just drop me off at my school.”

They drive to the school was in total silence. He kept flashing his eyes back and forth at her. Finally he broke the silence. ” Tam, you alright? Come on girl say something.” She sat there, sucking her thumb and staring out the window. When he stopped in front of the school, without saying a word, or looking back, she jumped out and ran toward the entrance. Mook hollered out the window. ” Tam, let me talk to you a minute.” She did not turn around. He said to himself, I done fucked up now and sped off burning rubber.

After the incident with Mooky, Tamura emotional frame began to unravel. She could not get it off her mind. She felt like such a fool. She knew better that to get in the car with him in the first. Now, she could be pregnant and worse have some type of STD. All the bad things that had happened to her began to collide in her mind. She wished she could just find a hole and climb in. She knew that he’d probably brag about it and it would be all over Forrest City.

Modina noticed distinct mood patterns, which lasted for days and weeks. At times she was extremely happy, talkative and outgoing. Then, for no apparent reason, she would flip a switch to a darker side. During these depressive episodes she’d mope around, stay in her bedroom, sleep, read, not talking very much to anyone. Her speech was slowed and her thoughts seemed disjointed. She considered getting her a mental evaluation, but her insurance didn’t cover it. Adding it would cost more money. She could barely afford the premiums they took out of her check as it was. Also, she was concerned she might be picked on.

At wits end, she decided to confide in one of her relatives. Her Aunt Ruth was a retired teacher’s aid and the family know it all. She had volumes of useful information; you just had to listen to her banter for a while. She finally worked up the courage to call and minutes into conversation, she regretted making the call. She went on and on about, who’s dead, who’s dying, and her multiple ailments and everybody else’s for that matter. She couldn’t get a word in edgewise. What struck her as funny, she said this white evangelist had cured her cancer, by having her pray, touch the TV and put a $100 dollars in the mail. That convinced her that the old lady had gotten senile. Finally she got a break, when she got choked on something and began to cough.

She said, “Auntie are you all right?”

“Yeh, this neck bone got stuck in my windpipe. But I’m okay. She continued to cough. ‘Wait a minute let me get a drink of water.” You could hear her gulp the water down. “Well that worked. Excuse me. How them kids of yearns doing?”

“Well, that was one of the reasons, I called. Yvette is doing well, but Tam is another story. There has been some stuff going with her here lately. I mean she is doing great in school, keeping an A average, but her behavior seems a bit odd at times. I was hoping you could give me some advice, since you worked in the school system.”

“Awh, it probably ain’t nothing. All these little black kids I see is messed up, because they Daddies were no count. Most of these black men ain’t about shit. That’s the problem right there. Thay is lacking in so many ways.”

“I was thinking it was something that I was doing wrong.”

“Hell Mo, don’t you go blaming yourself. You done did the best you could do. She just Crazy, that’s all. It runs in the family. Overtime, they has been four members of our family that have committed suicide. I thank that boy; theys daddy’s peoples had it real bad too. Black folk don’t go to no doctor about no mental problems. They jist drank they self to death. You can try to take her to the doctor. But them white folks don’t give a shit about no black person being crazy. They will just give you some pill that will make her crazier. Take my advice and don’t worry about it. She will probably grow out of it.”

Modina felt like she just took a double-barreled shotgun blast to the head. Now she felt sick to her stomach. Her vision got blurry, as she teared up. She couldn’t believe this woman just called her child crazy. She decided she’d better get off the phone before lost her temper. ” Thank you Auntie. I guess I will have to figure out something to do. I have to get off of here and finish up dinner. I got little bit of laundry to do before I lay down. We will talk again soon.”

“Okay baby girl. Your brother Eddie’s old drunk ass is knocking on my door. I done told him. I don’t have no money for him to drank up. Let me see what he wants. You take care hon.”

“Okay Auntie, talk to you later.” Her head was throbbing. The words crazy just kept replaying in her head. She fought through it and finished up dinner and after taking a couple of Tylenol PMs, the she retired early. She woke up at 3:00 am and her throat was dry and scratchy. She stumbled into the dark kitchen and drank a full glass of water. On the way back, she noticed Tam’s light was still on. She thought, I told that girl about them lights. Running my light bill up. She pushed the door open and stuck her head inside and yelled.

