This is taken from a portion of the back story surrounding Shawn's ancestry, or past... a past he never had a clue about, for the most part, neither did his "father" - Bart. And yes, the plot thickens - the drama intensifies!
===Series 13 - Episode 103 - Chapter 311===
Shawn entered their spacious bedroom after having checked on Angela last, giving her a kiss goodnight. His wife was dropping a maternity t-shirt over her head. The mid-section of her body swollen and round. She pulled it down to cover herself and noticed him watching. “Everything okay?” She asked, heading for her side of the bed, climbing in.
“Yep, Crystal’s staying the night. She and the boys are tucked away in her place over the garage.”
Sylvia smiled, lying back to snuggle under the covers, getting comfortable and most certainly, ready to go to sleep. She wouldn’t go to sleep yet however until he was laying next to her - she couldn’t find her deep through the night sleep unless his arms were around her, and his heat warmed her.
“She okay?” Sylvia asked drowsily, yawning so moisture gathered in her eyes - making her rub them.
“Yeah. She says she’s just tired, so obviously didn’t want to drive home so late. That’s my good girl.”
“You and your girls, how youdospoil them.” Sylvia murmured half in and out of growing drowsy.
Stripping down and heading for the bathroom, Shawn scoffed at that, “I’ve only just begun with our big girl. Father’s are supposed to extra love and spoil their daughters to show them the kind of man, we want for them. It starts with us. That one, my Crystal is years behind on getting spoiled, Papa Shawn will be fixing that. Soon as I get her to let go of that moron and come home, I can get it started.”
Sylvia smiled shaking her head. Listening to him in the bathroom as he used his urinal, brushed his teeth and jumped in the shower for a quick one. She must have dosed off for a few moments, because suddenly he was there lying next to her. She could feel his hands on her, tenderly caressing and checking her, checking on Jesse James. His large hand came up to caress her cheek, smoothing her hairline. He then leaned down and kissed her brow, her closed eyes, her nose and all the places where his lips could get. “I love you,” he whispered in a low voice that came from the depth of his being. He didn’t wish to wake her, but certainly he needed her to know. Sylvia smiled, “Lo-o-ove yo-o-ou too-o-o.” She slowly groaned the impassioned declaration and snuggled in closer to his heat while turning almost flat to her back. She knew he wanted her that way, the gesture was automatic, offering him access to her body. Shawn spent the last moments of his concluding day like this, with her. Examining her swollen womb where his son lay curled, developing and growing safe and sound. Without a doubt, she knew he was deeply in love with their child. It was also now that Jesse James was known to be awake and moving about like crazy. Sylvia was used to hearing Shawn chuckle out loud from watching his son’s late night activities. There were times when the baby would stretch so completely it was clear to see it. Sylvia’s tummy would stretch sidewards, looking so strange and abnormal, to flatten in the center, which caused Shawn to exclaim laughing, “Who-o-a look at him! My God I can’t believe that doesn’t hurt - not even a little bit?” For Sylvia to smile shaking her head, she shared intimately, “Feels strange sometimes, but - I ah, kind’ah like it. It lets me know, he’s healthy, strong, energetic and wonderful. I wouldn’t trade this feeling, for anything in the world.” She’d confess. Looking at him she shook her head, “You act like this is your first.” She observed out loud.
“That’s because, it wasn’t like this between Deidre and I. When she started showing, which wasn’t much - she didn’t get that big. The doctor said with her long torso, Angela had plenty of space and grew along her back. Evenso, she was embarrassed by her body, by the thickening of her waist and didn’t want me to see her naked.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” Sylvia couldn’t believe it.
“It’s true - she didn’t care for me touching her all that much either. She meant it when she said she felt fat, mis-shaped and ugly. No matter how I tried to assure her that I didn’t see her that way, she was uncomfortable with it. Sooo, I left it alone. Her mother, father - really messed her up.”
“Not entirely. We all have things about us that our environment, or parents have messed up.”
Shawn shook his head smiling at her, whispering and teasing, “Excu-u-use me - forgot that’s your new best friend.” He chuckled, and Sylvia joined him, simpering as well but nodding her head, “That’s right - and don’t you forget it.”
“Long as you’re not that way, that’s all I care about.”
Sylvia smiled thinking about the way he was as he went on to watch Jesse James, playing with him as it were within her womb. She most certainly wasn’t lacking in size, roundness and girth. Unlike Angela, Jesse James was all out front, and it showed. Shawn’s fascination with it, and her pregnancy was a miracle that amazed him. If she felt any discomfort, he was right there, helping her anyway that he could, even massaging Jesse James down from her ribs which did hurt.
Armundo had been nothing like him. No where near the same. She couldn’t help but remember one instance while she was pregnant with Mundo. She hadn’t been feeling well, unlike with Crystal where morning sickness had been in the beginning - with him, it had come later. Plus she was simply worn out because she was working. Even though he was in the military, due to wasteful spending, drinking and partying, she’d taken a part time job because once again, they were without lights. On a particular evening, upon her disclosing the fact that she wasn’t feeling well, his come back had been,
“Great! What you tryin’ to say, I ain’t gone get none tonight?”
Not in the mood, Sylvia had turned away from him to her other side.
“What about a quick blow-job?” He asked as if she hadn’t just said she wasn’t feeling well.
For her to return between grinding teeth, “Can you get away from me,please?”
“Know what, you need to quit actin’ like this such a big effen’ deal! Women been having babies from the beginning, stop acting like you doin’ somethin’ new. You ain’t special - just get on your knees right quick, put that butt in the air - I be done in a minute. Ma-a-an, right now, yo’stuff tight as hell. Come on…let me get in there now, while you layin’ there, instead’ah wastin’ time talkin’, I could be through.”
The longer he went on over her ear, pestering her, nudging her, deliberately irritating her - the more ill she felt.
“Come on now, get on yo’knees, come on - hurr’up…”
She went to dart up from the bed to get away from him when he pulled her back and they began wrestling. Grinding her teeth, fighting him even though she knew she might lose, she couldn’t just give in, she didn’t want to. Yet, feeling the way she did, she was soon out of breath, out of energy to fight him. He came up behind her, yanking and forcing her underwear down so he could enter her from behind and proceeded to take her. Tears fell from Sylvia eyes the whole time wondering what had she done so bad that she deserved this.
Shaking the vivid memory from her mind, Sylvia felt Shawn’s gentle touch wiping the running tears from her eyes, she hadn’t realized she’d been crying. “What’s wrong,” he whispered close to her ear, then kissing it.
Sylvia shook her head denying it, reaching up to dry her eyes.
“Somethingiswrong, I know you, what?” He pressed.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she rolled to him and wrapped her arms over his shoulders, squeezing tightly.
“What were you thinking, hm, what upset you, tell me?” He wouldn’t let it go.
“I don’t know what I’ve done, to deserve you.” She swallowed deep, and whispered passionately, “Don’t… don’t ever stop loving me Shawn. Love me just like this - even - even when I’m acting crazy, unreasonable… pushing you away, not making a bit of sense - just - just love me anyway,”
“Aaah sweetheart,” He palmed her head, pushing it back from his neck, smoothing her hair back, “Your problem will always be me loving you too much. Look how I get on your nerves now.”
“No you don’t - you don’t - that’s just me - I - I have, well - control and,” She blushed admitting it, “…independence issues.” She gently sniffed, her forehead at his chin.
“Oh yeah? You?” He joked, moving her head to kiss all the soft lovely skin on her face, “Here I thought that was just me.” he murmured in between. Sylvia shook her head, trying to get closer to him, there were times when she wanted him to completely envelope her, to hold her inside and never let her go.
“I think this is Jesse James maybe, making you feel all emotional, and…”
“No… it’s how I feel.”
