As we draw closer to the release of my second novel “Fourteen Pages,” I wanted to share with you Chapter 2 of my first novel “An Ode for Orchids.” It is the story of four beautiful young women who want to love and be loved. But will their love outlive the lies and abuse? Is their love strong enough to survive the hatred? So read, enjoy, and please do tell me what you think about the excerpt.
An Ode for Orchids Chapter 2
Susan zoomed up Interstate-85 driving ninety miles per hour as she talked on her car phone.
“You know, Karen is getting on my last nerve with those quote unquote panic attacks,” she said to Diane. “She worries our mother unnecessarily.”
There was a space where Diane undoubtedly gave her own opinion and then Susan continued.
“She just wants attention. Mom should let her come to live with me so I can straighten her out. She is as spoiled as Adele was.”
Even though she spoke quietly and even though the music of Luther Vandross played loudly through the car speakers, Cicely heard every word. And a few times throughout the conversation between her mother and her aunt, Cicely rolled her eyes, as if she agreed with every spiteful word that she heard.
Four summers had passed. As was their custom, Cicely, Brook and Dawn were in Greenville for the summer. They had been back for a month and everyone was in good spirits, especially Karen. There was a glow about her that screamed happiness, an aura that surrounded her and gave off a pleasant vibe that anyone who was near her had to pick up on. There was a song in the depths of her heart that she couldn’t ignore and a smile on her face that she couldn’t remove. It was undeniable that Aaron, her boyfriend, was the reason for her glee.
They met in Atlanta during the previous Thanksgiving holiday. Ma Geneva and Karen were there visiting Susan and Cicely when in church she met Aaron. He approached her, they exchanged numbers, and the rest was history.
They were determined to make their long distance relationship work. Karen would call when she could and she would write him while she was in English class. He would call and write her poetry, sending her something new every week, which of course she kept in a trunk in her closet. He made her very happy and gave her new hunger for life. But she was especially happy at that time because he was there with her. They were the perfect couple. Karen and Aaron. Aaron and Karen. Their names even sounded alike.
Aaron had driven up from Atlanta with three of his friends: Tim, Temple, and Jeff. Brook and Dawn were in the living room playing spades with Temple and Jeff. Cicely, on the other hand, was upstairs with Tim playing a totally different game.
“You know I’m going to get four of your books for reneging, right?” Temple asked Dawn as she smiled at her sister.
“I don’t have any more hearts, sweetie. I don’t have a reason to cheat. You aren’t that good.”
Jeff fidgeted in his chair. He looked around the living room. And then he looked up the stairs.
“Where is everybody?” he asked. “Where are Aaron and your cousin?”
“I believe she’s taking him to Paris Mountain so that they can look over Greenville,” Dawn answered.
Temple looked over to his friend with a smile and said, “The better question is what’s going on upstairs with Tim and old girl.”
He said this speaking of Cicely.
“True that,” Jeff replied. “They have been up there a while. What do y’all think they’re doing?”
Brook shook her head and said, “I don’t know. And I don’t want to know.”
“How much higher are we going to go?” Aaron asked Karen. “I’m getting dizzy going around and around like this.”
“Hush, boy! We’re almost there,” she replied as she tilted her seat back and enjoyed the ride up Paris Mountain.
“Pull in right there,” she instructed.
When Aaron pulled up into the clearing, the sight left him speechless.
“This is Greenville,” Karen said to him as he switched off the ignition of his Jeep Cherokee.
“What do you know about that?”
She removed her seat belt, kicked off her sandals, and propped her feet up on the dashboard.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “I’ve never been this high up before. Everybody looks like ants from up here.”
He undid his seat belt and reclined his seat.
“Yeah, we’re going to build a house up here when we get married,” he said to her, rubbing his hands over his short wavy hair.
“Marriage?” she asked with a smirk. “You haven’t proposed to me. You haven’t given me a ring. Besides don’t think you’re in there like that.”
She jokingly snapped her fingers with attitude.
“Well are you going to Spelman after graduation so you can be closer to me in Atlanta? At least give me that.”
She rested her arm on her freshly permed hair and replied, “If you’re good to me, I’ll give you anything you want.”
