Copyright© 2011, Faydra D. Fields. All rights reserved.
Typos have been fixed in the final version of the book. Keep in mind that some of this information may have changed in the final version, as well. The changes were made to make the story flow better.
Emmanuel and Xavari
“…and my oldest daughter, Naomi. I also have another daughter, Sarah, with her. She’s five. I met Denise when I worked at the accounting firm she still works for now. Her uncle owns it, and I was interning there during the summer. You’d never know it now, but Denise comes from money. Her family has a lot of real estate holdings all over the country, but that’s not how their wealth started. Anyway, that’s another story.”
“How old is she,” Xavari wanted to know.
“She’s five years older than me,” Emmanuel said.
“That makes her 40,” Xavari thought out loud.
“Yes. She’s 40, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Anyway, I couldn’t believe it when I got a date with her. I was majoring in accounting in college, but I worked…”
“Why aren’t you an accountant now?” Xavari gave Emmanuel a quizzical look.
“Do you want to hear this or not?” Emmanuel gave Xavari an annoyed look.
“Yes, I got my degree in accounting, but I hate numbers. That, too, is another story. Anyway, I worked in the mailroom when I was interning for her uncle’s firm. I was delivering a package to her office, and when I got there she was bent over trying to move a filing cabinet by herself. The second thing I saw of Denise was her beautiful, flawless dark-skinned face. The first thing I saw was her round…”
“T.M.I., Emmanuel. Keep it moving.” Xavari showed him the palm of her hand and rolled her eyes. Emmanuel chuckled. He couldn’t help picturing Denise’s perfectly-shaped backside in the lavender slacks that hugged her rump like a surgical glove. Emmanuel cleared his throat.
“Apologies. After I moved the cabinet for her, and before I left her office, we had agreed to meet that evening for drinks.”
“Dang, did she even know who you were?” Xavari wrinkled her forehead.
“I told her that right before I asked her out.” Emmanuel chuckled again as more of the memories of that day unfolded in his mind.
“OK, so how did drinks turn into y’all making, not one but three babies together?”
“Our relationship was really intense, and her family truly disapproved of it, especially her father. Remember I told you she comes from money? It’s old money.”
“Old money?” Xavari had never heard that term.
“Yeah. Old money is money that’s been in a family for generations and generations. Old money means that there are generations in a family who’ve never had to work a day in their lives. Old money makes new money and future generations live off the new money which is actually old money again once the newer generations are dipping into it.”
“How’s that even possible for black people? I mean, you said she’s dark-skinned, so I’m assuming both her parents are black, right?”
“Yeah, both her parents are black, but Denise was adopted so she doesn’t look like them at all. They’re very high-yellow; so are all her siblings. Denise told me she was, too, when she was born, which is when they adopted her. She said as she got older, she got darker.”
“That must have been a shock for her parents,” Xavari said, shaking her head.
“Oddly enough, they’re not color-struck. Her two older brothers married dark-skinned women and all their children are dark. Denise’s parents dote on them just as much as they dote on the lighter-skinned children of her younger brothers.
“How many of them are there?”
“Five total. Denise is the only girl and she’s in the middle. Her parents adopted her after the first two boys. Because of complications, her mother couldn’t have any more children after her second son and she wanted a daughter. The two brothers under Denise are adopted, too. Unlike Denise, though, if you look at the younger two brothers, you wouldn’t know they were adopted. They’re the same complexion as the older two boys, and they look like them, too. It’s weird how that can happen.”
“Wow. Really? That’s crazy.” Xavari found herself getting reeled into this story like a fish on a hook.
“Yeah, I know. No, her parents aren’t color-struck. They’re money-struck, if that’s a term. Everything with them is about their money. At least, that’s the deal with her father. He tried to convince Denise that’s why I wanted to be with her. That man tried everything to get her to stop seeing me. He said I was too young. He said I was an underachiever. He told her I didn’t come from the right,” Emmanuel made quote signs with his fingers, “pedigree. He tried to convince her I couldn’t provide for her in the manner in which she was accustomed to being kept. His badgering backfired, though. When he ran me down, Denise ran straight into my arms. The tears he created, I wiped away. The anguish he inflicted, I quieted. One thing led to another, and she found out she was pregnant with William.”