Shawn chuckled, “Emmm, that’s what you say now - later you’ll be giving me that, ‘get lost’ look.”
She had to grin, but then shook her head again, “I can’t help, the way I feel sometimes - I’ll do better.”
Shawn actually laughed out loud this time, “Ooohwee, he’s doing a number on you.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle, “Stop laughing at me, I’m trying.”
“You do know, saying these things, you’re making it worse. It’ll be all your fault when you stop loving me, trying to figure out how to get me to leave you alone.”
“That’s never going to happen Shawn, not ever.”
He leaned away, tipping her chin up with a strong finger, “Never say never.”
Sylvia looked into his eyes, her own still moist with emotion as she declared, “I would die for you - take a beating for you - take a bullet for you - kill for you and all that is yours.” A few more tears fell with her firm statement. She meant it, he could see it in her eyes. To see it, finally - in someones eyes looking back at him, choked him up. Aside from Derrick, and yes - Kathy-Ann, never had a woman loved him that way. Words escaped him, his throat was clogged - instead of speaking, he lowered his head and kissed her madly. With such vibrant strength and trembling, she knew he believed her, and more than anything she knew that he’d needed someone to love him the way that he loved them all. “Make love to me Shawn,”
“You sure… you feel okay?”
“I want you to.”
“Emmm, how about - I just - take care of you? Hmm, how about that?”
“What about you?” She whimpered as he made his way to treat her.
“I’ve got the best of everything I need… shhh, lay back baby… lay back and open to me, come on…”
Sylvia did as she was told, allowing her husband to gently drive her insane. His skills sent her into a dizzying delirium, until it sent her to the heights of the heavens where she swore she saw God. A couple of hours later, Shawn stood in the bathroom looking at himself in the mirror. His wife was out cold, he would not have left her otherwise. He stood naked, feeling raw. His mind back and forth between worrying about his brother, Derrick and stressed about what he would find when the grave for Armundo was reopened. He sent Deidre the new bank account information she would need to deposit the money for him. He had the name of the man who owned and maintained the grave yard where he was supposed to be buried. Monday, he was going to Chicago to bribe him - and get him to look the other way while he got in a digger to un-bury that coffin. He had strands of Crystal’s and Mundo’s hair. Lydia and Lucas would give up their DNA if that body proved not to have DNA to match up with Crystal or Mundo. The main thing that he needed was a match to the kids in order to return to normal and breathe easy again.
Only thing that was keeping him up right at that moment was what to tell his wife? She was not easy. Sylvia’s mind, thanks to her first husband was one that would need to know what, when, why and where? The difference between her and Deidre was that he could just say to Deidre,“I’m off, have work to do in Chicago.”Because she hadn’t wanted him pressing her about working, she would leave him alone about work. He didn’t have that luxury with Sylvia. Shawn leaned back against the bathroom vanity sink, dry washing his face in worry. Dennis would back him if he came up with a good one, but the problem was coming up with one that wouldn’t seem suspicious.
“Come on Shawn, think - think?” He coached himself. The light came on - he didn’t need Dennis, he needed Lucas and Lydia. Shawn smiled. “It’s time you two had your pictures taken professionally together,” Shawn smiled. He would call Lydia tomorrow and set it up. Meanwhile, before this weekend was over, he and Mundo would do the nursery and do a good job of it at that. He’d already picked out the paint, yellow. That would win him bonus points with the wife. With that sorted in his mind, next thing, “Okay little brother, where are you, and how are you?”
Derrick parked the van at Jake’s and Vivian’s assuming that Meribel would be sleeping there. That had been the plan before another of their numerous fights erupted. Because she had her own set of keys, he simply locked it up and climbed into his son’s car and off they went, back to Madison. The first twenty minutes driving, they were both quiet, until thinking about it, Derrick asked, “You tired?”
“I’m fine.” Marcus answered and they were quiet once again. Marcus wasn’t sure of what to say. Like his brothers and sister, they hated it when their parents fought, something that was happening a lot lately. It would seem, the last year or so, his mom and dad had fought more than they had their entire marriage. It was starting to really worry him, because they didn’t seem to be pulling out of it. Suddenly, his dad spoke. He’d drawn in a deep and long audible breath, and upon releasing it, “I’m moving out. Your mother is never going to forgive me. In fact, there are times when I think she actually hates me now.”
“Huh? Dad? Nooo, don’t do that! Ah come on, go to counseling or something, but I don’t want you guys divorced - I thought we didn’t do that kind of thing? I thought we were different?” Marcus blurted, stunned by his father’s words.
“You think this is what I want? Besides, no one said anything about divorce, not yet anyway. Separating for the time being - I think it’s best for now - we need time to - work through some things.”
“No, how can that be best? You and mom belong together, not apart. Work it out together.”
“Marcus, I - I can’t turn back… the hands of time. I can’t make this all go away. Your mother can’t get over it. It’s too much, what she’s gone through - because of me. I need to give her space right now. We’re fighting all the time - my being home is making things worse.”
“I don’t want you moving out, there’s gotta be a way to fix this.” Marcus groaned really worried now.
“Maybe - one day, after I’m gone, your mom will find a way to forgive me, right now - she can’t, no matter how she tries, it’s there, between us.”
“Do the adoption she wanted dad, she’ll feel better then.”
“Marcus, I wouldn’t suggest that to anyone having the problems we have. A baby, an adopted one especially - whose life is already tumultuous due to being given up for adoption, does not need to be brought into our mess. He nor she, can fix this - it’s wrong to even consider putting that on a child-...”
“You guys are putting it on us!” Marcus blurted petulantly.
Derrick sighed, and with no choice, ignored his comment to continue on with what he was saying, “… besides, no baby, no matter how needy or wonderful, is going to replace our child, the one she lost. Nor will it remove from her heart and mind, that she can never have another.”
Frustrated Marcus grumbled, “Why can’t she just be happy with what she has? I mean come on, there’s six of us, that’s enough.”
“You’ve decided that huh? An’ by what right? What right have you to tell her, she’s had enough?” Derrick challenged.
Marcus wilted a bit.
“Son, do not turn this around. Do not make this all your mother’s fault. I did this. All of it. The way I handled it - brought all of this about. So, don’t twist it.”
“You said you were sorry. Why do you have to leave, and suffer because you wanted to do the right thing? It’s not your fault that lady was crazy, you didn’t make her crazy. She was already crazy. You’re taking all the blame, how’s that fair?”
“Marcus, don’t ever be a man who refuses to see the truth about yourself. Or, be a man in denial of facts concerning this world we live in. Don’t be stupid like I was, pretending that everyone we live on this planet with, thinks like me and sees things as I do. That’s bull - it’s always been this way. There is no justice, there is no balance, there is no fair. We have to accept and adjust to bring about justice, balance and fair. My father tried to teach me that, but - I - I didn’t listen. I’m - I’m guilty of trying to be…” Derrick sighed once more, dragging his hand over his face in despair as he sat, having no choice but to face this truth. “I… I tried to be, better than him, better than them - Shawn, better than Jake. I - I tried to separate myself from their way.” Derrick went quiet once more, thinking about everything, reflecting back. “Your mother feels betrayed. I betrayed her. I left her open, exposed, vulnerable … in danger. She begged me to listen to her, to believe her - that that lady was dangerous. No woman who has a husband that loves her, treasures her - should feel the way I made your mother feel. Afraid for her life. I - I might as well have ignored her, her fears. I left her feeling that she needed to fight to protect herself, because I wouldn’t… I - I didn’t - I didn’t protect her, or… my own unborn child. I practically offered them up to Margaret.” Derrick sat shaking is head, “That is…un- forgivable.”
