I am continuing on in my writing prompt series. I hope you are having as much fun as I am!
And off we go…
Mama hadn’t been right for a long time. She ain’t never say nothin’ to me, but I could tell when I looked at her. Her skin looked funny and her eyes ain’t been clear in weeks. I tried my best to get her to a doctor but she ain’t listen to me. Arty even tried. I overheard him begging her while she cleaned his place. He had been paying her to clean fer years. He paid her in cash, and while she cleaned, he worked hard to fill my belly. It wasn’t an easy task. I sat at the table munchin on fruit and lunchmeat while they argued in his study.
“Marie, you should go to the clinic. I can drive you over now, put down the cleaning rags, and let’s go.”
“No sir, I thank you, but no, no, no.” Momma started to carry on something fierce.
“Who will care for Sep if something happens to you?”
“Ain’t nothin’ happenin’ to me, sir. September is the light of my life. The joy I ain’t deserved. I ain’t goin’ nowhere she can’t follow.”
“Marie, part of that is caring for yourself.”
“If anythin’ happen to me her daddy gonna figure it out.”
I could tell, even then, when I was eight when Arty had had enough. This was one of them moments.
“But who is that? Who’s September’s daddy? He sure isn’t caring for you two now.”
Momma kept saying ‘no’ and before a hot minute passed, she was out by me, shooing me to the door, leaving the cleaning things on the table. I didn’t say much, I listened to Momma when she got that way. No use in arguing with someone who didn’t have a full mind to argue back with. I gripped her hand and we walked down the sidewalk. I glanced over my shoulder, Arty stood at his door, he looked pained. I offered a wave to let him know we was gonna be alright.
Only thing was, we weren’t alright. Momma got worse as the day went on, started coughing, looking sour, she passed that night while we sat under the bridge watching the creek. People said it was a trauma fer me. It wasn’t though. She passed real peaceful. Arty did a nice job preparing her for her funeral. She looked pretty as an angel lying in the white chiffon. Not a lot of folks showed up. Ol’ Bill, Cadmus, Mel, of course, Arty and Dee. The Abbots didn’t grace me with their presence, but I was a’right with that. Church folks came, theys have to, its in their guilt. Arty took me in but I could tell it made him feel the stress. I tried my best to be quiet, but I’s got a mouth on me that has a mind all its own. I cried a lot at night and ate even more. He and Mel did a lot of talkin’ about me.
One day in late September I sat outside Mel’s store, eating a ham and cheese sandwich, watching a row of ants march down the sidewalk when Ol’ Bill came out. He always looked like a bug to me with his glasses. Most the time he just muttered and side-eyed me. Today he looked me full on in the face and spoke clear as day to me.
“You’re going to be fine, little lady. Your momma was right to not fear for you.”
He walked off and left me confused as all get out. I munched on my sandwich and watched him shuffle down the street. Crazy ol’ loon.
Funny thing was, that night Arty sat me down to proper supper (he was fancy like that) and asked how I felt about living with Cadmus. I must admit I was struck dumb for some time. I knew him, he was always hanging around with Mel and Dee, and he worked at Mel’s store. But he scared me a little. He was so tall, with that dark skin, deep eyes, and beauty I wasn’t accustomed to seeing around here. Yeah, that’s right, my lil eight-year-old-self had a crush on him, what’s it to yah? I squirmed in my seat. Arty told me he would take good care of me, had a room for me, could teach me good, and most importantly, he told me he knew how to cook. It didn’t seem right for me to force myself on Arty. I knew him but I knew he didn’t really like me there. He was a free man and he wasn’t accustomed to watching out fer someone so lil as me.
“I suppose if that’s what yah want me to do, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Cadmus started coming ’round for the next couple weeks. Eating supper with us, taking me on walks, we talked about Momma a lot. He listened. Not just to get me to shut up, or waiting for his turn to speak, he listened to the real words comin’ from my mouth. I liked that about him. My silly crush disappeared and before he took me in, I found I loved him. How could I not? He cared for me the way any daddy should care for their youngin. Arty was like a good uncle, but Cadmus showed me what it was to have a daddy.
On October 5th he added a key to my keychain that Arty had given me. It was fer his cabin. I couldn’t stop lookin’ at that new key, all shiny new, just like I felt my future was.