We Have A Date!

I’m happy to share that the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust anthology, the anthology I am to be a part of has a tentative release date. It is, drumroll please: January 9, 2019!

I’m so excited. It’ll be like a belated birthday present for me. If you all remember, my birthday is on the first. That being said it is only a tentative date and it can change, but I will update if anything changes.

This anthology has been such a bright spot this fall. I cannot wait for it to debut and read all the stories. I’m dying of anticipation!

Also, on the 11th, the twitter page @SDSanthology will be sharing my promo art for Oren. So stay tuned for that.

I can go on and on about how happy, excited, proud etc. etc. I am to be a part of this anthology but I’ll stop here.

Check ya later,

Cherish

Advertisements

Not Since High School

*Coughs*

*Bats at cobwebs*

*Passes flickering flame over forgotten blog*

My goodness has it been a good while since I updated the old blog. It’s nice to see you all again!

I reckon the remainder of 2018 is going to be filled with lots of writing. Why’s that, you say? For starters, I’m finishing up the last of my Etta & Emmylou edits so that Elizabeth can get some editor eyes on them soon. Whew, chile, the butterflies! I’ve been working super hard to get them together and I really hope all of my changes are well received.

But also, I won a contest and my story placed third! That means that me, some writer friends, and other talented authors will be together in the last installment of the Seven Deadly Sins anthology. Have you heard of it? Check them out here. And also if you’re keen follow them on twitter @SDSanthology I believe the last time I was featured in an anthology was when I was a part of Girls Write Now back in high school and they had their yearly ones.

Remember that critique website that I’m a part of? Well for the last two years or so I would see contest for entry into previous volumes of the anthology going around there, but I never really gave it much thought. Seven Deadly Sins? Maybe I judged a book by it’s cover, but I never thought my style and my bend towards realistic, historical fiction would have fit well. However, the last volume was LUST and boy do I love a good romance. I fired up an old character. A character that actually got me my first publication. Remember Tabitha’s Babies? (I wonder if it would be okay now to share on here?) Well, my girl Rowena was begging for another piece of her story to be told and of course I obliged.

Oren

I took to Canva to create this shortly after finishing. I have no idea what the anthology’s cover will look like, but this totally embodies the story. 

The piece that I placed with is called Oren. It’s in prose poem form like Tabitha’s Babies and Freedom Be Like A Mother. I’ve named it after Rowena’s beau and because the theme was lust it goes through the start of their relationship. The anthology is a YA one and writing a lust piece while keeping it PG-13 had it’s challenges, but I must have done something right! Let me tell you, the more I read it, the more I want to delve into Rowena’s story more. Perhaps one day when Etta and Emmylou are out in the world I can sit down and make it happen.

The anthology is expected to come out sometime in early 2019. I shall keep you all updated on it’s progress.

Until then,

Cherish

It Turns Out…

That Cold Creek Review is still around! The editor-in-chief is going through a rough patch, but she attest that Cold Creek Review will be up and running as soon as she can manage it. Everyone who was selected to be in the June issue is still going to be published. A little patience is needed is all.

So yay!

Cherish out.

How Authors Work

It’s been a little while since my last entry, but a big hi to you, internets!

I was waiting to update you all on the publishing front. For a long while now I was sitting on some news, which was that my poem, “Freedom Be Like A Mother” a sequel to my debut poem, “Tabitha’s Babies” had been accepted at Cold Creek Review. However, it seemingly dissolved into thin air before their June issue I was to be a part of (with a writer friend). Such a bummer. BUT! I’m still shopping around my middle grade short. I’m hoping I get a biter soon.

Despite the sad publication news, I do have some good news on the writing front. I did my first ever podcast interview! It’s called “How Authors Work” and I’m so happy my writer bud Jess Creaden asked me if I would be interested. The hosts Andrew Burleson and Paul Kirkpatrick were a blast and made hermit crab and socially anxious me feel so comfortable.

We talked about doo-wop, my record player, my turtle writer status, Linda Williams Jackson and of course Etta and Emmylou. I think every writer should be on this show. But please have a listen to mine and the others on the site.

https://howauthorswork.com/6e8eadba

Other than that, I’m busy at work on Etta and Emmylou! Chat soon,

Cherish

Revision Cave

*Cue Female Wilhelm Scream*

I’ve heard stories about the Revison Cave. Hair Pulling, laptop throwing, coffee downing stories. You could search literary twitter for hours reading the first hand tales of revisions. It’ll make you want to drop your WIP and never look back, but at the same time those same stories make you want to experience the revision cave for yourself.