Marcus didn’t know what to say, because not even he had looked at it that way. Thinking back to the way their grandfather was, so very protective of his women. He’d always talked to them and taught them how to be. Now, he was really worried about his father. “Dad, how were you supposed to know she would-…”
Derrick cut him off, “It was a test! I - failed it… period. I failed my wife. I failed to protect her. How can she feel safe, secure, treasured, cherished… protected - if I’ve shown myself to be so weak, that I let that woman have an opening to kill her. Kill our child.”
Marcus gulped, trying in vain to think of something to say to make his father feel better.
“Your mother… once upon a time… would have killed anyone, to protect what I once was to her. Anyone… I had that, I knew that about her. She made me, her all… and I left her to be attacked. Her brother - had to step in and do for her, what I should have. To see it all, I feel pathetic and ashamed. I failed… I failed…” He repeated the last low and bewildered, his mind wrestling with trying to understand why.
Marcus was afraid of what he was hearing, “Promise me dad, promise - that - well, you’re not gonna do anything - crazy, to yourself, harm yourself - you know likesuicide.”
Derrick found a way to laugh at his son’s concerns. Reaching over, he gave him a pat and a squeeze on the shoulder, “I promise youthatis the last thing on my mind. I assure you, doing that would be my biggest and most truest failure of them all. No, I have to face this, there is no running from it.” Derrick’s mind slipped into further deep thought, sighing, he stroked his sons shoulder once more, “I love you too son, I love you too.”
Marcus was immediately thinking about his siblings, “Sasha is going to have a fit - she won’t be able to handle it. Neither will Joseph, you sure dad there’s no other way?”
“All of you will be able to get a hold of me anytime you need me. I won’t be far.”
“It’s not the same dad, it’s not the same.” Following that, Marcus had run out of things to say that might make him change his mind. They drove for a while more in silence until his father’s mobile rang. He could see his father digging his phone out, checking the screen for the caller and then answering it, “Hey.”
“Where are you?” Shawn asked.
“On my way home, we’re almost there.”
“Marcus and I, he drove me by Jake’s to leave Meri the van. We’re on our way back home.”
“Why didn’t you stay? Maybe… talk about it, I don’t know.”
“Nothing to talk about really, what’s there left to say? You as well as I and dad, and Jake, and Meri, well - everyone - we all know this happened because of me. What can possibly be said by anyone, to make this right? Can’t be made right. One of my children died because of me. My wife has no faith, respect or trust in me any longer - because I let that woman, destroy my happy home. It wasn’t perfect, but we were good together - so good I took it all for granted.”
Now Shawn didn’t know what to say, all he could was, “I love you little brother. Please don’t let things said between you two, come between us, please don’t let it.”
Derrick knew what he was referring to, “Who told you?”
“Shanna - she didn’t mean it you know.”
“Yeah she did - let’s face it, had it been you - it wouldn’t have happened, we both know that. The whole family knows how you are when protecting your own. Father trained you well. Had I not run from it, maybe-…”
“I ran too Derrick, I ran too. By running, I have much to live with, much to regret.”
“You didn’t lose a child Shawn, you haven’t lost your wife.”
“Neither have you.”
“It’s not the same.”
“No… it’s not - but - you guys can get through this, I know you can.” Shawn consoled.
“I have a feeling, that she - actually hates me now. She doesn’t look at me the same, there are times I go to touch her, and she draws away from me, can’t bear my touch. That -shewon… she did what she sat out to do to us. She may be dead, Margret Wheeler, but - so now is my marriage.”
“You need to go for counseling, both of-…”
“I’m moving out Shawn, I’m leaving her the house - getting a room until I find a small apartment.”
“Aaah man - temporary - just temporary. Just to give her time to breathe and think.” Shawn advised.
“Why don’t you come here, stay with us?”
“I need to be near my kids, it’s bad enough that I’m moving out, but I have to stay close.”
“I understand. It goes without saying, you need anything, anything at all - money, whatever - just say the word, you know I’ve got your back.”
“Thanks… we’re back home now - talk to you later.” Derrick clicked his phone off.
He and his son entered the house, Marcus went to the basement, Derrick went up the stairs to start packing his things.
In the basement, Marcus dialed his older brother, Dj - he knew it was late, but he didn’t care, this was urgent. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get a hold of Dj - he figured that maybe his phone was off for the night. Marcus left him a message. Walking back up from the basement, Marcus stood in their dinning-room with his hands interlaced over his head. Listening to the sounds of his dad moving out in the night. He was tempted to call his mother, tell her what was happening right at that moment. If he did it, and she didn’t care, that would make it worse for his dad, and certainly worse for him, so he didn’t. His dad thought she hated him now. Never in one hundred years would Marcus have thought this would be happening to his family. They were the family in the neighborhood everyone else wished they were more like. He was almost staggering as he made his way to the sofa, sitting down, realizing the full implications of this. They would all be left at home alone with their mother.
Filled with anxiety, Marcus combed his hand through his hair ruffling the cock’s comb up. He wasn’t so sure his mother without buffer of his father, was the right person to live with at that moment. After all, they were all at the age of really getting on her nerves. It wasn’t all bad, but when it was bad, it was really bad. Their dad buffered it, buffered her. Settled everything down and made her smile. They always used to smile at each other. Always used to talk, laugh and love in front of them. That’s how they were. Now, in the blink of an eye - it was gone, as if their family, their home had never been that way.
His father was coming downthe stairs with two hefty duffel bags, one over his shoulder and the other held out in front of him. He had three of his favorite bill caps perched on top of each other on his head. He walked past Marcus, saw him sitting there but continued on to load up his truck. He was outside a bit, because he was fitting the camper shell on the back of his truck to enclose it. Half an hour later, he walked in, up the stairs and brought down a few of his suits in the carrying bag for them, and other work clothes. He took his laptop, all of his bathroom gear and most from their room. He was making quite a few trips in and out for things. Things from the kitchen, weights from the basement, and his tools and building equipment.
He came in and stood before Marcus, thinking, the sight of his doing that, was the last of what Marcus could take. “Would you look at you? Afraid to forget something? You taking so much stuff, you scared you might have to come back?!” He accused sarcastically.
Derrick scratched his head, having chosen one hat, which was perched firmly in place. He stared at his son, who was breathing hard and now done with pretending this was all okay. “When I leave son, I won’t be back here for some time unless I’m urgently needed. We’ll meet some where, you, your brothers and sister.”
“So what is this? You gonna try to punish mom or something? Why don’t you wanna come here to see mom? How you gonna work it out?”
“Marcus, we need to take this separation seriously.”
“No, I want you to work-it-out. It’s not just about you and mom okay - this is my family too! I mean, I have a right to say what happens to my family - you two can’t just up and decide, we don’t like each other anymore. So we’ll have to adjust - it’s not fair - that’s bull!”
“Look son, you need to calm down, it’s not easy for me either.”
“I don’t care! I don’t want this! Not easy? Then don’t do it! And if you two keep acting like this, crazy and at each other, you got no one else to blame if we all end up screwed up behind it! You two… you owe us! You owe us a happy life, a happynormallife - or - otherwise you shouldn’t have had us. Keeping this family right is your responsibility! It’s what you committed us to when you got her pregnant! This is what we’re used to - I don’t like where this is heading… I don’t like it!” He shook his head shot to his feet and rushed for the stairs and up to his room.
Derrick turned around looking at what was once his home and wondered how this would all end up. He walked to the stairs, looked up them and called out to Marcus, “I’m going!” He yelled, “You gonna come down, see me off?” He shouted further.
One last check around, Derrick locked the front door, and then going out the back, locked it and put on the house alarm. He climbed into his tightly packed pickup and drove off to find himself a room.
