Angie laid across the bed looking out the window. The plan she had been working on since everything went down had been done and the ball was no longer in her court as far as her marriage went. It was a big step. A huge one for her because Jesse was her heart and soul and letting him go was like losing a breath. “But I had to do it,” she repeated. Those were the same words she told Jackson when he called her just moments ago and told her he made the delivery. Only two people knew how to get in touch with her and at the current moment that was quite enough.
“As your lawyer, I’m on your side and I support you. But as your friend, Angie I think this was a bad idea.”
“I had to do it,” she simply replied and soon after hung up, not waiting to hear how Jesse took it or what he said. That was nearly an hour ago.
“Angie, honey come on out and eat,” Pat said, knocking on the door, nearly making Angie jump out of her own skin.
Looking toward the door, Angie sighed and laid her head back down. “I’m not hungry,” she called back. “I’m just not hungry.”
“You haven’t eaten anything real in days, so I know you’re hungry. Now get your butt up from that bed and come in the kitchen,” Pat fussed and soon walked away only to come back with a threat. “And if you don’t I will come in there and drag you out myself.”
Angie had heard many threats come from her mother’s lips and had never really been fazed by them. To her Pat was all talk and no action, but this time… This time she felt her mother would make good on her word. ‘That’s the only reason I’m getting up,” she mumbled, sliding out of the bed and after going into the bathroom to make herself look a little presentable went out to greet her mother and step father.
“There you are! I thought I was going to have to come in there,” Pat hinted, going over and kissing her cheek. “Go on honey. Sit down. I made gumbo and you’re going to love it.”
“Where’s Jeffery?” Angie asked, looking around and not seeing any signs of him.
“Oh he uh… He went out for a bit. He should be back soon,” Pat lied.
“You had a fight?” Angie asked, knowing full well that anywhere Jeffery went, Pat went or knew exactly where he was and didn’t hesitate to say it.
Pat sighed and continued fixing their plates. “Nothing we can’t handle baby,” she replied. “You still eat cornbread? I remember when you were a baby you used to love them all crumbled up… Made the biggest mess!” She laughed.
“Look, we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about you. So—“
“Mama,” Angie urged.
Pat dropped her head. “It was nothing serious.”
“It was about me, wasn’t it?” Angie asked softly. “Look mama I can leave. I can put myself in a hotel until I find something permanent. I don’t want to cause any problems between you two.”
Pat eased a bowl in front of her daughter and sighed. “It wasn’t like that sweetie,” she replied. “And just what do you mean permanent? Are you planning on moving down here for good?”
Angie waited until her mother was sitting across from her before she answered. “I’m thinking about it. I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to Pine Valley… Not for a very long time,” Angie sighed and after a few moments she went back to the conversation before. “So what was the fight about? If it wasn’t about me being here, then what was it?”
Sighing, Pat ate a few spoonful before stopping and fixing her daughter with a soft look. “He uh… He suggested that we get some help… for you,” Pat spat out. “I told him no because I know my child and I know I can help you. I can help you through whatever you need me to help you through. We don’t need some shrink telling us what we already know,” she rambled. “It was a stupid idea and I told him so. So don’t worry your pretty little head over that. It’s over.”
Several moments passed before either woman said anything. Pat was thinking about what was said between she and her husband and was wondering how or if she could ever get his forgiveness. She really hadn’t meant to go off on him the way that she did, he just caught her off guard. Angie was thinking about something different, but also in the same area.
“What if I think he’s right,” Angie finally mumbled as she stirred the contents around in the small bowl.
“What?” Pat asked, looking up.
Angie put her spoon down. “What if I think he’s right about me needing help?”
“Angie, baby I can help you. I can do the same thing a shrink can do.”
“Mama, this is much deeper than you think,” Angie replied. “Ma, I have so much going on in my heart, in my soul and I just… I think I should really get some help,” she put out there. “I’ve been avoiding it for a long time, but now I don’t think I can anymore. The small hole I stepped into has gotten larger. It’s something bigger than anything I’ve ever had to stand in. Try to survive.”
“Baby no,” Pat nearly begged, reaching across the table to grab her baby’s hand. “We can… I can.”
“Mama, Jesse came back from the ‘dead’, I almost lost Frankie three times, I almost lost Jesse again. I had my Cass arrested, I allowed Jesse’s ex and their child to come live with me, I let Jesse arrest me, I blackmailed somebody, I broke into somebody’s house. I covered up lie after lie just to save my family. I… I got sick. I lost my sight. I became pregnant. I buried my child and in that same week the baby I was led to believe was mine, for months… For months Mama, was snatched right from my arms. With no remorse shown towards me or her,” Angie explained, giving her the summarized version of her life for the past 3 years. “My husband lied to me… Lied to me for so long and just recently I was blamed for my own child’s death. As if I asked God to give her to me and take her away.”