And that’s where I am right now.

Kind of.

When I signed with my agent I was in the less common situation of not having a finished manuscript. I would say “Etta & Emmylou” was maybe 90% complete… of an early draft, that is. And so what does that mean for me? It means not only am I editing but I also have to write the ending. Suddenly my revision cave has no exit. There is no telling if I’ll ever make it out alive.

What will I do?

I’m taking it word by word and line by line. And also listening to lots of The Shirelles.

About a month ago my old Victrola died on me and so I couldn’t listen to my vinyls. But now I’m reunited with my record player and it’s helping me get into the groove of editing.

With The Shirelles, my revision cave doesn’t seem so scary.

No more Wilhelm screams from me.

Cherish

Canva

¡Hola!

So sharing my short story was fun. It’s something I’d like to do more of, possibly, but I’ll come back to that. I’m really here to talk about Canva.

Where has this wonderful site been all my life. Why didn’t anyone tell me how addictive and awesome it is? I got the app for my phone and I’ve been busy creating ever since.

For those who aren’t sure what Canva is, it’s a site/app that allows you to create graphics using templates. We’re talking bookcovers, twitter headers, cd covers, and a bunch more. The app is super user friendly. I say this as someone who really struggles with technology, but I love it! And I found it just in time for me to finish a short story.

A short story? When do you have the time to write a short story? Aren’t you slaving away on Glory Hills?

The short answer: No.

Yes, I’m in between works in progresses at the moment. I know, I know. Just know that working on Glory isn’t the best option for me right now. I am excited to get back to my OGs Etta and Emmylou though.

But back to Canva and my short story.

So I had been working on this short story for months. And by working on it, I mean that I had about 75% of a first draft written and it sat like that for months. I was having a hard time finishing it until I got my second wind, if you will. And let me tell you, this is probably one of the cutest stories I’ve ever penned.

Said piece is Middle Grade (MG), historical (surprise!), and inspired by one of my favorite books, My Louisiana Sky, by Kimberley Willis Holt. Or rather a scene/moment in this sweet book. Basically a first love/first kiss.

I’ve named my short story Wishful Thinking. And it follows twelve-year-old Moriah whose mute. Her mutness creates this special bond between she and her bestfriend Carver. I don’t want to give too much away, but for my first go at Middle Grade, I’m so proud. So proud that I went to Canva and conjured up a bookcover.

I love the envelope and heart graphic. It fits the story so well!

I’ve sent this story off to a couple of magazines. If I’m successful, you’ll be first to hear about it. If not? Then I may consider sharing here.

But I had the bug! I couldn’t stop fiddling around and I took to Canva to celebrate my refocus on Etta & Emmylou as well.

I made a new twitter header.

And I even got a little crazy and designed an album cover.

The pink and purple is a nod to my twin and I’s signature colors.

And my sister made this aesthetic for me.

There you have it. Sorry, that was a lot of post. I should post more often, but thanks for reading! I suspect I’ll have some revision musings to share soon.

Until then,

Cherish

You, Me, and These Trees: Part Three (FINALE)

frontporch

You, Me, and These Trees: Part Three

“Gussie? Girl, is that you?” Mama’s voice nearly sends me running right back out the door, and I ain’t even hardly come in yet. I can hear her in the kitchen though. Clanging and moving about. I just hope she don’t got no hands around something that can hurt me.

“It’s me, but I ain’t alone. You decent?” I call.

“Alice staying for supper?”

“It ain’t Alice,” I say. With my hand still snug inside Erroll’s, we stand in the doorway to the kitchen. Mama got her back to us, but she whips around when she hears Erroll’s voice.

“Evening, Mrs. Hicks.” He bows his head.

“Augusta, why is this boy in my house?” she asks, chin becoming a part of her neck.

What do I say? I look over at Erroll, and his eyes seem to be coaxing me on. “Where’s Daddy?” I ask instead. “I—we got news to share. You both need to be here.”