Going back, South Carolina - 1927…
It was Saturday morning and Virginia had heads to do. She’d done three already, starting at the first show of dawn. The black women from the area knew how busy she was and demanded by white. If they were going to get in there for their own needs, they had to be up when the cock crowed and at Virg’s door, (that’s what they called her, Virg). She took from them anything that she could use, especially money, but it was no big surprise that many didn’t have coin to share. For that reason, they brought her food, live stock, candles, soap, furniture, household linens, chopped wood and trinkets. Sometimes they would bring things that made Virg cock a hip, placing her hand there with her head tilted in that old black way saying, while observing the object in her hand, turning it this way and that, “I know you don’t expect me to dig into them tight roots forthis!Shoot,youdon’t even want it - and neither do I- sista!”Yes, every now and then, she would do free deeds. However, she had two little girls to see about, so the ones that got her to do for free, had exceptionally good hearts and would do anything for her in return. Unfortunately, they were few and far in between.
At that particular moment, head number four was from church, Rev. Palmer’s wife and head five would be his daughter. She had already washed her hair, and while waiting for it to dry, she did her mother’s. She would be taking a break after head five, she was about worn out, not to mention how her feet were starting to ache. Evenso, the good thing for her was that as she did heads, the ladies, her regulars and friends liked to hover around and cook. The good company did well to take her mind off of her discomforts and financial woes. While waiting, cooking and eating, they would talk about the happenings here and there. Outside, those who had kids, brought them so they played around her yard. The South Carolina winter weather allowed that. As for her girls, they knew better than to get dirty - their play comprised of conducting themselves like little ladies. Hostesses as it were. Enjoying the company, talking and socializing even at their young age. It was the way Virginia had them, how she started out with them. She had a habit of dressing her girls in fancy dresses, and doing their hair extra nice so they were walking examples in order to promote what she could do. It worked, because she’d had more than a few orders for little girl’s ensembles.
As for that day in particular, she was in the midst of friends. The focus of conversation was about her and Reginald. Thanks to them, Virginia finally had to admit out loud what they had warned her from the very beginning concerning Reginald going north without them. The head in her hands at that moment was not necessarily a “friend” but she was a familiar, voicing her opinion, “Mmm hmm - two years and you just now waking up?” Rev. Palmer’s wife said, holding her head down as the hot comb went through her short kitchen - real close to her skin, her neck - so she knew not to move or shake her head as she spoke.
“I told you when you first said what the plan was, what was gone happen.” Rose chimed in, a dear friend, “Didn’t I, what I tell you?” She could speak up because her hair was done. She was happy and at the moment stirring the greens she’d washed and put on. She always brought a nice meal to prepare for Virg and her girls. Knowing how the ladies would gather at Virg’s, she always brought enough to make plenty so others could eat as well while getting their hair done. Plus, she loved the way they went on about her food, she was a good cook and loved it when everyone went on and on about how delicious it all tasted.
Bonita, another friend, whose hair was also done - looked towards them as she bent over the cornbread in the oven, “You know doggone well Virg, he done got up there, and either gamblin’ that money away-…”
“Or drinking it up at the club.” Rev. Palmer’s wife interrupted to interject.
“…or, got hisself anotha’ woman!” Rose caped it off.
Everyone went quiet.
Virginia lifted the hot comb away from the reverend’s wife’s head, laying it on the white test cloth.
Rose fidgeted uncomfortable, regretting having said it so bluntly what everyone else was thinking, “Come on sista’, time to see the writing on the wall. We all friends here, Virg - you know we here for you. But that Reginald done got up there in Chicago and met himself a new sweet treat and she gettin’ the money he supposed to be sending you. How long it’s gone take you t’realize?”
Grumbling, Mrs. Palmer complained, “You shudda kept that tidbit ‘til she finish my head,” she worried about Virginia’s state of mind.
Virginia was still quiet. There was no sense in defending Reginald, the proof was in the letters she received from him. He was changing, or better said, had changed. She just needed to accept it. She placed the curling thongs on the heat next, a clear enough indication to Mrs. Palmer that she would finish her hair. The older woman sighed in relief - because it wasn’t like she was paying her to do her hair.
“What you gone do Virg? Can’t depend on him.” Bonita asked, her gentle voice soothing with compassion.
“Man aught’ah be shamed of hisself.” Rose groused, moving things around on the table to fit another dish on it with other covered foods. It was cluttered with bowls, spoons, plates, hair products and implements. Bonita stood with a hand to the back of a chair and the other on her hip, fingers clinging to the scarred kitchen towel. All three women were waiting for Virginia to say something. She was thinking of what to say. Truth, she wanted to get done so they could leave. There were times when she appreciated them, but right now, they were forcing her to face the reality of her situation.
“Virg, what you gone do?” Rose repeated Bonita’s question.
Virginia stood in auto mode of styling hair. The thongs of the curling irons clicking and rotating in her hand as her fingers manipulated them with expertise, smoke rising caused by the oil cream on her clients hair with the heat that shaped a thin lock of hair into a perfect cylindrical roll while redrawing them. Reheating the iron, she would repeat the process over and over until the head was done. It was church tomorrow and Rev. Palmer’s wife always wanted her hair fresh washed and styled. The trend, waves and kiss curls. To make sure they lasted, Virginia shaped and flattened the curls to her head and then clipped them down.
“Virg, you ain’t got nothing to say?”
Sighing, she finally replied, “Considering his letters, not much I can say.” She had the reverend’s daughter’s head to do next. It should be dry now, it wouldn’t take her long to press the young girls hair out and then put it up in a bun.
“I tell you the truth, men ain’t what they used to be. They got no shame. Here you is, by yo’self with his daughters on this land you can’t work alone - pretty black woman-…” Reverend’s wife went on to be cut off.
“Ooooh-wee and got these here white men restless out - they - mind, over you!” Rose sang out with big eyes and a bit of trepidation. That could be a bad thing, or depending, a good thing - one never knew which way it would go.
“Chile ain’t it the truth. Black ones too - but they either married or too young, hell-…” Bonita chimed in.
“Now now now - hol’ that back, I can’t be hearing this. Sheisa married woman. The Lord expects you to be loyal and true-…”
“That fool up north need to be the one worried about what the good Lord think, not her!” Rose protested.
“We all know he ain’t! Pro’ly laid up as we gettin’ our hair done, turning over from Ms. Pay-me-five-dollars, to check the time.” Bonita joined Rose in arguing for Virginia’s side - who let out a long sigh, after clipping the last kiss curl. “Done.” She meant with Reverend Palmer’s wife’s hair, tying on the net scarf to hold all in place.
“It’s about time! Cuz’ he sho’ done with you.” Rose exclaimed.
“I told ya’ll I can’t be hearing this.” Palmer’s wife reminded them.
“Ain’t nobody stopping you from blocking yo’ears.” Bonita advised and turning to Virginia, “You need to get you a new man.”
“A money man,” that from Rose.
“Don’t say it!” Palmer’s wife shouted and lifted her arms, praying out loud, “Lord, heavenly Father - forgive them for they know not what they do. Praise the Lord Jesus!”
“You need to be praying for that so-and-so that left her here alone with two children between Hickville and Cracka-way!” Rose fussed.
“Yes Lord, down in the deep of Redneck Valley!” Bonita joined in with her own location marker.
“All right, I’m gone have to do my child’s head myself this kind’ah talk keep up.” Mrs. Palmer threatened, anxious to depart.
“What else she supposed to do? The good Lord helps those that helps themselves, ain’t that what the good book say?” Bonita challenged.
“Can’t you two wait until we gone before you lead your sista’ down the path of unrighteous adultery! Praise Jesus - not me Lord! I’m leavin’ now.” She decided.
