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.
“What’s wrong with your face?” Denise walked through the front door of her apartment and Naomi was the first person she saw, as usual.
“Nothing,” Naomi said hoarsely. She was wiping down the glasstop dining area table and trying to avert her face from her mother. Naomi had cried so much and so hard before and during her conversation with William earlier that day that the openings of her eyes were just slits surrounded by puffiness. She’d tried hot and cold compresses to make the swelling go down, but nothing helped. Naomi was hoping her mother would come home much later and she would be in bed before she would have to answer questions.
“Naomi. Really. It’s been a long day. I know you better than you know yourself. Why have you been crying?” Denise placed her purse and keys on the table by the door and sat her briefcase in front of the table. She turned when she heard heavy feet padding into the room.
“Naomi, I apologized. Mother, I apologized. I embarrassed her. I walked in on her in the bathroom.” William winked at his sister with the eye Denise couldn’t see. The front of his shirt, hands and arms were wet. He was bathing Sarah, and he’d rushed out of the bathroom when he heard Denise questioning Naomi. Naomi was a horrible liar, and he was certain Denise would lose her mind if Naomi told the truth so he hurried to his sister’s rescue.
“William, we’ve talked about this. When the bathroom door is closed, you knock.” Denise put her hands on her hips and looked sternly at her son.
“Yes, Mother. I know. I wasn’t thinking. I apologized to her, like, 100 times. That’s one of the problems with having four people in an apartment with one bathroom,” William said as he threw his hands in the air in mock frustration. Naomi wondered why he felt it necessary to talk about the size of the apartment, but she had a sneaking suspicion William had been planning this ruse to further his own agenda. Naomi filed her feelings about his statement away in her mental Rolodex. Denise turned her attention back to Naomi.
“What did William walk in on you doing in the bathroom that would get you so upset that you’d cry so hard that your eyes are almost swollen shut?” Denise had sat in one of the chairs at the dining area table and began removing her sling-back pumps.
“I…I.” Naomi couldn’t think of a plausible lie. William came to her rescue again.
“She had on one of your bras and was putting toilet paper in it,” William blurted. Naomi’s eyes grew huge and she looked at her brother with astonishment. Her mouth agape, she couldn’t even fathom how to respond to that.
“WHAT?!?!” Denise shrieked with wide-eyed amusement. She threw her head back and laughed from her belly. Naomi crossed her arms over her flat chest and pretended to be totally insulted. William joined in the laughter. Naomi’s radar was working overtime now. It was rare for William to be laughing and joking with them these days.
“I tried to tell her it was nothing to be embarrassed about, but she cried and cried.” William wiped his hands on the front of his shirt.
“Oh, my darling, I’m sorry to laugh at you,” Denise said between hearty chuckles, “but it’s only funny because I remember doing the same thing with my mother’s bra. Come here.” Denise reached out her arm and extended a hand to Naomi. Naomi came around the table and took her mother’s hand. William went back into the bathroom to finish helping Sarah with her bath.
“Mother, I can’t believe you were ever as flat as me when you were my age. I’m never going to have breasts and hips. All my friends are developed and I still look like a boy.” Naomi sat in her mother’s lap, and Denise put her arms around Naomi’s thin waist.
“Sweetheart, my breasts and hips didn’t start developing until I was in my second year of college. I was a late bloomer, and you take after me.” Denise rested her head on Naomi’s back as she talked lovingly with her daughter. For Naomi, William’s fib had been a bonus. She got to sit with her mother and talk about girl stuff. Naomi knew that as soon as Sarah was bathed, dried, powdered, greased and clothed in her pajamas, she’d be competing with Naomi for Denise’s attention.
No sooner had Naomi finished the thought than her naked little sister bounded out of the bathroom with William bringing up the rear.
“Come back here, you!” William was holding a towel and trying to catch Sarah as she left a trail of wet footsteps from the bathroom to the dining area.
“Mother! Mother!” Sarah reached Denise and Naomi before William could catch up to the little flash of bare flesh. Denise opened the arms she had around Naomi and hugged both girls at the same time.
“My mushy-wet, little munchkin,” Denise exclaimed and flashed a dazzling smile at Sarah. Naomi was forced to smile, as well. Even though she wanted her mother to herself, she understood how much her little sister missed Denise, too. Besides, Sarah would be going to bed soon and Naomi and William would have a couple of hours before their bedtimes, and they could spend some time with Denise then, if she wasn’t too tired and/or didn’t have too much work. William actually demanded much less of Denise’s time these days, so there was a good chance Naomi would have Denise alone again and they could finish their discussion. Naomi wanted to talk to her mother about getting a training bra.
“How was your day, Mother?” William dried off Sarah right in the dining area. He knew it was fruitless to try to get her back in the bathroom, plus it was nice for them to all be there in the same space. His mother was smiling, Naomi was feeling special sitting on her mother’s lap, and Sarah was standing still and letting him dry her off. They all were quiet waiting for their mother to speak. Naomi didn’t look around at her. She trained her eyes on William, who purposely avoided her stare. She knew he was up to something. She couldn’t forget what she’d seen in that letter on his desk.