“That must have been wild, knowing her parents didn’t want you around, let alone a baby by you.”
“Yeah, it was a trip. She thought that her family would have to accept me once they knew she was carrying my baby, but that just made everything worse. Her father tried to pay me off to get me out of her life, but I told him to go…well, I wanted to tell him to go screw himself. Instead, I just refused the money.”
“Man, this sounds like some white-people mess.” Xavari was hanging on Emmanuel’s every word.
“Naw, that was rich-people mess. It showed me that the world is not exclusively about black and white people being at opposition with one another. That was some “have and have not” mess. That’s more universal than anything else going on between any races of people.”
“You should have taken his money and then just kept seeing her. I mean, she was having your baby, for goodness sake.” Xavari was imagining how she would have handled the situation had she been Emmanuel.
“No, my parents didn’t raise me like that. My Dad always taught me that my word was the only thing I truly had to give and could keep. Had I taken that man’s money, I would have been obligated to give up Denise and my baby. I wasn’t taking that chance, not with my first-born.” Emmanuel sort of stared off into space as he recalled the depression of that time in his life.
“OK, so it obviously worked itself out. I mean, William is here and y’all had two other children together. What happened? Did her family finally stop tripping?”
“No. Things got worse.” Emmanuel grew silent. Xavari waited for him to speak, but the waiting was agony.
“How much worse?” she asked.
“Hey, if you don’t want to talk about it, it’s cool.” Xavari was so hoping he wanted to talk about it. She started sending “talk about it, talk about it, talk about it” mental telepathy in his direction. She caught herself leaning forward and relaxed herself. She didn’t want to appear too anxious, but she was dying to hear what happened.
“Well, her father gave her three choices.” Emmanuel stopped speaking again. Xavari gave him a few moments.
“What were the choices?” she asked in a low tone, trying not to provoke him. She wasn’t sure if her probing would cause him to clam up for good.
“Well, one, her father told her she could have an abortion and he would pay for it. Two, he told her she could go away, have the baby and give it up for adoption. Or three, he told her she could keep the baby, continue to see me and be disowned and written out of his will.”
“WHAT?!?!” Xavari was dumbfounded.
“Yeah, that man hated me that much.”
“I don’t understand why he didn’t like you. What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“I mean, you had to have done something, Emmanuel. I just can’t see the man hating you for no reason.” Xavari could hear the skepticism in her own voice. She knew Emmanuel could hear it, too.
“No, I didn’t do anything to that man but date his daughter. That’s it. When he just thought I was a friend, everything was cool. I’d go to their house, have dinner, watch DVDs, play with Denise’s nieces and nephews, swim in their pool, everything. He knew I was an intern at his brother’s firm. Everything was going great until I decided to ask Denise to be my girlfriend. The next time we went to her home—she was living with her parents at the time—and she introduced me as her boyfriend, everything changed immediately.”
“Wow,” was all Xavari could say.
“Yeah, I know. Wow,” Emmanuel responded in kind.
“Well, she didn’t put the baby up for adoption and she didn’t have the abortion, so that means she was disowned and disinherited, right?” Xavari shook her head slowly from side to side.
“Yeah, that’s why I said she used to come from money. Her father cut her off totally.”
“What about her mother? What did her mother say?”
“Her mother is just this quiet, submissive woman who does whatever her husband says. She didn’t help Denise at all. When Denise and I were just friends, she was just as nice to me as her husband. When Denise and I started dating, she turned into stone towards me. She never said anything negative or nasty. She just pretended I didn’t exist. It was like I was a piece of furniture when I was around her. She just didn’t acknowledge me. She’s actually kind of odd and creepy, now that I think about it. She always has this absent-minded smile on her face no matter what’s going on.” Emmanuel felt his body shiver when he thought of Denise’s mother and her “Stepford Wives” smile.