Rose, who was short, barely 5ft. light skinned and round like an apple had heard enough, she quirked her dark full lips and advised, “Would you please then, take your daughter and get on about your way. When you get home, ask yo’man to ask the Lord to forgive us po’sinners - but we gots to eat!”
“That’s right! A woman’s gotta do, what a woman’s got to do! CHARLEMAGNE!” Bonita shouted out the window for the reverend’s daughter, “Yo’mama ready to go, she gone do yo’hair herself.”
Hearing it, the reverend’s daughter Charlemagne stomped her foot, poked out her lip, crossing her arms over her skinny chest. She’d wanted her hair done by Ms. Virginia, her mama was just gonna put it in a ponytail for it to stick up in the air.
“Whooo-wee, Charlemagne is not happy.” Bonita laughed having seen the little fit.
Virginia’s mouth dropped open with a, “Ach!”
Bonita pat her arm, “It’s all right, she wasn’t gone do nothin’ but pray for you anyway, all that work you done did on that head.”
Mrs. Palmer snatched up her purse, and to show that Bonita something, dug into it and pulled out a whole dollar bill laying it on the table with a huff as if she’d just proved her wrong.
“Oh my, a whole dollar!” Bonita went on sarcastically.
“It’s better thangreens!” Mrs. Palmer defended, and turning to Virginia, “I’m gone pray for you, pray real hard - listening to these two! CHARLEMAGNE - let’s go!”
Waiting an appropriate length of time for Mrs. Palmer and her drooping unhappy daughter to climb on their carriage and head out, the three turned to each other and burst into laughter. Shaking her head, Virginia picked up the dollar waving it before them, “Oh well, it’ll pay something, I thank you for that, I’m not gonna complain.” She smiled tucking it into her purse. “Ya’ll too much - I can’t have the reverend mad at me.”
“Hmph, the way he look at you - being mad at’cha the last thang on his mind.” Rose grinned, winking at Bonita.
“Em hm,” Bonita agreed, “He got the devil’s own, hell-heat-hots for you Virginia Piercey.”
“Lord, don’t remind me. Why you think I do her and her girl’s hair for free? Made her a dress for this Sunday too.”
“Are you crazy? Wait, you ain’t - you know, with the reverend have you?” Rose stammered.
“You think I’m crazy? Of course not.” Virginia shivered at the thought, “I just take care of her - because - well, I don’t want her thinkin’ I have.”
“Virginia Piercey, you make her pay! They can afford it - believe me, that money tray goes around, and around.” Bonita griped.
After checking on the kids, Rose was fixing them a plate of food to eat on the porch, it was a wonderful day for December, comfortable cool, “Virg I know you do the best you can for us, but you gone have to start puttin’ yo’ needs first. Lord knows, if we could pay you, we would. Time for you to start going where the money is honey-chile.”
Bonita was nodding in agreement, helping by dishing out sweet potatoes, greens, pieces of chicken and corn bread, “Which leads us back to what we was saying before Miss Holy started calling for the Lord.” Bonita went on. She and Virginia favored each other in features, so much so there were whispers they might be related - as in maybe Virginia’s father had been around hanging his hat there. Difference was, Bonita was extra skinny. No figure to mention, no boobs, no behind, skinny legs and arms and slightly drawn features. She would be a looker herself if she wasn’t so bony, and it wasn’t like she didn’t eat. She was eating all the time. So much so she got on Rose’s nerves, who swore she gained weight if she sniffed peach cobbler while it baked in the oven. Truth was, peach cobbler was her weakness - if she made one, she had to make sure there were enough mouths around to serve most of it to - otherwise, she would devour it, no matter how much there was of it left.
“I don’t know… not sure what I’m gone do.” Virginia went on to speak her mind.
“Listen here girl!” Rose spoke up coming in from taking the kids food to eat, “You foolin’ with fire. You bes’ hurry up and get you one of these white men - one with money.”
“You bes’ listen, she right. If he ain’t got no money, why bother? A sugah daddy ain’t no good if he ain’t got no treats.”
Taking her turn, Rose added, “I’m tellin’ you they gettin’ restless, won’t be long ‘fore they be comin’ in here on you. Know you don’t want that. Time t’get one - want one or not, or else time to pack up and go. An’ you ain’ goin’ no where.” Rose was sure of that.
“So you know what you have to do.” Bonita finished.
A collective chill passed between the three, spurring Rose to continue, “Don’t wait Virg. Don’t wait - pick one now. One that’ll take care of you real good, protect you - see after your girls too. Ain’ nobody’ll blame you. It’s the way it is - especially for us, if we look like you.”
Bonita had a plate of food before her, she wasn’t waiting to eat. “Ya’ll better eat while it’s hot.”
Rose grabbed a bowl for a little bit, while Virginia cleaned the table of hair products and implements. “I - I kind’ah, have someone in min’ already. He - brought me home the other night.”
The fork dropped into Bonita’s plate, both women sounded like owls, hooting at the same time, “Who?!”
Virginia responded slow and careful, starting with, “He’s… well, a bit younger than me.” She teased out.
“Younger is good, easier to hook’em, make’im worship the ground you walk on you do it right.” Rose approved.
“So come on, who?” Bonita pushed, growing inpatient with the mystery.
Before Virginia could answer, Josephine ran to the door, “Somebody comin’ up the way mama.”
“You all bring your food and come in the house, all of you, come in!” Virginia and Rose stood at the door rushing the kids inside. Just because it was daylight, didn’t mean they didn’t have to be cautious sometimes. Besides, a motor vehicle meant somebody white with money. That required extra attention, bringing the children indoors so nothing could be said to irritate or offend. White people didn’t really care for black children unless they had a use for them. Otherwise, they didn’t wanna see them. Bonita had long since come to her feet, putting the plate of food aside.
“You want us to stay, or go?” Rose worried.
“Hmmm, could be you been chosen, it’s them McPherson's.” Bonita reported, standing, peering out the window at the long curving drive.
Virginia immediately turned back to watch the large vehicle coming down her drive. She wasn’t so afraid anymore. Upon clear realization that it was indeed them, her stomach relaxed at the same time it tensed again. It was Jacob. He was driving and his parents with him. She turned to Bonita, “Would you min’ taking my girls, I’ll come get’em later.”
“We gone have to talk later. Finish what you started.”
Virginia smiled, nodded and gave her attention to getting her friend’s and the kid’s coats. Bonitahadto ask before she left, “Come on tell us ‘fore we go, he the McPherson?” She whispered trying to get a clarification. Virginia looked her in the eyes and gave the slightest of nods - making Bonita’s and Rose’s eyes widen until they almost bulged. Rushing on, she silently lipped, “We’ah talk later.”
The children started loading onto the wagon as Jacob’s 1924 Chevrolet pulled up parking in front of the porch. Before stepping off of it on the way to the the wagon, both women, Rose and Bonita spoke to the McPherson’s, making sure to compliment the lady smiling their way. “Hey Ms. Lida Bell, we just love your hair - my goodness, we know you got’em all green wit’ envy.” Rose poured her syrup at the wagon.
Lida Bell grinned back, more than pleased, patting her hair after her men handed her from the backseat of her son’s car. “When you got the best hairdresser in South Carolina, heck, in the south period - there are bond to besomejealous.” She was happy to announce.
“Yes ma’am - and we know you leave’em green comin’ and goin’.” Bonita added, climbing onto the wagon next. It was hers, so she was reaching for the reigns. “Ya’ll sit down back there now. See you later Virg.” She called back, snapping the reigns. The children and Rose waved goodbye, making sure to include the McPherson's.