“Oh, son. It was a busy and long day. I think I have the most challenging boss on the planet.” Denise was enjoying having her children all around her. She especially liked the fact that she’d gotten home early enough for Sarah’s bath night. That meant that William wouldn’t be hiding in his room. It was his responsibility to make sure Sarah was bathed every other night, because Naomi was busy with the rest of the household responsibilities.
“Mother, Naomi is too bossy,” Sarah said through the towel that William had placed over here head to dry her hair.
“Why do you say so, my beloved?” Denise furrowed her brow and feigned sincere concern. She knew exactly what Sarah was going to say.
“She makes me do homework and put away my toys and eat yucky vegetables. Right, William?” Sarah wiggled her head out of the towel and looked at her big brother.
“The vegetables were good tonight,” William said flatly, obviously thinking about something else. Naomi was sure she knew what had him distracted.
“See, Mother. William thinks she’s too bossy, too,” Sarah asserted as she put her hands on what would be hips one day. Denise stifled a laugh, and put on her most serious face.
“Sarah, I’m sorry you think Naomi is too bossy, but she’s only telling you to do what I told her to tell you to do. Are you doing what Naomi tells you to do?” Denise watched Sarah nod her head up and down.
“Mother, Sarah always does what I ask her to do. She’s a very good girl,” Naomi chimed in, leaving off the fact that Sarah complained every step of the way. Naomi knew her mother already knew that part.
When Naomi had brought this complaint to Denise before, she had asked Naomi to be extremely patient with Sarah. Denise explained to Naomi that Sarah had a different personality than Naomi and William. Denise didn’t want Naomi to try to break Sarah’s spirit, but she did want Naomi to find a way to get Sarah to comply. Her children had to work together. They had to help Denise raise them. That was all there was to it. She didn’t like leaving Naomi in charge and responsible for the household, but someone had to make up the income that their father just wasn’t able to provide.
As her children’s father, Emmanuel gave all he could and all the time. Even as generous as he was with his money and time, he was spread thin with taking care of all his other children. Denise couldn’t fault him for his career choice either. He’d taken a lower-paying job with his company that not only allowed him to meet his financial obligations to all his children, but it also afforded him the ability to make his own hours so he could attend his children’s activities and bear some of the carpooling responsibilities.
“It’s bedtime, munchkin.” Denise kissed Sarah, who pouted and whined, but obeyed and followed William out of the dining area to the back of the apartment.
“Mother, Sarah is becoming more and more difficult.” Naomi got up from her mother’s lap and sat in the chair next to her.
“I know, my darling, I know. I just need you to continue to be patient with her. I know it isn’t easy, especially when even William does what you say, but Sarah’s a…”
“…different personality. Yes, Mother, I know.” Naomi finished Denise’s sentence but not in a disrespectful way. They both smiled.
“You’re going to have to deal with all types of people, Naomi. It doesn’t hurt to start practicing how to get along with all those different personalities now. Look at it this way. If you can keep Sarah in line, you should be able to keep anyone else in line. It’s the people who know you well twho give you the hardest time when you’re in charge. Remember that part in the Bible where Jesus goes back to preach in his hometown? I mean, He was Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords…”
“Yes, Mother,” Naomi said with a giggle, “I get your point.” Naomi and Denise exchanged more warms smiles. They both turned to look at him when William came back in the room.
“Mi-Mi, Sarah wants you to read her a story,” William said to his sister without meeting her eyes. Naomi didn’t move. She was absolutely certain William had convinced Sarah that she wanted Naomi to read to her, because Sarah always insisted that Denise read to her if she was home before Sarah’s bedtime.
“I’m talking with Mother. Can you read her a story?” Naomi didn’t want William to talk with Denise. William still wouldn’t look at Naomi. Instead, he looked at Denise.
“Mother, I’d like to run something by you that I want to talk with Dad about. I’d like to have your opinion first, if you don’t mind.” William again purposely avoided Naomi’s stare. Naomi’s heartbeat quickened as she realized how he’d used her to set up this talk with their mother.
“Go on, Naomi. Read to the munchkin for me while I talk to ‘the man’ here.” Denise was happy to be included in her son’s life about anything these days. In recent months he’d grown distant and withdrawn. The fact that he was asking her advice on anything made her want to give him her full attention.
Naomi stood up and walked toward William who walked toward her. As they met to exchange places, Naomi bumped him hard with her shoulder. William didn’t even break stride, nor did he once look at Naomi. When Naomi got to her bedroom door, where she knew Sarah would be waiting, she looked over her shoulder and saw William sitting in the seat that she’d just vacated. Their mother was still smiling.
“Tell me something good, my prince.” Denise touched her son’s knee and smiled lovingly at him.
As Naomi closed the door to her room, she heard William clearing his throat.
“I’d like to…,” William was saying as the door clicked shut.
Copyright© 2011, Faydra D. Fields. All rights reserved.