As Angie spoke about what was going on, Pat could only stare and listen. Hearing all that her child went through had not only made her heart weak and hurt for her child, but turned it into stone because of Jesse. Because Jesse seemed to be the root of everything Angie had been through. “Oh my god,” she breathed, slowly covering her mouth only to hear the last part where she was supposedly responsible for the baby’s death. She heard that three weeks ago and it still made her blood boil just the same.
“See… I need help. Real help,” Angie concluded, dropping her head. “I just… I’ve known it for quite sometime, but I jut can’t… I can’t do this by myself. I just can’t,” she sighed, covering her face. “I can’t do it anymore.”
Pat dropped her hand and reaching back across to gently uncover her daughter’s face. “And—
Out of nowhere a deep, raspy voice broke through and it wrapped around Angie like a fleece blanket. “You won’t have to,” Jeffery said, making his presence known. He took a minute before he made his way over to her and sat down. “I’m not your father, I know that… But Angie I understand exactly what you’re going through,” he put out there. He hadn’t dealt with the spouse coming from the dead and the sickness and others, but losing a loved one and then being blamed for it… He suffered with it for months. “I lost my wife and two children… All in the same day and for days, weeks, months I was led to believe it was my fault. No matter what I was told, I felt I could have done something to prevent it. At least until I broke down and got help. And you what, it was hard for me because when I started I didn’t have the support system you have or will have. But Angie, I promise you it won’t be that way with you.”
Angie stared into his eyes and for the first time discovered they were very much like her father’s. Big, brown and telling. But there was also something there she couldn’t remember Les ever having… Warmth. “Promise,” she whispered, sounding like a kid again. “Promise I won’t have to do it by myself?”
Taking her small hands into his larger ones, Jeffery spoke from his heart and soul. “I put it on my life, you won’t do this by yourself. Not again, not ever,” he vowed. “Right Patty?”
Pat eased next to her daughter and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “He’s right. Not now and not ever again.”
It was in that moment that Angie finally let out a shaky, yet clear breath. Her heart still hurt and it still pained her to breathe, to live with everything that was on her back, but for the first time… For the first time in months, she was actually able to breathe and enjoy it.
Days later, Jeffery found himself walking into Starbucks. “Please let this work,” he mumbled, instantly spotting the person he came to see and have coffee with. “Hey!” He greeted soon wrapping his large arms around her petite body. “Thank you for meeting me,” he continued after they placed their orders and took their seats.
“I’m glad you called. There is so much we have to catch up on,” Stevie gushed.
“Right, but first there’s something I want to run by you,” he said carefully.
Stevie looked across at him with a questioning look on her face. “Seems serious. What is it?” She asked softly.
Right before Jeffery opened his mouth a young lady placed their coffee on the table. “Thank you,” he mumbled and soon after watched her walk away. “Stevie, I uh… I… I need your help.”
Seeing the look of pain on his face and hearing it in his voice, Stevie reached across the table and placed her hand on top of his. “Whatever,” she said. “You know you were not only a patient, you became a dear friend to me. And I meant what I said then, I’m here for you. Whatever you need,” she explained.
“My step-daughter is in town and uh… she’s been through a lot and I was wondering if you cou—“
“No,” Stevie interjected.
“You said whatever I needed. Stevie, I need you to hel—“
Shaking her head, Stevie scoffed. “I’ll help you with whatever else you need, but not that. I told you I don’t do that anymore and… Honestly I don’t think I will ever do it again.”
“She’s been through a lot and in such little time and she needs help.”
“Okay, but why you come to me? There are plenty of other—“
“She needs your help,” he said. “Besides, I don’t trust anybody but you,” he concluded.
Stevie took a sip of her coffee and shuddered at the now unwanted taste. She thought he called so that they could hang out and catch up. She didn’t think he was trying to use her. “She needs help, but not mine. And trust me as flattered as I am to hear you say that, I can’t do it,” she sighed, later grabbing her purse for the chair next to her and coming to her feet. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Stevie! Please! She needs you,” he yelped. “And you need her.”
Stevie stopped near the door and looked over her shoulder. “What?” She asked.
Jeffery stepped to her. “She needs your help and you need her help.”
“How? How can she help me?”
“Do something you weren’t able to do with that baby in Chicago. Save her.”
“That’s not fair,” she cried. “This is nothing like that baby,” she fussed. “She had so much of the world on her shoulders and nobody there to help her deal with it.”