Looking lovely, feminine and desirable, Virginia stood with her arms crossed trying to relax. She stood seeing her friends and daughters off, remembering to wave and then back to greet the McPherson’s.
“My-my how nice, how can I help you all?” She asked. From where she stood, she could see and feel Jacob’s eyes on her, flanked as he was by his parents. Something made her glance at his father, noting that his eyes were narrowed a bit, as if closely inspecting her. As for Ms. Lida Bell, she had a smile that could light up an underground coal mine.‘Clothes’, Virginia thought, ‘she’s here for more clothes.’
“Virginia Ruth Piercey, it’s how we can help you! My heads just buzzing and I do believe, you are gonna love the reason why! Just this morning, I had the most wonderful idea pop right into my head.”
Virginia smiled, at times she really liked Lida Bell. In truth, as far as she could see, what was there not to like. She was pretty as can be, a red-head with twinkling brown eyes, plump, full rosy red lips and a toothy bright white smile. She was free and eager to pay her as well compliment. As for GM, he wore a black fedora, long black wool tweed coat over a short-sleeve, button up white shirt and gray polyester-cotton slacks and two toned black and white, leather oxfords - spit shinned and gleaming. When most saw him, he would be stepping out of his Cadillac, not his son’s Chevrolet. The word around was that a man as good looking as he was, could not possibly be faithful to his wife. Yet, none of the attractive women in the area, black or white, claimed toknowhim. No doubt, that was partly the reason why Lida Bell’s joy and happiness was so exuberant. She was certain that she, and she alone held his heart monogamously.
As for Jacob, he deliberately hung back, to be unobserved by his parents. His eyes, his attention honed in on the lone slender, shapely black woman wearing a cream linen smock over her floral lilac and heather dress to protect it. Her brown hair was finger waved to perfection. Smooth, shiny and neat it hung just below her jaw, above her shoulders. Enough body to frame her captivating features.
He wanted her.
He wanted to protect her.
He wanted to make her dreams come true.
With his father in on it, Jacob had every intention of seeing it to fulfillment.
True to her nature - his mother went in like a world wind. By the time she was done regaling to Virginia all that she saw as a wonderful business opportunity - Virginia was excited at the idea. Lida Bell went on to assure her a guarantee of success - promising her steady work - more security surrounding accommodations for her and her girls. Not only that, but because of her talents, a growing name to be proud of. She promised that by the time she was done, everyone in their town and perhaps the next would be coming to her to get their hair done, or a garment tailored to make their next most fashionable statement. The entire time Jacob’s mother spoke, he watched her, Virginia. He read her reaction, waiting for her to realize, he’d been instrumental in making this happen. He also noticed her flinching a bit here and there when his mother went into areas that might not be agreeable to Ginny. He could see her mind swirling, and that she was going to agree. Why wouldn’t she? Her circumstances really didn’t allow for much space in rejecting the idea.
He knew what her dream was.
She knew this would perhaps be her only chance at making it happen.
Walking back to him, his father gestured that he follow him. They walked around the property, making notes of the repairs needed. In the hardware business, they had it all and connections to all. The plan, the idea was for her to sell her property and livestock to use the money to go in half with Lida Bell. Together, they would purchase a shop in town or at the edge of town that would have living quarters attached to it where Virginia and her girls could live. As for Virginia, because she was alone, she couldn’t make the farm work for her. Hanging onto it and the land made no sense to her when she and what she did was better suited for in town. Because South Carolina winters allowed it, with the sun out - a great deal of work could be done to make the house suitable for selling. Wasting not a moment of their time, once all agreed to what needed doing, they set to it.
GM hired on a few workers to trim the garden, gravel the driveway and paint the house on the outside. On the inside, Jacob rolled up his sleeves helping as well in stripping and buffering the wood floors, floor boards and ceiling trim, along with stripping the door frames and doors - staining and varnishing it all. By the time they were done, Virginia was reluctant to sell it - it was beautiful. Clear evidence of what money could do - something she nor her family had been able to do the whole time there. Lida Bell put up new pretty lace curtains through out the house and a welcome mat just outside the door.
The house went up for sale.
When and if it sold, the money was Virginia’s to invest as a partner. GM explained that they would be taking from the sale what it cost them to fix the property up, what remained was hers to invest. Jacob felt immediately uncomfortable with his father stating there was a debt for Virginia to clear concerning what they spent. That’s not how he thought they’d do it. Addressing his father, being direct and forthright, Jacob voiced his concerns, “I don’t want her with a bill already, this is to help her out.”
They were in his father’s office, GM sat at his desk and hearing his son’s declaration, quirked a brow saying, “Thisisgoing to help her out.”
“I want to take care of her, like you said.”
“Son, you are - things are moving right along aren’t they?”
Jacob paused once more in thought, he was starting to see a side of his father that was startling. “Yes, they are…” he stated slowly, “…even so, I don’t want her to have this bill - I don’t want her having to pay out of the sale of the house.”
“And how is it that you suppose she can avoid it? This is business. She wanted to be in business-…”
“She wanted her own shop-…”
“Same thing son, same thing. This is business. To be in business, one has to pay - invest. I put that house right, dressed up the land, made it appealing to a possible buyer. Should it sell, she will get what’s left over after I take back what it cost me.”
“I’d… let me pay it, the costs for fixing up the house.” Jacob requested.
“Yes, me. After all, I’m the one who came to you with this. I’m the one who planted the seed with mother. I’m the reason all of this is happening. I’ll pay it.”
“Your money is for school son.” GM reminded him.
“There’ll be plenty left over for school.”
“Look son, you’re getting in over your head. Have you bitten off more than you can chew? Leave all of this to me, I’ve been conducting business far longer than you’ve been alive. Leave everything to me and-…”
“I don’t want her in debt to you.” Jacob came out blunt with it. He saw something in his father that was making him feel uncomfortable where Virginia was concerned. “Iwould rather be in debt to you.”
GM saw something in his son that was reminiscent of a challenge. He leaned back in his chair, examining what he saw developing before them. “Son, you letting having your first piece of black tail get you all ate up like this?”
Jacob bristled at his words, “I haven’t had… any piece… as of yet.”
GM’s brow lifted in observation, “I see.” Nodding his head in understanding, he went on, “Let me get this right, you’re going to pay me, for her, out of your school money, which - in truth, is … my money - that I gave you, for school - did I getthatright?” GM watched his son’s Adam’s apple bob up and down following a nervous gulp. GM waited for his son to say something in response to his summation. “Boy… you gettin’ in too deep.”
Jacob’s jaw went hard, tight - trying not to say anything more.
When GM saw that he had him right where he wanted him, he went in further - “That’s right, you wantin’ a woman, and you ain’t even a man yet.” He said in that southern authoritative drawl meant to put him in his place, “If you were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
Jacob sat, stared and felt himself changing on the spot.
“Emmm, so you see my point. While we’re here, let’s get this straight right here and now shall we? Every dime that goes out of this house, came in through me. I earned it. It’s mine, all mine. Were it not for me - none of it would be possible. I don’t quite know why it is, but I’m beginning to feel a little unappreciated. I’m also willing to bet, if we went to Ms. Piercey with this, she would see things my way. She’s got way more pride than you give her credit for. Why, I’m certain she’ll want to pay her own dues - even I know that about her.” He paused lifting his brows for emphasis, “One more thing son - almost allrealmen know, while doing business it’s always best to get all the preliminaries taken care of before any party has spent a dime, done the work. Since neither you, nor she asked for details in writing - I - having spent the money, having arranged for the work to get done, which is done I might add - I will say how this business, debt and repayment goes. That clear?”