Then they stared at each other for a moment. However, it seemed as if they were gazing at each other for days.
It was no secret that Karen had thought about what it would be like to be married to him. She would write her new name down to see how it would look. Mrs. Karen Williamson. Or Mrs. Karen Cole-Williamson. Either way sounded fine to her.
If he did ask her to marry him, she had made up in her mind that she would definitely say yes. She could see them now. Their children would probably look like him, with the cleft in his chin, his dimples and his brown eyes. They would be so adorable.
She could see them vacationing in the Bahamas, riding his and her bikes through the city, going by the shops, taking in all the sights. She could see herself growing old with him, babysitting their grandchildren, traveling cross country in an RV on a whim.
Of course she would go to Spelman. She had applied there already, and with just a final year of high school ahead of her, and with a 3.8 grade point average, she felt that she was a shoo-in to get accepted.
She wondered where they would make their home as newlyweds. Would they live in Atlanta or come back to the Greenville area? Would Aaron go to law school, or would he follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor? He was already a junior pastor, so it would not be farfetched for Aaron to go into the ministry.
Aaron often talked to Karen about how tough it was being a preacher’s kid. There was a whole lot of pressure on him to do things right. But that was one of the things that drew Karen to him. With his Godly upbringing, she felt safe knowing that she and Aaron were in agreement on many of the issues that befall young people.
“I got you something,” Aaron said, breaking the silence.
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a black suede box.
“Is that what I think it is?” Karen asked, her eyes growing wide.
“Now, now, before you get all excited—”
He opened the box and presented her with a gold ring that had a little heart shaped diamond on it.
“This is a promise ring. I know that we aren’t going to get married right now, but I wanted you to know how much I love you.”
He slipped the ring on her left ring finger. It was little too big but Karen didn’t care. To her the ring was perfect in every way.
“Well, are you going to say something?” Aaron asked her as she sat silently gazing at the ring. Then without warning she lunged towards him and into his embrace. And she kissed him fervently.
“I love you so much,” she said wiping tears from her eyes.
Then Aaron pulled her feet away from their resting place on the dashboard and draped her legs over his. They kissed again with heat and passion. He rubbed his fingers through her reddish brown hair. He massaged her neck. He held her close to him and she enjoyed every minute of it. He rested his hand on her knee and then moved to her thigh, to the inside of her thigh, up her leg. Seemingly in one move he began working the hem of her sun dress up her thighs. Then he started tugging at her panties, and—
“Whoa!” Karen said, pulling herself away from him.
She sat motionless for a minute, just staring out at the city, puzzled in a way.
“What’s wrong?” Aaron asked with concern. “Don’t worry. I have protection.”
“Protection?” Karen sharply inquired. “We won’t need any protection.”
Aaron sat for a moment. He was utterly confused.
“Do you want to do it without a condom?” he asked.
“We’re not doing anything,” Karen replied. “There’s no need for a condom.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute! You mean to tell me that we aren’t going to have sex?!”
“No we’re not having sex because we are not married. You know how I feel about that,” Karen responded matter-of-factly.
“But hold up, you said in your letters that you couldn’t wait to get me up here so that we can be together. You said you had something to show me.”
“I did have something to show you.”
Karen pointed out towards the view of Greenville from the mountain.
“This! We came up here for a class trip and I thought it would be something cool to share with you.”
She put her sandals back on and looked over at Aaron, who was now extremely quiet. His whole demeanor had changed before her very eyes.
“I’m sorry if you got the wrong idea, but we need to wait until we’re married before we make love. It’s the right thing to do and you know that, baby.”
“I drove all the way up here for nothing,” Aaron mumbled as he started the ignition.
“What did you say?!” Karen asked with a look of shock on her face.
When he didn’t answer, she turned around and folded her arms in her seat. Anger filled her. She couldn’t believe that he would say something like that. But believe it or not, they were on their way back down the mountain and the future of their relationship became more and more uncertain.
“Nah, shawty! Don’t try to run off,” Jeff said to Brook as he rearranged his cards. “I’m not done spanking you yet!”
“I’m not running,” she answered. “I’m going to get something to drink and I was going to get you something until you started running your mouth.”
