9 Chapters of Heartache
Nappy head, nappy head, comb your hair
Mama tells me to ignore those children. She says they're just jealous cause I got something they don't.
They're all plain and I'm special.
I don't understand what's so special about me. What's so special about being so different? I don't look like nobody. Not those kids at school. Not even my mama.
All those kids with their light skin and shiny eyes, with their hair that lays flat. Even my mama, she has yellow hair and eyes the color of fresh snap beans.
I never seen my daddy. He died before I was born. Mama said he drowned in the Forked Deer.
She says I look like my daddy and that's how come I'm special. Mama cries when she looks at me sometimes.
I tell her it would be a lot easier if daddy was here. It'd be nice to look like someone.
I've asked to see a picture of my daddy, but Mama says she don't have one. She says daddy didn't like having his picture made.
I've asked Granny and Paps about my daddy. Paps took me to the kitchen and traded ice cream for my thoughts. Granny looked real mad but then she cried a little.
Guess they must have really loved my daddy, too
"Reenie asked about her daddy again today."
"Max, did you hear what I said?"
"I heard you."
"She getting older, Max. She gonna want to know."
"She don't need to know, Neetha. She just a girl."
"You used to say the exact same thing about Meg."
"Meg was different and you know it. Don't try to blame me for Meg."
"I'm not blaming you, Max. What happened to Meg was her own damned fault. But we can't blame her for Reenie not having a daddy. That's our fault."
"No, Neetha, its not. Meg knew better. We did what we had to do to protect her. Reenie's better off without her daddy anyway."
"How can you--"
"Look. I don't want to argue about this again. It won't change anything. If Meg wants Reenie to know, she can tell her. Let her explain to the poor child why she's a bastard and why the other kids won't play with her. It's not our place. Now go get dinner started before it gets dark."
Every time I look at that child's face, I see her daddy looking back at me.
My blessing and my heartache.
He'd be twenty nine this week.
Reenie would have a daddy, someone who looks like her.
And I wouldn't have to endure any more lonely nights or one night stands or half-hearted relationships.
I never was a good liar. Mama always knew I was telling a story from how I'd chew my lip and pigeon my toes.
But no one saw through the biggest lie I ever told.
And since then, every day has been a lie.
Lying to my daughter.
Lying to myself.
"Mama, its time to put those pictures away and go to bed. We got church in the morning."
"I can't decide what to get him, Janet. You think he could use a pair of work boots? He's so rough on his shoes. I don't know what that boy does to wear holes in his shoes like that."
"Now, Mama, don't do this. Not tonight."
"But his birthdays Tuesday. The store'll be closed tomorrow for the Sabbath, so I have to get him something Monday. Would you drive me into town, honey?"
"That's fine, Mama. Whatever you want. Well talk about it tomorrow, though. I'm tired."
"I wonder what's taking him so long to get home?"
"For who to get home, Mama?"
"Glory be, child. Who you think? Ain't but one 'he' in this house since your daddy died."
"Mama, you know that that he goes out sometimes on Saturday night with those Wilson boys. There's no need to wait up for him. He might not be in 'til after midnight."
"Lord, I know. I just worry bout him, Janet. I worry 'bout my baby. You'll understand someday when you got children of your own."
"I'm sure I will, Mama. Now let's go on to bed. We can't have you fallin' asleep in the choir tomorrow."
Hope you and the kids are making it without me. I'm coming home on Wednesday after Leona gets here. Mama had a pretty good day. She got to talking about Ben tonight, though. He'd be celebrating a birthday next week and she's wondering what to get him. I know the doctors told us to set her straight, but I just didn't have it in me to do it tonight. I told her we'd go to the store and shop on Monday. I don't know how much longer we can all do this. Every day is different and they don't seem to get any easier. For her or us. I shudder to think about losing one of ours, but I pray that I handle it better than this if it should happen. I regret that we didn't let her see him. She needed to see him, Alvin. She needed closure. I just didn't think at the time that she could handle him looking so bad. Kiss the children for me. I love you.
"Sherriff, Jerry just came home and said there's a colored boy laying on the side of the road out past the Harville place. I ain't sure if he's dead or not, but y'all need to come out and check on it. Jerry says the boy's covered in blood."
"Margaret Lee, I don't want no explanations. There's no explaining this."
"But Daddy, you don't understand--"
"I don't want to understand. I want to know why you would do this to your mama and me. Do you know what this could do to our family? I could lose my job over this. And for what? For some no good coon--"
"Don't you dare say that! He's a good man. He's good to me. And he loves me."
"A good man don't take advantage of a little girl like you!"
"I ain't a little girl now! I'm seventeen years old! And he didn't want to do it. He told me we should wait 'til we married. I begged him to, though. I wanted to. He didn't take advantage of me. This is my fault. I wanted to show him how much I love him!"
"You don't love him, child, he ain't our kind. He's an animal and no daughter of mine is dating an animal. He don't love you. All he knows is fucking. He just wanted to go back and brag to all his little greasy friends how he got him a little white girl in the bed."
"Why won't you listen to me, daddy? You don't know him. You don't know what he's like with me. He sings to me and brings me flowers and he made me a little jewelry box with his own hands. And he's smart, Daddy. He reads and he even writes songs some."
"And what did you think was going to come of all this? Did you think that far? You think you got a future with him? That he'll marry you? You two gonna have some little mutt kids running around your shack? You think he's gonna settle down with you? Those people are like dogs in heat. How could you be so stupid, child! Have we not taught you anything?
"We, we, we, Meg. We what? What were we gonna do?"
"Dammit, Daddy, we were going to leave! We've been saving money for months, just waiting for me to graduate. He was going to marry me, Daddy!"
"Leave? Now you listen to me. You ain't going anywhere. And I mean anywhere. You're staying in this house unless you leave with your mother or me."
"You can't go to school with me."
"Then you won't go to school. We're withdrawing you Monday morning."
"Shut your mouth, Margaret. You brought this on yourself. I want you to call that boy and tell him this is done. You will never see him again. And if I catch him showing his face around here, I'll kill him myself. Now go wash your face off before your mother gets home."
Oh God. She hasn't asked me to bring her anything from the store this month. Please don't punish my daughter for her mistake. Please don't make her pay for this for the rest of her life. Please spare our family from the shame of her sin. I've served you faithfully. Grant this one prayer for me, Father.
"Now, Meg, did he say anything to you, anything at all?"
"He...he told me, 'Be quiet bitch or I'll choke you.'"
"And then what happened?"
"He put his...he touched..."
"It's okay, baby. I know this is hard, but you have to tell them everything. You don't have to be ashamed because you've done nothing wrong. Now, tell Sheriff Bailey what happened so that he can take care of this."
The body of a man wanted in connection with the recent sexual assault of a Sherman High School senior was found on Mason Road early this morning. Police have identified the man as 20-year-old Benjamin Miller. Miller had been beaten and preliminary reports indicate that he most likely died of trauma to the head. There were no signs of struggle at the scene and police speculate that he was attacked elsewhere and left on Mason Road some time between midnight and 4:00 AM. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Sheriff Dan Bailey.