Jacob remained quiet - caught as he was - after all, for the moment, his father was right. Jacob faced one of the biggest wake up calls he would have to endure. When his father gave a sardonic smile of triumphant, the young man stood and turned heading for the door and left the office. All words and thoughts he might have, he kept to himself. His mind was now racing. He was tempted to have Virginia back out. However, it was too late, the house had been done, she now owed his father.
He felt sick.
He’d rushed ahead getting things in place assuming that he and his father were on the same page. Assuming that his desire to be charitable towards her and her daughters was a shared desire with his father. Now, he feared for the mess he might have gotten her into. All because, he didn’t really know his father. Or, what he knew about him, had never crossed his comfort zone until this moment. While Jacob might be young, he was not ignorant. He knew how many blacks were enslaved tothisday by debt. How they were used by many land owners to get work done for dirt cheap, by dangling a carrot of promise only to later learn how great their debt. That he may have caused this to happen to Virginia was making him ill.
Slavery was supposed to be over, it wasn’t! They’d just altered the means of how they went about re-enslaving them. He hated it. It made him crazy that because of his desire for her, wanting her so badly, he had just set her up to being owned by his father. A father that he no longer trusted. In just a matter of a few weeks, Jacob went from being a young man, to being rudely awakened to fact that it was now time to be a man.
He took off in his car looking for Virginia. He wanted to tell her what was happening. Apologize for the mess that might be - because of him. He wanted to promise her, that he would get her out of it. Even if it meant forgoing school to get a job so he could pay off her debt to his father.
He needed a job and he needed it now.
This couldn’t be happening at a worse time. They were going through an economic crash - a fall that put everyone in financial stress. Considering that, where would he find a job? He drove first to her farmhouse. Upon arriving, he looked in her window to see that all of her furniture was gone. He stood looking around stunned,‘Ginny! Where are you?’His mind shouted. He pulled out of her drive heading down the country rode in heightened worry. In the beginning weeks of making all of this happen, he’d watched - spent time with her and gotten to know the kind of lady she was. Facts were clear that she was indeed a real lady. She took pride in all that she did. His father made it out like he had all of the work on that place done. In truth, he and Virginia did quite a bit of the house within - granted, his father paid for the supplies and extra labor, but they’d been there from the beginning to end. Spending that time with her had only cemented his feelings and need for her. She’d worked hard - because she wanted this so bad. Even her little girls did their part, not for a second getting in the way. They knew already, how to work.
Now, it could be wrecked by the truth.
As Jacob drove around looking for her, the panic he felt to tell her began to cool off. In the time it had taken to search for them, he’d had time to really think about it. He decided that maybe he wouldn’t tell her. What he would do, is find a way to make the money himself and pay his father off. There was no need for her to know what he’d come to realize. She could then focus on the shop, working with his mother to build her reputation and clientele.
After almost two hours of driving around looking for her, going by her friends, hoping to spot her walking along the road and worried because she was in none of those places - stressing, he decided to go home. He would ask his father for her whereabouts, believing that he would know. In route, on the very edge of town, right at the first street he spotted her and his mother.
They were standing out in front of what used to be a lady’s clothing boutique. It had closed up because no one could afford to shop there. Once more, Jacob wondered what he’d gotten Virginia into. To say it was a bad time was being delicate about the scenario in the south. Reason numbers of blacks were heading north - for that matter, whites as well. Abandoning their failing farms and debt while hoping to find a new beginning in the industrial cities of Washington, New York, Detroit, Chicago and Boston.
Despite his mother’s enthusiasms, he felt nothing but dread. After all, his mother had nothing to lose. She was spoiled and had the backing of his father. All Virginia Piercey had washim. Moaning from the grip in his stomach, he pulled up parking out front of the shop cutting his engine. He now faced that because he too like his mother had been spoiled - he’d jumped in without thinking things through or better planning. All done, because of wantingthatwoman. With his thoughtless actions, he realized he’d gone and set her up to possibly fail here. They hadn’t even kissed and yet - Jacob loved her. It wasn’t first time puppy love either. It was the kind of love that if she weren’t married, he’d find a way to marry her. He didn’t care about the laws against it. Everything about Virginia Piercey made his body ache and pine and groan in ways he didn’t know the body could.
His mother was waving at him trying to get his attention. He put on a smile and waved back, getting out of his vehicle. Virginia looked his way, smiling as well. She was holding the hand of Tara, her youngest - who was four. She was shy and glancing up at him. Her little girls and the way they were when they, -whites- were around, madehimfeel his whiteness. The part of their reputation that had been earned because of the wicked, ugly and mean actions of too many. She should not be afraid of being around white people, she should not be afraid of him. At the youngest age, they feared what they might say, do or how they might misbehave. Virginia’s four year old, acted nothing like a four year old, or rather, nothing like awhitefour year old. Virginia’s older daughter, Josephine, stood at her far side. She leaned forward to catch a glimpse of him and because she saw him looking, she quickly went back into hiding. She was six. Black children were well-mannered, quiet and careful. They had to be, because they lived around whites. White’s who didn’t care for black children. So they knew not to make a move or a sound that would bring attention to them.
Distracting his observations, he heard his mother ask excitedly, “Well what’a’yah think?” She was her usual exuberant self with not a worry in the world.
“I take it, this is the place?” He asked. He was forcing himself not to stand there filling his mind and soul with the sights, sounds, smells and actions of Virginia and her girls.
“It sure is! Your father bought it two days ago. You’re now looking at my and Virginia’s new shop. Guess what we decided to name it, guess?” She bubbled eagerly.
“Aaah mama, don’t make me guess, just tell me.”
Shaking her head, Lida Bell pouted, working the keys to open the shop door, “You’re gettin’ old too fast! There was a time you used to like my guessing games,” She pouted, whining with her heavy southern drawl. “Anyway… we agreed the name, “Bell of the Ball” would be perfect. Right Virginia?”
“Yes Ms. Lida Bell, it’s perfect.” Virginia responded with a smile. She had to give it to her, the name was catchy as it also included her name, being theBellof the ball, which she considered herself.
Jacob wondered was that an auto response or did she really like the name? Negroes didn’t disagree, not unless there was a strong and urgent need that forced them too. Their eyes met.
Virginia could feel the intense penetration of his eyes on her. She noticed he was doing that a lot lately. Every time they were in each others company, should she look his way, his eyes were on her. Searching, inspecting, peering deep… like now. Virginia knew this was no ordinary young white boy - or rather, young white man. There was something in him different from all others. There were times when she felt he was older than his years. As she’d gotten to know him, listen to him talk, watch how he was with her and others, she realized he was compassionate, gentle and caring by nature. There didn’t seem to be a cruel bone in his entire body. He was soft and considerate. Or was he just that way with her? She didn’t think so. According to his mama, he was like that about everything living. She talked about how he treated the animals. Instead of just milking their cow, which he didn’t have to do - and did anyway - he would stroke the cow and talk to her and ask her how she was feeling as he did so - then he’d ask if it was okay to take her milk and use it. Lida Bell shook her head asking him, ‘Jacob, are you crazy? It’s just a danged cow - surely you don’t expect it to answer do you?’and would laugh at him walking away with a wave of her hand. Leaving behind the sound of him singing to it as if giving the cow pleasure while taking from her. There were times Lida Bell thought him senseless wondering what in the world made him that way. She had told Virginia, ‘Oh the times I’ve had to yell at that boy to just get on with it for goodness sake! Just milk it if you’re gonna!’
Hearing it, made Virginia feel nothing but awe. She said he was like that about everything. The chickens, the pigs, their geese and ducks, and yes, their Negro workers as well. Virginia was drawn to him, despite the four year difference in their ages. He was going to be one helluva man one day, or rather, minister. That too Ms. Lida Bell shared with her. That he was going to school to learn theology. Theology was about God and the bible she was explained by Lida Bell.