“Proceed,” he said, shooing her along.
It was around this time that they all heard the old staircase creaking. Cicely and Tim were making their descent down to the living room to join the others. Brook just shook her head as Cicely passed by her and smiled.
“We’ll talk later, girl!” Cicely said with a grin.
The clearly spent couple made their way to the loveseat and reclined. Jeff looked over at Temple and smiled as Brook returned to the card table and gave him a glass of lemonade.
“Um, you want to go upstairs?” Jeff asked Brook with raised brows as he received his glass.
Brook sat down beside him, smiled, patted his slightly round belly and said, “You’re not my type.”
“Oh, you got jokes,” Jeff responded about her comment of his girth. “But I’m cute, though. You can’t deny that I’m cute.”
Brook gave him a half smile, curving the corner of her mouth.
“You’re alright,” she said. “You’ll do in a pinch.”
“See I told you,” Jeff said as Brook looked at him, still smiling. “The next time we come up here it’s going to be me and you upstairs doing the do. Mark my words. Do a couple crunches, a few push-ups, you’ll see.”
“Shut up, boy and throw out your card. It’s your turn,” Brook jokingly demanded, playfully hitting Jeff on his arm.
They continued their card game while Cicely snuggled up to Tim.
Dawn threw out a card and Temple immediately jumped out of his chair.
“You see her now, Jeff!” Temple shouted after Dawn threw out a ten of hearts. “Shawty just reneged! Yes she did!”
“Hold on, hold on, my comrade,” Jeff answered with a Russian accent. “I do believe you are right.”
“What are y’all talking about?” Dawn asked, looking over at Brook with guilt. Brook just shook her head.
“Nah, shawty!” Jeff said, now beginning to go through their books. “See you started cutting hearts right there. And now you mysteriously came up with a heart!”
“Give them over,” Temple said as he reached for four of their books, leaving them with only one.
“I’m sorry, Brook,” Dawn said as her sister watched Jeff and Temple collect the books and begin to tally the score with glee. “I didn’t see it.”
“And that’s five hundred!” Temple shouted, slamming the pen on the table.
“Come on! You have to be more careful,” Brook said to her sister, who now pouted and gave fake sobs.
“Don’t stress it, shawty,” Jeff said to Dawn. “It was inevitable.”
“What do y’all keep calling us?” Brook asked as Temple collected the cards.
“Huh?” Temple replied, with a look of unawareness.
“Yeah, what are y’all saying? Shout? Are we shouting or something?” Dawn asked.
“Oh, you mean shawty,” Jeff answered. “It’s not shouting. It’s shawty or shorty if you want to be proper.”
“But what does it mean?” Brook asked.
Then Jeff settled in like a college professor about to embark on one of his finest lectures.
“You see in the ATL we call fine young sisters, shawties. It’s a term of endearment, if you will. A sort of nickname if you won’t.”
He instructed Brook to stand in front of him with her back towards him.
“Now I see you, and I definitely see what you’re working with. And I want to approach you.”
He tapped on her shoulder and she turned around and looked up at him, smiling and batting her eyes. No one was sure if she was just playing along or if she really liked what she saw. Girth or not, Jeff stood over her, standing 6 feet, 4 inches. And Brook looked at him attentively.
He popped the collar of his Polo shirt and said with a manly, southern drawl, “What up, shawty? How are you? You are INDEED the finest thing I’ve seen in MANY moons. So I want to know what’s good for a shawty like yourself, and a player like me.”
She softly said to him, “Come here.” And she tugged at his shirt, bringing his face down to hers as she tiptoed.
Playtime was over. Jeff closed his eyes as she brought herself closer to him. He puckered his lips and the room fell silent. But Brook playfully tiptoed and tiptoed as if she couldn’t reach his lips. And finally she said, “I give up. I guess I’m just too short.”
The room exploded with laughter.
“Did I get you? I got you right?” Brook asked with a playful smile, as she straightened his shirt.
“You got me,” Jeff nodded as everyone continued to enjoy the laugh.
“But you still think I’m cute though, right?” he asked.
Brook smiled and replied, “You’ll do in a pinch.” And they both hugged like old friends.