“Tam! What did I tell you about these lights? There was no response. “Tam! You in there? She pulled the covers back and the bed was empty. She went through out the house, checked the bathrooms, and called out her name several times, still no response. She pushed Yvette’s bedroom door open.

“Yvette, you seen Tam? ”

She sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. ” No, did you check the bathroom?”

“Lord God girl, I done checked all over this house. What if something done happened to her? People will break in your house and kidnap you these days. I’m going back through the house and check again.” Yvette jumped up and grabbed a hold of her nightgown. They cautiously crept around the dark house calling her name and flicking on light switches as they went. Once they got to the kitchen, Modina felt a chilly breeze coming from somewhere and noticed the back door was slightly ajar. She ran over to the kitchen drawer and pulled out her largest butcher knife. By now, Yvette was nearly perched on her shoulders. Poised for combat, they slowly crept toward the door. Modina with some trepidation, switched on the back porch light, reached out and grabbed the doorknob. Using the door as shield, she opened it wide enough to peek out; suspense was building as two pairs of paranoid eyes scanned the back yard and called out for Tam.

She yelled out, Tam are you out there? Modina spotted some movement near the wood shed. She said, “Yvette do you see something moving over there?” In the dark, Tamura was squatting beside the shed peeing.

“I can’t see anything Mama.”

“It’s moving this way. Stand back. In case I have to use this knife. Who is that out there? I have a weapon and the police is on the way.”

Suddenly, Tam emerged out of the shadows and into the light. When she stepped up on the porch. They were shocked. She was completely nude.

Modina said, “Girl what on God’s green earth are you doing out there like that? Do you know you can catch a death of cold? We have been worried to death about you. What is going on with you? Are you on some type of drug or something? This is damn crazy.”

She walked through back door in a zombie like state. Her eyes were frozen and her face emotionless, she shrugged her shoulders. ” I don’t know Mama, Crazy I guess.” She did not break stride, she proceeded to her bedroom, closed the door and the lights went out. Modina and Yvette stood there and looked at each other in utter amazement.

Since her hours were cut, Modina was spending more time at home. The devil was taking full advantage of her idle time. She tried to keep busy and think so much about her problems. She was getting a chance to get rid of some junk and catch up on her stories. After her favorite show “Days of our Lives” went off, a news segment about kids and Drugs peaked her interest. There was something not quite right with Tamura, but she could not put her finger on it. It really got her to thinking and worrying. Especially after the late night walk in her birthday suit. She wondered if drugs could be playing a part in it. When she was in school, the biggest problem was smoking in the bathrooms. Occasionally someone would come in drunk on alcohol they stole from their parents, but times had changed. She had heard rumors white kids with money and access to all types of drugs and were flooding the schools with it. She had talked with her kids about sex and drugs, but peer pressure could sometimes be overwhelming. The show suggested checking personal space for drugs or paraphernalia. It was better to be safe than sorry. One of her friends, a custodian, told her there were a lot of drugs at the school and how they caught a seventh grader selling drugs in the bathroom. That thought helped her to make her mind up.

She hated spying on her children, but anything was possible these days. She figured she’d better go and get it out of the way. She crept into Tamura’s bedroom, pulled back the bedspread and removed the sheets. Then she leaned the mattress against the wall and found nothing but crumbs and an old “Right On” magazine. To cover her tracks she carefully remade the bed. She was still a little conflicted about spying on her child, but a voice in her head kept urging her to keep looking. She thought, What if she is hooked on some dangerous drug and end up dead. One of her co-worker’s children was found dead in an abandon car. They found out he had been sniffing glue. She never had a clue he was doing drugs.