Knowing that Jacob wanted to know about God and the bible spread a warmth through Virginia. Now, more than ever, she wanted to know more about Jacob.
They both walked behind Lida Bell, agreeing with most everything she said because in truth, they paid her little attention. There was an aura that surrounded them. Even her girls must have felt it, because they kept looking up at him. Especially her Josephine. She even smiled at him once, a little smile, but a smile just the same. It caused him to kneel before her, to look up at her, taking her little hand in his, he pat it gently, “How you doing this fine day Ms Josephine?” He greeted her, making her giggle and cover her mouth. People always said, you want to know the nature of a person, the true nature - watch children and animals around them, then you’ll know.
Her girls, liked Jacob. Around most other white folks, they wouldn’t make a sound or gesture. Every since that day, around him, they’d begun to smile and giggle. Around him, they came alive - and there didn’t appear to be any fear of him. One thing, they didn’t detect any fear or hesitation from their mother - nor had she cautioned them that they should be silent and still when he was around.
Lida Bell had looked on at him doing it, making a sardonic face, she was used to that in him and only shook her head and called them to follow her. They were walking up the steps found at the rear of the shop. Lida Bell first, then Josephine and Tara, next Virginia and then Jacob bringing up the rear. Virginia had to catch her breath as she felt her heart take off - his hand was suddenly there caressing her hip - his thumb rubbed over the upper and then the lower curve of her buttocks. Such a small, bold intimate gesture made Virginia moist in response to the stolen touch. He’d given her no warning that he was about to do so. She couldn’t believe that he’d done it. Her heart wouldn’t stop racing. He wanted her. She was sure of that now. Because of what she knew about him, she couldn’t help what she was feeling. She may have started out just wanting him to see about her, protect her, for desperate reasons - but now - it had grown into something more. She was actually attracted to him, desiring him. First chance that they were given, she would give herself to him and gladly. She felt his need for her, want for her, desire for her in every fiber of her being. Married to Reginald or not, sin or no - Jacob could have her. He had her feeling breathless and aroused, a fine sheen of perspiration broke out on the surface of her skin, giving her a lowly glow. Jacob couldn’t help but notice, his own breathing was irregular.
“Look Virginia, it’s just perfect for you and your girls! Right above the shop - your very own apartment. What’s more, you got electricity! Now ain’t that somethin’? I bet you never thought you’d come to live where there’s electricity, did you now?”
“No Ms. Lida Bell, not ever. Not sure what to do with it.” Virginia murmured low, trying to hide the passion wreaking havoc within her system - butterflies were trying mightily to get out of her stomach.
Lida Bell laughed out with a wave of her hand as if that were hilarious, “Why you can see when it’s dark for one! No more lighting up lanterns and such - you can have a toaster, like me. You can listen to the radio, bet you don’t even have a radio, do you?” Lida Bell chirped on.
“No ma’am, no radio - maybe one day.”
“That day has come! Look - got your own bathroom too - no more outhouse. A toilet, a sink, a bathtub, all right here in the same room. Ain’t that something girls?” She asked Virginia’s daughters.
Immediately they nodded, with a soft and meek, “Yes ma’am.”
“What’s more, there’s a room for them, and you Virginia all your own. Oh look…” She clapped, excited for them, “A kitchen! You got the most perfect lil’ol kitchen. Yes indeed, things just looking right on up for you Virginia Piercey!”
“How is she going to pay for all this mother, since her farmhouse hasn’t sold yet?” Jacob couldn’t help but ask. All he saw, was that she was getting in deeper.
“Because we’re partners, my half is paying for this. Once the farm sells, she’ll be able to reimburse me. For now, we need to get this show on the road, get things in motion.”
He smiled on the outside, but on the inside, more from his father - like him, in truth, his mother had nothing.
“I went by the farmhouse, it’s empty, where are all your things?” That question was directed at Virginia.
Lida Bell wasted not a moment, “Why, we’ve loaded everything on a big’ol truck. We here to clean up, once it’s done, we’ll bring her things right on up here.”
With barely concealed sarcasm Jacob returned, “Clean - in those clothes mother?”
She played it off, smiling and slapping his shoulder, “You silly, I don’t mean me directly. I’ll be here to oversee thangs, make sure everythin’ is done just so, to our standard.” She smiled the entire time.
Jacob turned red with embarrassment at her words,‘our standards.’- as if Virginia had none. Obviously his mother thought black people had no standards. Had no idea how to do thingsrightwithout white supervision. He turned quickly away from her biting his tongue before he said something that turned the mood sour. “I guess I’ll head on out and leave you all to it. Everything looks great.” As if the question were off handed and of no consequence, he asked, “How long will you all be here?” He was asking Virginia.
His mother assumed he was asking her, “Me? Just a couple more hours or so. Virginia, well - she lives here now doesn’t she? So naturally - she’ll be here from now on. There is much to do. You see all the fabric and dresses downstairs in the shop? We haven’t given you a tour of the backroom storage. There’s loads of fabric, sewing machines - and other such equipment. We bought it all. Now Virginia has everything she needs to sew to her hearts content, filling orders of course. The dresses here, can be custom adjusted to anyone that wishes them. They’ll be altered and made into gowns some of them. All of the clothing will be kept in the back room. The front will be used for doin’ hair. Can’t wait to get things going.”
Virginia was excited as well, saying carefully, “I can’t wait to show my friends, let them know where to come to now for their hair.”
His mother’s expression changed instantly. “Uh, your friends?”
“Yes, well - I figure, I can do their hair one day or - or Saturdays-…”
“Oh no no no, not here. Especially not on a Saturday - why you’ll no doubt be booked heavily that day. And even if not, we can’t have Negro hair and thangs in a’midst thangs for white folks. Why - why no one would dare sit in the chairs or come in this shop. No, you’ll have to make other arrangements for them. You’ll have to look for space in your spare time. There’s some kind of shack out back, why - I bet that would work out just perfect for them. When - that is, you have time. First thangs first… and tha’s gettin’ everything in place for the clients I’ll be bringing in.” Her tone had gone from Miss Happy-Clapping, to authoritative director.
Virginia stood a moment as if resigning herself to this “partnership”. Barely discernible, she sighed and gave the slightest ever of nods, accepting what she must have known all along about Ms. Lida Bell.
Jacob stood at the door, having turned around when his mother began thewhite onlyrules.
Giving it one more try, to be clear, Virginia stated, “I thought, we were partners - and that-…”
“We are!” Lida Bell snapped cutting her off, “You not complainin’ are you? After all, it’s because of me that all of this is even possible! I will provide everything you need and you - do the work. The hair, the sewing - once we’re paid back in full, you’ll start to reap your half of the business. After all, the house isn’t yet sold, is it?” Lida Bell asked emphatically, “Truth is, it may take some time for it to sell. In the meantime, you’ll be working to pay us back. You can’t be wasting precious time on Negro heads and such, why - most of’em are dirt poor and won’t be able to pay you anyway. So - you’ll - have to do them on your own free time, in the back - or - wherever you wish, long as it’s not in here.” Lida Bell turned from Virginia to her son, “As for you, we have loads to do, you’re distracting us. I want this place spic and span, slapped into shape and open before Christmas, and there’s New Years coming up as well. We got no time to waste, get going now.” She shooed Jacob with the wave of her hand, dismissing him.
Ashamed, his eyes went to Virginia’s - the way he looked at her made her turn away.
He had to get out of there and made his way quickly down the stairs and away for now. More urgently than ever, he needed a job - he needed a way to earn enough to get her out of this hole closing up around her. Regardless of how hard times were, there was a way to get free of it. There was a way for him to earn money and whatever that way was, he would find it.