Seems like Mama decided she not answering my questions either and asks another instead. “Why is your hand in his?”

Lord knows I don’t want to hurt Erroll none, but something ‘bout the way Mama set down her spoon makes me want to drop his hand. I try, but Erroll holds tighter. “That’s why we here. Daddy around? I didn’t see him in the yard.”

“He in the room. Prayin’. Said he had to speak to the Lord ‘bout somethin’ troublin’ him. You not in here with this boy to upset him, is you Gussie? Don’t think his spirit could handle his pride n joy doin’ nothin’ sinful.”

“No, ma’am, not at all.”

“Good.”

She been talkin’ to me, but her eyes ain’t left Erroll yet. I know me and Erroll not here to hurt my folks, but we is here to hurt my folks.

“You remember Erroll, right, Mama?”

“Mmhmm.”

Erroll clears his throat. “You sure got it smellin’ mighty good in here.”

“Hmm, well you know as well as I do, times is hard. They say The Depression’s over, but my house must not have heard. I wish we could feed you, but there just ain’t enough to go around.”

Mama,” I kind of hiss. Just a few minutes ago she was ready to ask me to set a place for Alice to join us, now all of a sudden there ain’t enough to go around.

Girl—

“It’s alright, Gussie,” Erroll buts in. “That’s not what we here for.” And then he turns to Mama. “Oh, don’t worry ‘bout that, that ain’t what I meant by it, I–”

“Gussie, go sit out in the front room. I’ll see if your daddy is done prayin’ so Erroll can run along to where he got to be.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Though I want to, I don’t take Erroll’s hand. Instead I kind of push him along to the front room. I don’t sit and neither does he. It don’t feel right.

“She knows,” I whisper.

“And your heart still thumpin’.”

“That’s why I’m worried.”

“Don’t let them get to you. Keep your head up.” He curls his lip just enough so his dimple shows real good. I nod and almost hug him, but the sound of my daddy makes it clear, I made the right decision.

My daddy’s an old man, but he’s strong. Everything ‘bout him got weight behind it. Especially his voice. It leaves me stuck in place.

“What all this?”

“Mr. Hicks, sir,” Erroll says,  his voice sounding like he want to compete with Daddy’s.

“Gussie, why this bastard in my house?”

“You ain’t got to call him that, Daddy.”

“He lucky that’s all I called ‘em.”

True as that is, it still don’t make it right. “His name’s E—”

“Why he in my house and why you look like you ‘bout to regret somethin’.” Daddy’s got on overalls, but in his grip is his belt. And all I can hear is Flora’s cries.

“No regrets here,” Erroll says.

I look at Erroll, then to Daddy, then Mama and back to Daddy again. I can’t tell if it’s the words I need to say piling up inside of me or this baby sickness, but I open my mouth anyway.

“Reckon I better tell y’all I’m expectin’. Well, we is.” I steal a look at Erroll, and when I do—

Slap!

Mama could probably finish supper on my cheek and a moan slips through my teeth.

“You what?” Mama so close to my face I can barely fit my hand there to nurse my pain.

“I said I’m expectin’.”

“Naw you ain’t. Expectin’ is for married women, not little girls without the sense to keep them legs closed.”

“That’s why I’m here, I want to take Gussie’s hand.”

Daddy grunts. “Take her hand to starve?” He grunts some more. “You best hurry on out of here,” he tells Erroll, pushing the air with his hand.

“There ain’t nobody starvin’ at my house,” Erroll tells him.

Mama crosses her arms over her chest. “Mmmhmm. Maybe not in body, but in spirit. Nothin’ but a bunch of heathens. And your mama sleep with a different devil every night.”

“Mama!”

“I done warned you once ‘bout the tone you use with me,” Mama says, eyes wide and her hand coming at me again. Right before she bring it down, Erroll steps in front of me.

I can’t see Mama behind Erroll, but I can hear her and she ain’t makin’ no kind of sense. They ain’t words, just strangled noises.

“Boy,” Daddy starts, waving his belt at Erroll, “ you better find your way out of my house. This family business.”

“No disrespect, sir, that baby Gussie carryin’ be my family,” Erroll tells them. I hear Mama try to speak again, but Erroll cuts her off. “Now, I’m tryin’ to do the right thing and ask for your daughter’s hand, but know we don’t need your say so.”