“Now what if the girl is as tall as the guy?” Cicely asked, draping her long chocolate thighs over Tim. “Would she still be a shawty?”
Tim was very muscular, but at 5 feet, 7 inches he was about an inch shorter than Cicely. There was a moment of silence in which Temple and Jeff stared longingly as Cicely displayed her stallion like legs. Temple was about to answer Cicely’s question when Jeff beat him to the punch.
“Now first of all, Tim, you’re a lucky boy! That said, even if the guy is 5 feet tall and the girl is 6 feet five, she still would be a shawty. It has nothing to do with height.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Brook replied.
“I know,” Jeff responded. “It would make more sense if you and I could go upstairs!”
“What’s that got to do with making sense of the word “shawty”?” Brook asked him.
“Absolutely nothing!” Jeff responded. “I’m just trying to get you to go upstairs!”
The room erupted with laughter once again. But their banter was interrupted by the sounds of screeching brakes and slamming doors. Karen hastily exited the Jeep and stomped up the front porch. She stormed into the living room, and then made an abrupt turn to look at Aaron who was hard on her heels.
“So you’re just going to leave like this?” she asked, staring at Aaron intensely.
“What do you think?” he replied, without even looking at her.
“Let’s be out!” Aaron yelled to his friends.
But Tim continued to lounge on the couch next to Cicely. He smiled and asked his angry friend, “What’s wrong with you, church boy? Your girlfriend didn’t give you any loving?”
“What?” Aaron responded with a slightly raised voice. “I will leave your little swollen behind up here and make you bench press your way back to Atlanta!”
“Hey Brook, I’ll check you later,” Jeff said gathering his things quickly. “Football practice starts tomorrow and this dude doesn’t look like he’s playing.”
Jeff darted out the front door followed by Temple and a much reluctant Tim.
“Call me when you get back to the ATL, shawty,” he said to Cicely.
“No doubt,” she answered, as she lay back on the couch, completely oblivious to the stare down that commenced between Aaron and Karen.
“Here’s your ring back,” Karen said, as she pulled it off of her finger and began to give it to him.
Aaron took it.
Karen was shocked.
Everything that she believed about Aaron was a lie. She watched him as he stormed out of the house and into his Jeep. But she could not bear to watch him drive away. He was driving out of her life and all of a sudden feelings of fear and loneliness began to overflow her heart. She couldn’t take it. The tears were falling down her face like waterfalls. Her hands shook uncontrollably. She couldn’t even hear Brook and Dawn’s questions of ‘what happened?’ and ‘are you alright?’ It became hard for her to breathe.
With a dash she went to the kitchen, poured a tall glass of water, and removed her prescription medicine from the top cabinet. She dispensed two pills into the palm of her hand and then she popped them into her mouth. Sobbing and weeping, she swallowed the water and slammed the glass down on the counter. It became clear to her. She was destined to be alone. It would not be long before she would have absolutely no one to love her.
Even though she felt that the contents of the bottle from the top cabinet had taken their effect and that she wouldn’t be passing out, she felt the need to go out to the back porch and lay down across the swing. She closed her eyes and as the tears made tracks down her cheeks, she fell asleep thinking to herself, “If I want to keep Aaron, I’m going to have to break down and give him what he wants.”
Many years had passed and Aaron was standing tall behind the pulpit of Spirit and Truth Worship Center for the whole world to see and hear. He was in front of a crowd of thousands with television cameras zooming in on him so that the nations could see him.
He cleared his throat, placing his left hand over his mouth. Now everyone could see his platinum and diamond wedding band as it sparkled in the spotlight. And then after moments of silence, he began to address the audience.
“I first give honor to God, the great Elohim of Israel. I give honor to my many distinguished guests who take their places with me on the rostrum. To all the saints that are in this building and to all who view this program via television, I greet you in the name of the Most High God.
“I can’t go any further without giving honor to my lovely wife. Please stand, darling. Come stand beside me and show everyone how beautiful you are.”
Karen rose from her seat and straightened her dress as the audience gave a round of applause. She began walking slowly toward the front of the room. She increased her speed as the applause grew louder and louder. Then she sped up a bit more—
—so she could turn the channel on the television before her five-year-old son walked into the room.