Those thoughts intensified her search. She began to tear the place apart; she pulled out the top dresser drawer, fished around inside and still found nothing. She opened the second drawer, and the front panel fell off. A patch of sweat to developed on her forehead. She struggled to get it back together. After several minutes, she finally figured it. She continued her search high and low, but found nothing. Coming up empty handed, she almost convinced herself to the abandon the search all together. She mulled over it for a while. Then decided to look in one last drawer. She opened it and sitting right on top was a diary. Was this a bad omen? She thought, some the devil’s handy work. It was pretty, ornately decorated, with a multi colored rainbow at the top, sprinkled with pastel colored polka dots and a bright pink cloth rose in the center. Good, she thought, it was unlocked. She stared at it for a moment. She did not feel right about reading it. Curiosity got the best of her. She flipped it open and began reading.

Tamura’s handwriting was so terrible. She had to read it carefully, word by word. Soon huge sweat beads popped up on her brow. Her heart began racing; nervous, her hands began to shake. Her vision got blurred; she adjusted her reading glasses and at times peered over them. She absorbed several entries, and was relieved to discover most of it was the typical teenage gibberish. Things like the length and texture of her hair, her light skin complexion, comments about her favorite teachers and friends, what her dreams and aspirations were, but nothing out of the ordinary. She began to feel bad, in her heart; she didn’t want to find anything. She decides to just read one more entry and it was the shocker. Her heart thrashed around wildly in her chest, sweat ran slide down her cheeks, she could feel her feet and hands swell, her body vibrated as she read:

I think I am in love with Kevin. Was she talking about the preacher’s son? She continued to read in complete horror. Yesterday we kissed. He pulled out his thing and, it was so big. I finally let him put it in me. He does not know I’m not a virgin. I hope our baby looks just like him. But that is our secret right. I’m tired right now. I will talk to you tomorrow. Please don’t tell anybody. Goodnight.

Modina’s sadness turned to outrage; her blood had reached a boiling point. She wondered if this was just some fantasy or whether it really happened? What did she mean she wasn’t a virgin? She hoped the baby looks like him. She threw up her hands in frustration. ” Lord Gawd, I knew that girl was going to get herself in trouble. I have got to nip this in the bud. I’m not raising anymore babies!” she shouted. She had to figure out a delicate way to handle the situation, because of Tamura’s emotional instability of late. Overcome by the magnitude of the problem, she sat down at the kitchen table and began to weep uncontrollably. She had noticed Tamura looked like she had gained some weight lately, which was surprising, because she ate like a little bird. She had also complained about severe stomach cramps. She had seen plenty of signs, but had chose to ignore them.

Now, she felt inadequate as a parent. She began to beat herself up. This was my entire fault. If I hadn’t wasted time, chasing after a no good man, this would have never happened. She just found out, Sanyo was closing the plant and moving to Mexico where the labor was cheaper. She didn’t know if she could handle anymore bad news. Now, on top of potentially loosing her job, her baby might be pregnant. What was she going to do? Her blood pressure shot up, she could feel her heart beat thumping in her chest and she was a little unstable on her feet. She began to hate the world and her life. Was there no end to her struggles? Just when you think things are going to get better, the Devil comes in and takes over, she thought.

The walls started to close in on her. She wondered how she could let her house get so filthy. Her life was starting to fall apart. She looked in the laundry room and saw dirty clothes stacked up knee high. She began to separate the whites from the coloreds. That was ironic she thought. She set a load of whites on. She went the kitchen and cursed the pile of heavily caked pots and pans, soaking. Her ears perked up, when the busload of screaming kids pull up outside. It was a wonder if they weren’t deaf. Her stomach knotted up, she hoped her theory about the pregnancy was wrong. Even though she desperately needed the money, she guessed she could take a half of a day off and get Tamura in to see a doctor, if needed. She wondered if the new pregnancy test in the drug stores worked. The pressure was starting to mount, the reality of the moment sank in, when she heard the loud roar from the bus accelerating away and noise from screaming kids, spilled inside the house and faded away, the front door opened. Yvette popped in, She was always the bubbly one. She never seemed to let anything bother her.

“Hey Mama! What you doing home?” she screamed.

Modina responded dryly, “I took a day off for my annual physical. “Where’s Tam?”