“Gussie, come from around him!” Daddy yells at me.

“I won’t,” I sort of squeak, pulling at my dress. But then I think ‘bout Flora. How I ain’t stand up for her. Erroll did more for her than I ever did. I was too busy letting Mama and Daddy convince me that she was wrong. That folks would be looking down on us. But not no more. I’ll be my own good. I slide from behind Erroll. “You givin’ us your blessin’ or you ain’t?”

Daddy lunges at me, fastening his hands on my wrist. It might as well be a lock. He got that sort of grip that says, even if he lets me go, I won’t really be free. He yanks me right on over to him and raises the belt.

“You!” Daddy shouts, lowering his belt to the back of my legs. Maybe he don’t finish saying what he started or maybe I just can’t hear it over the sound of my own cries. And I do cry. The way Daddy’s belt comes down on me, makes my legs feel useless. I fall hard at his feet, and curl up best I can into a ball. This is it. Daddy’s gonna beat this baby out of me. I brace for the sting of the leather, but don’t feel nothing. Or hear it. Not even Mama’s groans of protest.

I let my hands fall from my head, half fearing Daddy caught a heart attack trying to make me learn my lesson and half wishing it to be true. And it just might be. Daddy’s face is frozen with an open mouth and bulging eyes, staring straight at Erroll’s hands around his own wrist.

“You not gonna hit her again,” Erroll tells him.

“You must have lost your mind!” Daddy shouts. “My daughter ain’t marryin’ you. Not now, not ever.”

“But I love him!” It ain’t hit me till now that I’d give up everything for Erroll. That all the talk I’ll hear in town, from Alice, from everyone, is just that, talk. Noise. And noise ain’t nothing. Not when I’m with Erroll. The whole world like to fade away, and I wouldn’t notice.

“Oooh, Lord, why do you punish me so?” Mama pleads, looking to the ceiling. She clasps her hands in prayer so hard, we all flinch. Here she goes with that Jesus caterwauling Erroll mentioned earlier. “You aint’ give me but two daughters and now the devil’s tryin’ to take them both away from me. He done already got my eldest, Lord, don’t let him take my baby too. I pray to you!”

“There ain’t nothin’ wrong with Flora!” I scream.

Mama don’t take her eyes off the ceiling. I don’t feel bad at all for wishing it will fall down on her. “She’s sick, with her lust for other girls. Vile.

“She’s the same she always been.”

“No, she’s mixed up and black on the inside. Perfectly happy being a sinner.”

“She love who she love. Like I love who I love. There ain’t no prayin’ that’s gonna ever fix that.”

Mama walks over to me and puts her hands on my face. Her eyes stare into mine, and she raises me to my feet. “If you ask for forgiveness, He will forgive you. You just have to ask.”

“No, Mama. I won’t. ‘Cause I ain’t sorry.”

“You will be and when you are, Daddy and I will find you a husband to take care of you. Plenty of young girls find themselves in trouble, but you have been blessed with beauty. You gonna have a chance.”

She mean some old man ready for a second wife. It’ll be like I never left here, but that won’t be me. I do have a chance. A chance to be happy. A chance to live how I want. And I don’t got to run to New York like Flora to have it. As sweet as I can, I rest my own hands on top of my mother’s.

“I ain’t in trouble,” I tell her. Then I look over at Erroll. He and Daddy still look like they going to war, though Erroll don’t have Daddy’s wrist no more. Both stand with their chests puffed out and fists clenched tight. “It’s only trouble if there ain’t no man. But I have Erroll, so I ain’t in trouble.”

With the biggest grin on his face, Erroll turns to me. It gives me the last bit of strength I need.

“If I’m gonna pray for anyone, it’s gonna be the both of you,” I say.

“No daughter of mine gonna be loose. You want to be his whore, go be it, just don’t be crawlin’ back here cryin’ when you realize you been a fool…”

Those are the last words I hear from my Mama. Daddy’s mouth unfreezes. I watch it move without sound for a second or two. There’s no need look any longer, since I can’t hear him. It’s just noise.