“Did she lose her job at her uncle’s accounting firm?” Xavari was totally drawn into the story.
“No, her uncle knew me and he liked me. He refused to fire his niece, especially with her being young and pregnant. Denise and her uncle have this major bond, because her uncle was adopted by her father’s parents. When her father disowned her and kicked her out of the house…”
“Yeah, he made her leave with only the clothes on her back that very day she made the decision to keep William.” Emmanuel continued to look blankly at the wall.
“This is crazy. This is too crazy.” Xavari was stunned that a father would kick his pregnant daughter out of the house with nothing but the clothes on her back. Xavari’s own father would never have thought to do something so hateful. She tried to put herself in Denise’s shoes and imagine how it must feel to go from wealthy to nothing in the matter of five or ten minutes. She then thought about the life growing in her belly right now, and she instinctively put her hand over her womb.
“Yeah, it was crazy, but she stayed with her uncle and his family until William was born, because her uncle refused to allow her to have a baby without any family around. Shortly after she rested up from having William, she moved out on her own. She refused to take any money from her uncle, and she refused to take any money from me. She asked me to only provide for William, and she would provide for herself. Her uncle tried to give her a raise, and she refused it.”
“No way. What?” Xavari didn’t think she could be any more stunned by this story.
“Yes way. She said she didn’t want any special favors from anyone else in her family. I thought she was crazy, but I guess I can see her point. She wanted to earn everything on her own merit, so no one could take anything else away from her in the future. She didn’t want her uncle holding the raise over her head later. I don’t think he would have, but she said she never thought her father would throw her out of his house pregnant and penniless either. I was like, ‘Good point.’ What’s crazy is her parents own all this real estate all over the place, and it took her forever to find a place that her family wasn’t invested in. She said she wasn’t going to give her father a dime in rent if she could help it. She’s lived in the same 2-bedroom apartment on the east side since William was born.”
“Wait, William is 15 years old.” Xavari realized the curve balls hadn’t stopped coming yet.
“Yeah, I know. There are no bigger apartments available in her building but they are on the top floors and the building has no elevator. Every time she thinks about moving to a different building, she finds out her father either owns it or has interest in it.”
“The man is banking like that?”
“Yeah, he’s banking like that. I won’t even tell you how much he offered me to get out of Denise’s life. You’d probably pee on yourself.”
“Why doesn’t she just buy a house,” Xavari asked.
“Uh, I’ve probably told you too much of her business already. She has her reasons for not buying a house.” Emmanuel realized this was the first time he’d shared this much about any of the women he had children with. Something about Xavari always caused him to open up more than he’d ever intended. Denise had asked him about Angela and Romina. Angela had asked him about Denise and Romina, and Romina had asked him about Denise and Angela. He remembered all those conversations being far shorter than this conversation with Xavari, and he hadn’t even gotten to talking about Angela and Romina yet.
“Dang, you’ve told me everything else. You might as well tell me that part, too. Who am I going to tell? No one who knows me knows Denise, so it wouldn’t even come up as a topic of discussion.” Xavari felt like she did when her favorite show, “24,” ended with a big question mark. Her frustration manifested itself on her brow and she wrinkled her forehead.
“Naw, you’ve heard enough about Denise. Do you want me to tell you about Angela and Romina, or are you going to sit there and pout like a little child?” Emmanuel thought Xavari was cute when she pouted. She was just cute, period, when he thought about it. She was the last of his dark-skinned lovelies, and he suppressed a smile when he thought about the baby she carried.
“Yes, I want to know about them, too, but what I really want to know is why you’re so happy about having another baby. You told me all that about Denise. Now tell me why having all these children is so important to you.”
Copyright© 2011, Faydra D. Fields. All rights reserved.