“Oh, she’s coming. She’s talking to Rita. I got an A on my English paper, I will show it to you later.” Yvette said.

”Great baby, I’m so very proud of you.” Modina said, as they exchanged big hugs. “Go and change out your school clothes. I need to talk with Tam. ”

” What she done now?”

“Girl quit being so nosey and do what I told you!” Modina snapped. She turned away, sat down at the kitchen table to try to relax her nerves. She began to thumb through an Ebony magazine. Then she picked up the diary, read the disturbing entry again. She still could not believe her eyes. She always talked to her girls about sex. They had promised her, they would discuss it with her first. She always told them. Don’t let them fast ass little boys trick you. They will tell you anything, that you are pretty and they love you, just to get in your panties. No different than the grown up versions. I ain’t raising no more babies, she said many a times. Her nerves were tore up. She heard the door and open and slam. Her heart skipped a beat. She called out, “Tam! ”

Tamura responded, “Hey Mama, where are you?”

I’m in the kitchen. Come here, I need to talk to you a second. ”

Tamura said, “What’s up! What are you doing home so early?” She bounced in, and stunned by the expression on her mother’s face, she immediately knew she was in trouble. She raked her brain and finally settled on her missing the bus and being late for school. Modina took deep breaths in an effort to relax. It took all the strength in her body not to explode, but realized blowing up would not accomplish anything. Tamura was very familiar with this posture and tone. It usually preceded a beating. She cautiously approached the kitchen table. Her eyes almost jumped out of the socket, when she saw her diary on the table.

She screamed a loud protest, ” Where did you find my diary? You been going through my stuff?”

Modina sternly said, “Tam, sit down, I need to talk to you about something.” Tamura began to pout, lips pursed, body language was rigid and closed, and she slammed her butt hard down on the chair. She immediately stuck her thumb in her mouth and started twisting her hair.

Modina said, “Listen girl, I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s for your own good. Lately, I have noticed changes in your behavior and that has me a little concerned. Whatever is going on with you, share it with me, so we can work it out together. You are young and have lot of life to live. You making good grades in school and have a good chance to go to college. You trying to mess that up? I’ve already traveled down that road. I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. You understand child? I know you young folks, think you know everything, but you don’t.” Tamura, started to cry, but offered no response.

” I want you to tell me the truth. Have you been having sex?” Tamura was petrified at the line of question. There was no way she could tell her Mama the truth. This was all her fault. The only thing she knew to do was lie. It seemed her whole life was a lie anyway.

Tamura slowly turned her tear soaked face toward her mother and said, “No Mama!”

Modina, stared her in the directly in the eye and said, “if you are lying it will all come out later. You might as well tell me the truth. ”

Tamura’s body was shaking like she was operating a jackhammer. She wondered if she read the entries about her sexual relationship with her stepfather. She tried to share it with her, but she did not believe her. Her voice rose to a high pitch squeal, as she replied, “Mama, I’m telling you the truth! I know you read something in my diary. I made it all up. I was bored, so I made up a story.”

Modina sensed she was lying, but she felt the poor girl has been through enough. She handed the diary back to her and said,” You know you can talk to me about anything. Don’t ruin your life by doing something stupid. I have already been, where you are going baby! Go get out of your school clothes and get your homework done and don’t wait the last minute. Stay off that phone until you let me know you have all your chores and homework is done. If you are late for school again, this conversation is not going to be as pleasant. ”

Tamura knew right then she had been sold out. Meekly, she said, “Yes Ma’am”, and the pressure oozed out her body like leaky valve stem. She got up and embraced her mother. Modina, watched her leave and thought, she thinks I’m a fool, that one bears watching.

In spite of her bizarre behavior and oscillating mood swings, she maintained excellent grades. She had several colleges interested in giving her an academic scholarship, which was short circuited by a pregnancy at 16 and she failed to graduate with her class. This was a devastating blow to her mother, who felt she did everything possible to avoid that scenario. She took it personally and felt like she had failed her daughter. However, she encouraged her to continue her education and hoped for the best.

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Donald Duff

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