My hand finds Erroll’s before my eyes do the same. We get a good look at each other, him shiny from sweat, like Mama’s ready to fry him for supper, and me, chest rising and falling so fast, I don’t think my dress buttons can hold up any longer. I laugh. He laughs. Not sure when things got so funny, but I needed it bad. Then we sprint out of there like we stole something. Hand in hand.

THE END

So this concludes, You, Me, and These Trees. It’s been a pleasure sharing this with you. I want all your thoughts. The good, the bad, and the meh ones too. Taking a look at this story had made me finish a middle grade short story that I have been working on for months. One about first love. If there are any developments with that, then I will for sure share those.

Thanks for reading and following along!

Cherish

You, Me, and These Trees: Part Two

 

forkinwoods

You, Me, and These Trees: Part Two

I let the stench of my sick and the bass in Erroll’s voice chase me through the trees. I have a mind to run across state line and straight to New York City. Flora tells me everyone there is from somewhere else, and everyone there is free to be who they want. So I figure there will be plenty of girls who went and got themselves in trouble, running away from the boys they love, once I get there.

“You shouldn’t be runnin’!” Erroll calls behind me. “You with child!”

As if needed reminding. My chest is hot. Like someone went and stacked firewood on top of me. Crackling. Sizzling. Burning. I never been much of a runner. Ran the first time Erroll kissed me, and our porch step was the only thing could slow me down. Banged my lip pretty good and I thought Erroll would never want to kiss my lips again. Now look where I am, hugging a tree, wondering if I can climb it.

The crunching of the earth beneath Erroll’s feet gets closer and closer. That boy can’t take a hint. Just as stubborn as he is tall. “Just go,” I pant. “If you love me, you will.”

“I won’t,” he tells me. He don’t halt either, only inches nearer.

“You’re a big ol’ pain,” I speak into the tree. I can feel his body coming nearer with every second. Then finally, I’m looking at his work boots by my bare toes.

“Well don’t be takin’ off like that. What went and got into you?”

“You!” I steal a glance at his face. He’s cross with me. I can tight rope across his top lip, it’s so stiff.

His eyes look like how I’m feeling. All sorry-looking. “Don’t you want to be my wife?”

I want to be Mrs. Erroll Harris like the cavemen needed fire. I can’t imagine my life without him, but that don’t mean nothing. It won’t mean nothin’ to Mama and Daddy either. “I can’t.”

“Why?”

“‘Cause…”

“It’s just you, me and these trees. Speak. Tell me why. It’s ‘cause I don’t have a ring? “Cause I ain’t ask when I first found out?” he asks, bending to find my eyes. “Gussie, I promise you, you’ll have you a proper ring. We’ll have us a proper wedding, and this baby won’t be like me.”

“I told you, it’s my folks.”

“I ain’t runnin’, so that got to mean somethin’ to ‘em.” He straightens up. “Tell me you want to marry me, and I’ll walk you to your mama and daddy right now.” His hand wraps ‘round mine, ready to lead me away.

“I can’t.” The shame. It’s bad enough I’m in trouble, but to find it with Erroll—Mama and Daddy not the only ones who’ll talk. Since Flora been gone, our family been getting whispered ‘bout too. As much as I love Erroll, I won’t lie and say it don’t bother me none. It do.

“Don’t think I don’t know,” he says. “I know what folks think of me. Of my family. You ashamed of me?”

“I don’t want to be.” I’d swear this on our baby’s life too. I want to live a good life with him, but folks won’t see it that way.

He grabs his head like he all of a sudden got a headache. “You said you love me.”

“I do.” I don’t think my head can hang any lower, but I surprise myself. “I do. Mama and Daddy, they not gonna understand.”

“But I’m good people. You know I’m good people, Gussie.” His voice is breaking. Like any moment a tree would grow in this spot if he starts to cry. “I can take care of you. Let me get you out of that house.”

“Daddy won’t allow it.” Him and Mama got to have someone to make miserable.

“I won’t let you or that baby suffer under that roof.”

“You’ll be provin’ them right. They’ll really think you’re nothin’.”

His chest heaves. “They can think what they want. I know you love your folks, but they house ain’t clean either. How they did your sister, I ain’t in the mind to be judged by them.”