Jeffery gently grabbed her shoulder. “And so does Angie. There is so much on her shoulders and though me and Pat are there, we can’t help her deal with it. Not alone. This woman has had the world on her shoulders for years and years and it’s only gotten worse in the past couple of months… She lost two babies,” he explained. “And was blamed for the death of one of them… by her own husband who had supposedly been killed in the line of duty 20 something years ago.”
“What!” She yelped, shockingly.
“And that’s only half of it,” Jeffery added. “Stevie, she’s at her ropes end. She can’t take the pain and the suffering anymore. Please, I’m begging you… Stevie she’s had thoughts of ending it all. The pain, the suffering… And not in the good way.”
“I’m truly sorry to hear that,” she replied, sincerely. “But again, how does this help me?” Stevie asked. Hearing the woman’s story had struck a cord deep within and as much as she felt this was something she could dig her nails into, she didn’t understand how she, Angie, could help her.
“You save her, you will see that that girls death wasn’t your fault.”
“I never said it was my fault,” Stevie snapped.
“Deep down you blame yourself. Deep down you feel if you’d tried harder, you could have saved her. You feel you didn’t fight hard enough. You don’t have to say anything to me, I could see it in your eyes when you spoke about it a few weeks ago.”
Holding her chin up defiantly, Stevie let her eyes wander. No patient had ever been able to read her. Tell her what she felt and what she didn’t feel. Nobody could. You do blame yourself, her inner-self reminded for the umpteenth time since it happened. “I disagree on that much, but I do agree that your step-daughter does need help. Just not from me.”
“Jeffery, no. I will be happy to refer other doctors, great doctors… But that’s all,” she concluded. Sighing heavily, she dropped her head and closed her eyes to ward off tears as memories of the young girl back home began to surface. “Uh… I have to go..”
“Bye Jeffery,” she whispered, rushing out of the place as if it was on fire.
“Damn,” Jeffery hissed, slapping his forehead with the palm of his hand.
“And will you please shut that damn baby up!?” Mookie fussed as he shoved Maya into one of the walls in their bedroom.
“It’s your turn,” Maya hissed, shoving him back and walking away.
Grabbing her arm, Mookie angrily swung her around and back into the wall. “Don’t put ya hands on me!” He fussed. “Now go get the damn baby and shut it up or I’ll shut you up… For good,” he threatened.
“Mookie! Honey! Please do something about that child. I’m trying to work,” his mother, Carla Henderson called from downstairs. It was obvious she was standing at the landing.
“Get up and do your job,” Mookie spat, shoving on his jacket and heading to the door.
Scrambling to her feet, Maya called after Mookie. “Wait! Where you going? I thought we were suppo—“
“I’m hanging with the boys. Why you questioning me like you own me?” He spat back soon walking out of the room and stomping down the stairs.
Taking a deep breath, Maya limped into the next door room where Lucy sat in her crib crying. “Hey,” Maya greeted softly, reaching over for her and picking her up. “What’s wrong?” She asked as she began to walk around and slightly bounce her up and down in the hopes of getting her to calm down.
Lucy started rubbing her forehead against Maya’s shoulder and cried louder. “Mbaaaaaa!” She wailed, suddenly pulling back and flailing her arms.
“I’m right here baby girl, I’m right here,” Maya cooed, forcefully laying Lucy’s head back on her shoulder only to have her jerk it back and cry even louder.
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” Lucy screamed. She may have been young, but she knew the difference and she knew these were not the real arms. The comforting arms she’d become accustomed too.
“I know… I know,” Maya sighed, trying her best to quiet her child and ease whatever discomfort she was feeling. But she knew deep down there was nothing she could do. She knew she wasn’t the one that Lucy was crying for. She knew she wasn’t the one that could ease the girl. She hadn’t been able to do it for weeks. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered as tears began to stream down her face.
Months ago, Maya ran into Maurice, Mookie as he liked to call himself, at the park and during a heated argument blabbed to him about her giving birth. Having not knowing that she’d been pregnant in the first place, Mookie was in a state of shock but soon after beat her. Took her off to a secluded place and beat her until she confessed about the where the child was. After telling his mother about the news, they sought out the family and from there gained full custody of Lucy. Maya heard through the grapevine about the custody and knocked on his door. Begged him to take her back. Said she couldn’t continue to live without their child and him. At the time it was true, as bad as Mookie treated her she couldn’t see her life without him. She loved him, more than anything.
And even now, knowing what a stupid thing she did, she still felt the same way about him. Even though he continued to beat the hell out of her behind closed doors and even in front of his parents, she dealt with it. Mean there was really nothing she could do but deal with it. Take it. Take it because with her child was where she needed to be. Take it because nobody else cared about her. Take it because she deserved it.