“Mommy, is that my daddy on TV again?” her son asked.
“Yes, that’s your father,” Karen answered in a defeated tone.
Then her son hung his head and asked, “Why doesn’t he come to see me?”
Karen was jolted from her dream when she heard Ma Geneva scream, “Karen, Cicely, Brook, Dawn, get up here, NOW!”
Karen gathered herself and ran into the house and up the stairs to see the rest of the girls waiting at the doorway of her bedroom. Ma Geneva stood beside Karen’s bed and she was fuming, far angrier than the girls had ever seen her. Her brown skin seemed as if it had turned red.
Ma Geneva wore yellow dish gloves and in her left hand was a used condom.
“Whose is it?!” she forcefully inquired.
It was Ma Geneva’s habit to place the girls’ dry cleaning on their beds when she had picked it up. But it was clear that it wasn’t a white dress wrapped in plastic that had ruffled the sheets on Karen’s bed and had indented her throw pillows.
“Answer me!” Ma Geneva demanded.
But everyone stood still as the condom dangled from Ma Geneva’s hand. Karen looked at her bed in disbelief.
“Say something!” Ma Geneva said, with tears forming in her eyes.
“I am so disappointed in you,” she said as she stormed out, went into her bedroom across the hall, and slammed the door. Brook, Dawn and Cicely exited the room as well. But Karen just crouched down on the floor, buried her head in her hands, and began crying.
“Tell me you didn’t have sex on Karen’s bed,” Brook said to Cicely when they reached the bottom of the stairs.
“Well I have that little twin bed in my room and y’all have those bunk beds. It was the only logical choice. I wasn’t about to do it on Ma Geneva’s,” she replied with harsh sincerity.
“You are scandalous!” Brook said as she turned and walked away.
“That bed isn’t getting any real use anyway!” Cicely responded.
“Tramp!” was Brook’s only reply.
Dawn only raised her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘It was wrong what you did, but how was it though?’
All the while Karen remained on her bedroom floor all alone, sad because she didn’t even have a place to lay her head.
In the middle of the night, Ma Geneva rose from her bed. She hadn’t slept at all. There was something that needed to be said and this was the time to do it.
She quietly opened her door and tip-toed to Karen’s room. She didn’t want to wake anyone.
Ma Geneva opened the door and saw that Karen was sitting on the floor by the bed, her arms wrapped around her lifted knees. The lights were still on and it was evident that Karen was in the same spot that she had crouched down to earlier.
Karen just sat there, rocking back and forth, and staring into space. Ma Geneva slowly lowered herself down to Karen’s side.
“Dearest, I know that you had nothing to do with that condom,” Ma Geneva said as she began to rub Karen’s reddish brown hair. “I know whose it was.”
“I can’t sleep in that bed,” Karen said softly as she continued to look out into space.
“I—I know, sweetheart,” Ma Geneva said. “We’ll get you another comforter set, or another mattress if you like.”
Then Ma Geneva took a deep breath and began to speak softly and sweetly to her youngest granddaughter.
“Look Karen, I know that this situation has no doubt upset you, but we have to put it aside for now because I have some important things to discuss with you. I’m not always going to be around and there are some things that you need to know, some things that I need to tell you before I leave this earth.”
“Don’t you speak of dying, Ma Geneva. Don’t talk about leaving me!”
“Now hush! Everybody has to die eventually.”
She stroked Karen’s reddish-brown hair with its blonde streaks and gazed upon her skin’s light sandy complexion.
“You don’t look anything like us,” Ma Geneva said as she looked at Karen with wonderment.
“You’re scaring me, Ma Geneva,” Karen said, as she observed her grandmother’s intense inspection of her.
Ma Geneva ceased from gazing and began to speak again.
“I need for you to prepare yourself for what you are about to hear.”
Karen wiped the tears from her eyes, which were now bloodshot red, and began to listen attentively as Ma Geneva spoke.
“You, Cicely, Brook and Dawn are all precious flowers to me. But believe it or not, of all the girls, you are the strongest.”
Ma Geneva spoke hurriedly, not that this information wasn’t important, but because there was something else that she desperately needed to say.
“Now here’s what we really need to talk about.”