Part of me wishes we wasn’t being guarded by these trees, that we could be in the middle of town where everyone can see us. ‘Cause if he ain’t worrying ‘bout being judged, then I shouldn’t either. I just know I miss my sister, that we can’t help who we love, and that Erroll is right. He’s so close, turning sideways makes it easy for my head to find his chest. His arms wrap around me. I let my embrace say the things my voice can’t just yet.

I’ll marry you.

#

If this baby got any kind of sense yet, it’ll fall out of me and go on up to be with the Lord. The closer we get to my house, the clearer it gets that even I won’t be able to keep it safe where it is. I won’t even be able to keep me safe once the news escape from my lips. I just want to stay amongst the trees forever. And the way they go on and on, I bet I could get lost out here for a good while. Maybe as long as I live.

My insides roll like a tire. The baby sickness creeps in again. I know it’s a sign, a little red flag waving. Erroll’s temper mixing with Daddy’s… he don’t know what we’re walking into. Stopping, I turn to him. “Thing’s ‘bout to get real ugly.”

“I doubt it.” His voice don’t quiver not a bit. Like he know something I don’t.

My head shakes and shakes. “You can’t sweet talk your way through this.”

He wasn’t there that day Mama and Daddy found out ‘bout Flora. How they worked together to “free her from the devil.” Daddy with his belt and Mama with her tongue. Erroll ain’t see Flora’s tears. How they kept coming and coming so fast, they would have killed her if I didn’t soak them up with the hem of my dress.

“I’m  just scared I ain’t strong enough to fight their words.” That ground might open up. I fan myself. I can’t tell if the air is hotter, or if my mind is getting ahead of me.

“You can. You will. I ain’t going nowhere.”

It’s not until he finishes speaking that I realize my hands been digging into his arms. “I’m sorry.”

“You ain’t got to be sorry.”

“Maybe you don’t got to be. But I disobeyed my parents, and I got to pay for it.”

“Fine. Then you’ll do it being my wife and raising our baby. And that’s the last we talking ‘bout this. It ain’t no crime to love.” Now it’s Erroll who got a grip on me. With his big hands holding mine he pulls me along. We weave around the trees till they clear.

Erroll talks ‘bout building me a house all the time. Says it’s gonna be three stories, ‘cause two ain’t enough, white as a cloud and the insides gonna have a proper bathroom, with a proper toilet. Not no outhouse.

We ain’t got a palace. Flora and me used to share a bed, but Mama got the greenest thumb in town. Her roses adorn the house like the lace on a fancy dress.

“Daddy gonna ask how you plan on taking care of me,” I tell Erroll. “You ain’t got a real job.”

“It feeds my brothers and sisters, and it can feed you too.”

“But what you gonna tell him?”

“What I just told you.”

“Oh.”

“You need to be worried ‘bout what you gonna say. How you plan on answering your mama when she call you names?” Erroll asks me. We don’t stop walking, but I tighten my hand around his.

“Nothin’.”

“What you mean nothin’?”

“I can’t talk back to my mama, it ain’t right. And I’ve done enough,” I say, motioning to my stomach. Flora talked back, and now she’s gone. Mama and Daddy ain’t perfect, but they family. And I ain’t never been hungry, or cold and had shoes, even if I don’t like wearing them.

“You don’t understand,” I tell him, quiet.

“Oh, I understand. And just ‘cause my mama ain’t like yours, don’t mean I can’t. I ain’t tellin’ you to be disrepectin’ your folks, only to stand up for yourself.”

“You not my daddy, Erroll Harris. Don’t be lecturin’ me.”

“I know I’m not. I don’t want to be either. You got a head harder than an acorn and you sneak around with good-looking boys,” he mocks Mama.

I slap his shoulder. “Hush! Now ain’t the time for jokes.The front porch not but an inch from my toes. I’d be surprised if Mama didn’t hear us already.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Thank you for reading! Did Gussie’s mama hear them? Will she care if she did? Is there a surprise party hiding on the other side of the front door? Find out next week!

Until then, stay cool, Pony-boy.

Cherish

You, Me, and These Trees: Part One

Here it is. The first part in my historical romance, You, Me, and These Trees. I was calling it YA, but have been told it reads more like adult fiction with a child/young narrator.

Gussie knows girls who get in trouble before marriage are bad. But what if she isn’t? What if she not in trouble either? Pregnant, yes. Unmarried, also yes, but not in trouble. With the help of her boyfriend Erroll, Gussie learns just what goodness isn’t.

sheet-tent (2)

You, Me, and These Trees: Part One

I hide in our secret spot, within the walls of this dingy sheet-tent held up between two black gums. Inside, the Georgia heat feels tolerable. Seems like lately, the sun has been following me with a letter from Lucifer himself. But this spot always been special. Made me feel good, when we was doing bad. Me and Erroll. No one bothers us, ‘cause no one knows it’s here. And I used to think that was a good thing, us having our little house, but I ain’t felt that way in a while. The thrill ran out of me with the first sign of my baby sickness, which hasn’t left me alone since. I never throw up, though. Only feel queasy. It’s the reason my face looking more like the inside of biscuit these days, than the outside.

I barely recognize myself. All I figure I am is some limbs that keep shaking, a thumping heart that ain’t really belong to me since Erroll kissed me, and this baby. His baby.

Some nights I’d lose sleep thinking up this exact moment—being Mama to Erroll’s babies, but I thought it’d be years from now. When we’d have some years on us— after Erroll became the first Negro lawyer any of us ever known. But I guess that’s why they call it dreams. They too good to be true.

I hug my knees, burying my face into my dress. I can’t even do that as well I used too. I reckon this is as big as I’m going to get before my mama figures out I went and got myself in trouble. And this tent will be my home when she do.

“Gussie, you gonna make yourself sick,” Erroll tells me. I feel his arm slink around my shoulder, but it does nothing for me. Not like it used to.

“I’m already sick.” All this sneaking ‘round with Erroll and lying is finally catching up to me.

“That’s not the sick I’m talkin’ ‘bout. You care too much ‘bout what your folks think. That’s what got you acting all crazy.”

Crazy? I lift my head faster than I’d like, nearly making myself so dizzy I almost empty my insides, but I focus on Erroll instead. He got a jaw that look like it’s chiseled from brick, until you touch him, then it’s soft as some sliced bread. I got a mind to squish it too. Who he to tell me what I’m feeling?

“I ain’t crazy, Erroll. I’m scared.”

“Yeah…” he says. I listen for him to say he’s scared too, but it don’t come.

I’m only sixteen. I can’t hardly breathe without worrying ‘bout the world crashing down on top of me. I hide everything from my parents. Can’t talk ‘bout nothing but God. Or sing ‘bout nothin’ but Jesus. If I’m sittin’ and thinking, it better be ‘bout the Lord. And if it ain’t… so help me. I’m all kinds of evil. But this here, this ain’t like undoing the top buttons to my dresses once I leave home. We talking ‘bout a baby. Something that all too soon gonna have breaths of its own.

“Mama been lookin’ at me funny. She puttin’ it together.”

I pull at the side of my dress. Every one I own seems to be shrinking. I ain’t got but three. Four if you count my Sunday one. I’m starting to get so big, by tomorrow I won’t be able to get in it. If by some miracle I do, then the minute my backside hits that pew, I’ll swell until the buttons on my dress pop off, ricochet through the chapel, fly through the chorus, and smack Reverend Youngblood in the eye. When it does, Mama will know. She’ll die of embarrassment and take me with her.

“Your crazy mama ain’t gonna kill you,” Erroll tells me. Sometimes I think he can hear my thoughts. “Not with me here, she ain’t.” He talk with all the confidence in the world. He got the looks to back it up too. Dimple chin and tall as anything.

Tuh.” He don’t know.

“Your folks just like feelin’ special and puttin’ on a good show for the Lord is all.”

“And you don’t think they’ll feel special at my funeral?”

He kind of chuckles. “You silly.”

“I ain’t.”

I wanted to come clean to Mama this morning, figured I’d get it over with, ‘cause I’m tired of hiding and pretending I’m her and Daddy’s good little girl. That I’m Gussie. No sass, no lip, no trouble. Just my books and my chores. But part of me is all of that and I wussed out.

“If your mama figurin’ it out, we might as well tell her. No needin’ bein’ miserable.”

“I said, no.”

“You a glutton for punishment.”

“And you sound like my mama.”

“Don’t no one sound like your Mama. I can hear her Jesus caterwaulin’ all the way at my house. What ‘bout Alice? She know?”