Ma Geneva took a deep breath, exhaled, and continued.
“Your mother was very smart. Did you know that she started playing piano at the age of four? Well she was beautiful and intelligent and if your grandfather had a favorite, it was probably her. She was always his little baby.
“Well she took music all through school; she marched and played in all of the school bands. Your mother was leading the choir down at the church at the age of fourteen, and I mean the adult choir.”
Karen took all of it in. These were facts about her mother that she was hearing for the first time.
“Now your mother, though she was smart, she was also very rebellious. She and your grandfather used to butt heads all the time. But one of the things that they definitely went to war over was where Adele would attend college. She wanted to go to a school in Charleston and your granddaddy wanted her to go to Furman, right down the way, so that she could be close to home. They fussed and argued about that thing for all of Adele’s senior year. But in the end, she ended up going to Charleston. Her grades were so good and she had plenty of recommendations so she didn’t need our money at all. She just left and went down there on her own.
“Well a year later, your mother had to come home. Apparently she went down to Charleston, had an affair with a married man and ended up getting pregnant. Both of your aunties were married with kids on the way, and your granddaddy was old school. ‘You get pregnant, you get married’. Your momma knew how he was, so she wouldn’t tell him who the father was. She knew that he was going to go down there and find the man and make him take care of his responsibility. That’s how your grandfather was. So Adele never gave him a name or an address. That made your grandfather so mad that he stopped speaking to her.”
Ma Geneva paused as if she was about to shed tears, but she quickly regained her emotions and continued.
“Well your mother gave birth to you. And your grandfather never even came to the hospital. He wasn’t even there for your first birthday. It really wasn’t that he was being mean, it’s just that he was hurting inside and didn’t quite know how to deal with it.”
Again there was a pause.
“Well your grandfather never got the chance to speak to her. Adele moved away, and—you know the rest.
“I don’t exactly know why she got into drugs, why she would go so far as to overdose. Honestly, there was no sign of it. And to keep from being unmercifully angry with your grandfather, I tried not to think about it. But your grandfather never forgave himself for acting so foolishly. I really believe that he began working so hard so that he could get his mind off of it all.”
Then Ma Geneva reached into her housecoat pocket and retrieved a long white envelope that was folded in half.
“When you were two-years-old, your mother gave me this and made me promise that I wouldn’t tell your grandfather.”
Ma Geneva opened the envelope. “This is information about your father. He was a music professor at The College of Charleston. His name is Dennis Jordan.”
Ma Geneva smiled and gave the envelope to her granddaughter. Karen held it in her hands for a moment. She never thought in a million years that she would ever have a chance of meeting her father, of seeing what family she might have elsewhere.
“You might not be ready to go down to Charleston to meet your father. But when you feel that you are, let me know and we’ll go down there together.”
Karen smiled and embraced Ma Geneva.
“I love you!” Karen said.
“I love you more,” Ma Geneva replied. “Now come on let’s go get some sleep. You can stay in my room for tonight until we get your bed squared away.”
Karen rose from the floor and helped Ma Geneva to stand to her feet. And then they both walked out of Karen’s bedroom hand in hand, stepping quietly so that they wouldn’t wake the others. And indeed the twins were fast asleep. But Cicely was wide awake. She had been listening outside of Karen’s room the entire time.
When Cicely heard that they were coming out, she quickly removed her ear from the wall and scurried back into her room, resting against the door after she closed it. Her breaths were rapid and rigid and her face produced a scowl, as if to say that her archenemy had triumphed once again.
The next morning the house was extremely quiet, but not in a good way. No television was on. No radio station was heard. It seemed as if the birds were not even singing that morning. But the quietness came at the instruction of Ma Geneva, who had demanded that she didn’t want to hear a peep out of anyone.
She had the girls folding laundry and she specifically requested that the sound of folding clothes was all that she wanted to hear. But Karen just couldn’t ignore what Cicely did in her room, on her bed.
“Don’t go in my bedroom anymore,” Karen said to Cicely as she folded a shirt.
Brook had told Karen earlier that she and Dawn had nothing to do with it. But Karen already knew who the culprit was.
“What did you say?” Cicely asked, as she stopped folding clothes.