I thought ‘bout telling Alice, seeing she’s my best friend the minute my baby sickness started, but I chickened out of that first. “She’ll make fun of me. I feel dumb enough.”

“Bein’ with me is dumb?” he asks, upset.

“That ain’t what I meant.”

“Sound like it to me.”

“This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

I love him, but he got to know this wasn’t the plan. We used a rag for Erroll’s love and everything, just like Alice told me. It’s how she stay out of trouble, she said. But we must have done something wrong. That’s what I get for letting Erroll sweet talk me.

Mama warned me ‘bout being tempted by flesh the minute my breasts grew, but being with Erroll was more than just some puppy love. Everything he do got music behind it. From his smile to his wink. Either of them come my way and I dance in place. Mama also warned me ‘bout trying to have my cake and eat it too. Said I’d get nothing but a big ol’ bellyache. But I ain’t care. It was easier to pretend to honor them, than actually do it. I reckon I am a glutton for punishment.

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh,” I say, but it’s not my voice. Mama’s speaking through me.

Erroll’s eyebrows meet, but he don’t ask me to explain. He cups my chin. Kisses my nose, then my cheek, then my lips. “We gonna be alright.”

I want to believe that. Maybe if things didn’t happen like they did with Flora, Mama and Daddy might be different.

“We can’t give this baby nothin’,” I tell Erroll.

“That ain’t true. I’ll look after you both.”

I don’t look at him, ‘cause I want to be strong. If I get a glimpse of him now, I might cry ‘til I dry out. “You can leave. I won’t blame you none.”

“Leave? Gussie you talkin’ crazy.”

Out the side of my eye, I see his fingers reaching for my face, but shrink away. “I’ll still be a sinner, but I’m the only daughter Mama and Daddy got left.” And I know they’ll much rather there be no boy in the picture, than to have Erroll part of the family tree. “Maybe they won’t kick me out if you ain’t the one responsible.”

Erroll’s the man of his house. Been that way since the day he was born. Truth be told, he’s the mama too. Take care of his little brothers and sisters, like they his own, since the only thing his mama did for ‘em was push them out. Don’t no one hardly see the woman, but everyone got they own word for her. Hussy. Tramp. Loose. No good. And all of that came from my mama’s mouth.

Harris’ ain’t the family folks choose to be a part of. Mama and Daddy don’t even know me and Erroll going steady. Some sins just ain’t forgivable, I can hear Mama saying. And I ain’t in the rush to have him under her lens.

“You still here?” I ask him.

“Gussie, you hear yourself? Leave? That’s my baby.”

I shrug. “I’m the one in trouble. You ain’t got to be too.”

“Don’t be sayin’ that!” Erroll shouts. Shouts so loud everything gets quiet, and I can’t help but to face him. Even the air don’t seem so hot no more. I watch his hands tighten to into fists and hold my own breath. He won’t hit me, that I know, but Erroll’s got a temper that rises faster than a sheet of paper burns.

“Listen,” he starts, stretching out his hands. He fixes his licorice eyes on me, which makes me drop my head again. “You only in trouble if there ain’t no man. And I’m here, so you ain’t in trouble.”

“I don’t—”

“Marry me.” Like he’s practiced it before, Erroll gets on one knee. “Marry me, Gussie Hicks,” he repeats.

My lips do a bunch of things I don’t control. Stretching and pulling, trying to sort out the thoughts in my head. But the words don’t come fast enough. Baby sickness rushes out of me like the Hebrews out of Egypt. Like my insides is the last place it wants to be. It’s the first time I thank God for this baby sickness too. This way I don’t got to tell Erroll the truth. This way I don’t got to say no.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

This concludes part one! Thoughts? Let me know in the comments. And thank you for reading!

Cherish

 

A Short Story

Hey!

In an effort to liven this place up, I thought I would share one of my short stories. I was a little hesitant to post short stories on my blog because what if I want to make money off of them some day? But in this particular case, I don’t really care about the money. Remember You, Me, and These Trees? Well, I’d like to share it here. I’m still trying to figure out how exactly I want to post it. I think I might post it in installments just to make it easier on your eyes, but also to give a little mystery and intrigue. The equivalent of turning the page, if you will.

Stay tuned!

Cherish