“You heard me!” Karen answered. “Don’t go in my—”
Before Karen could finish her sentence, Cicely charged at her and slapped her across the face, sending the shirt that Karen was folding across the room.
Karen was stunned as she hunched over on the couch and held her face. She and Cicely had arguments before. They had gone back and forth many times. But things had never gotten physical.
“Go get her medicine, Brook!” Cicely snarled. “She’s about to spaz out again!”
“Leave her alone, Cicely!” Brook shouted to no avail.
Cicely slapped her again, this time making her buckle to the floor between the couch and the coffee table. Karen was frozen. Her ears were ringing. She couldn’t hear Cicely cursing at her while her cousins tried to pull her away.
Karen was stunned by the attack. But she wasn’t about to be smacked in the head again. So she lunged at Cicely, grabbing her around the waist in an attempt to take her down. But Cicely was just too strong and too mean for her. She raised both of her hands above her head and brought them down with a mighty blow on the small of Karen’s back.
Karen collapsed on the floor, exposed to a volley of blows that Cicely delivered with pinpoint accuracy. She was being pummeled. The faint taste of blood filled her mouth and she could do nothing but cover up her face as Cicely wailed away.
“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!” Cicely shouted as she swung. It seemed like there was no hope for Karen until—
“CICELY, GET OFF OF HER!” Ma Geneva yelled.
Cicely dare not go against Ma Geneva. Everyone knew that Ma Geneva didn’t play. So she slowly got off of Karen, breathing hard. Her hair was ruffled. Continuing to stare harshly at Karen, she slowly backed away. But the speed at which she was doing things wasn’t fast enough for Ma Geneva.
“I SAID GET OFF OF HER!” Ma Geneva screamed as she pulled Cicely out of the way to see scratches on Karen’s face and blood streaming from her mouth.
“What has gotten into you, Cicely?” Ma Geneva asked her, wondering how she could do such a thing.
At that time all respect for Ma Geneva vanished from Cicely. She stormed past her grandmother, picked up a vase, and threw it against the wall as she ran out of the living room, through the kitchen and out the back door.
Flames grew in Ma Geneva’s eyes and smoke seemed to billow from her nostrils as she began to go after Cicely.
“Ma Geneva!” Dawn yelled. “Karen is going to need some help!”
She said this because Karen’s face was in pretty bad shape. Her lip was swollen and white muscle could be seen on her cheeks and forehead. She also said this to save Cicely’s life. Both Brook and Dawn knew that if Ma Geneva could have gotten to Cicely, that she would have looked far worse than Karen did.
Later on that day a terrible storm rolled in. Cicely’s mother had come up to Greenville at the command of Ma Geneva and their heated battle could be heard in every room of the house.
“Your daughter is out of control, and you need to start talking to her!” Ma Geneva yelled.
“Cicely IS NOT out of control. You’re just playing favorites just like daddy did!” Susan screamed as they started going back and forth with each other.
“That condom has absolutely nothing to do with playing favorites!”
“Well, why does it have to be Cicely’s condom? Why couldn’t it be your precious Karen’s? It was in her bedroom!”
“That’s because Cicely had sex in Karen’s room, on Karen’s bed!”
“That’s BULL, and you know it!”
“I will not have you or your daughter disrespecting my house. And you will watch the way you talk to me too, or I will slap the taste out of your mouth and give your daughter what she’s needed for a long time: A BEATING!”
“You are not touching me or my daughter!” Susan said as she retreated from her mother’s room and down to the living room where Cicely and the twins sat.
“Get your things, Cicely! We are leaving!” she screamed as she darted out the door.
Cicely quietly gathered her things and gave the twins a look of good-bye. No words were exchanged between them though.
“I said move it!” Susan bawled.
With that Cicely left the house and got into the car. The door wasn’t even closed when her mother hit the gas and flew up Willard Street, leaving behind a cloud of white smoke from screeching tires.
Just as she did at the end of every summer, Cicely looked into her side-view mirror and watched as the house got smaller and smaller. But this time there were no hugs good-bye, and there was no one waving farewell on the front porch. That was the last summer the girls spent together at Ma Geneva’s house.
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