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 this word?” Romina pointed to the word, so her 10-year-old son could tell her what it was. Romina was sitting at the square, kitchen table with her children. Quintenerra sat to Romina’s left, and Quintarius sat on her right. Her children were doing homework, and she was filling out a job application.
“That word is description, Ma.” Quintarius had been helping his mother fill out job applications and other forms since he could read and write, which seemed like from the time he was born. Without his mother noticing, Quintarius looked at Quintenerra and rolled his eyes skyward. Quintenerra mimicked her brother and they smiled at one another.
“What does this sentence mean?” Romina pointed to the sentence where description appeared. Quintarius leaned over again and looked at the sentence. It read Please include your job description.
“They want to know what you did when you worked there.” Quintarius tried not to show his irritation. He preferred when Romina didn’t have paperwork to fill out, because he could get his homework done faster and go outside and play.
The kitchen was silent while Romina finished filling out the application. Quintarius was bracing himself for more questions. Quintenerra was working on her math homework. Romina leaned to her right to look at her daughter’s worksheet.
“You’re doing really good.” Out of habit, Romina glanced at the top of Quintenerra’s paper to see if her name was spelled correctly.
Both her children had had a hard time learning to write their names. Romina hadn’t considered this when she named them. She just liked the fact the names were unique and started with “Qu.” She’d decided on names beginning with “quin” while watching Sesame Street during her pregnancy with Quintarius. She liked the spelling of the Spanish word for 15; quince. Romina heard keen-say. She was hooked and vowed all her children’s name would start with “quin” and be pronounced like the beginning of the Spanish word for the number 15.
“Quintarius, look over this for me.” Romina handed him the job application and got up from the table to start dinner.
“Momma, this isn’t our phone number. You have the last two numbers backwards.” Quintarius erased the phone number and wrote it over in much neater penmanship than Romina. This was how Quintarius checked his mother’s forms. Romina filled everything out writing lightly in pencil, and then Quintarius erased what his mother wrote and fixed her many mistakes and improved the look of her writing. Most days, Quintarius just fixed the mistakes without pointing them out to Romina, but when he was feeling especially irritated he made mention of them just to irritate his mother as much as she irritated him. Quintarius was feeling a little, extra irritated today.
“OK, just fix it, Quintarius, and get back to your homework.” Romina tried not to sound annoyed. She hated having to ask her son to help her with reading, correcting her forms, writing checks and addressing envelopes. Usually Emmanuel helped her, but she wasn’t sure when she’d see him again, and she wanted to try to find a better-paying job without him knowing about it. She especially didn’t want to have to tell him why she was trying to find a better-paying job. He’d think she was crazy, just like her family.
“Did you mean to make yourself 82 years old?” Quintarius tried to make his question sound like an innocent inquiry.
“No, little boy. Just change the numbers around and quit picking at me.” Romina turned toward her son and slammed her open hand onto her hip. Quintarius bowed his head as Romina looked hard at him.
“Sorry,” Quintarius said quietly and finished erasing and rewriting the information on the job application. He knew his mother’s information by memory now. He’d helped her with so many of these forms, it was just second-nature.
“Sorry?” Romina raised her eyebrows.
“I apologize, I mean,” Quintarius corrected himself.
“No, I apologize, sweetie,” Romina exhaled.
“Momma, can I ask you a question?” Quintarius walked over to his mother with the corrected application.
“Of course. Ask me anything.” Romina accepted the application and pulled him into a close, one-arm hug as she held the application in her other hand and read the changes.
“Can you really type 50 words a minute?” Quintarius rested his head on Romina’s stomach.
“Uh, no,” Romina admitted.
“Can you type at all, Momma?” Quintarius knew he was treading in dangerous water, but he felt compelled to press the issue. When Romina went out on job interviews, that she was obviously not qualified for, she would come home in a bad mood, and he hated to live through the days of tears and depression.
“You see me type at the computer every day. Why would you ask me if I can type?” Romina was trying very hard not to allow her temper to rise even though her embarrassment was slowly escalating. She didn’t like the questions, but she tried to keep the channels of communication open with her children. She wanted to be the first person in her children’s lives to know what was going on in their minds. She didn’t want to have to hear it from a teacher or even their father. She wanted to be approachable. Her parents had not been approachable.
“Momma, typing on the computer to surf the web and typing for a job ain’t the same, I don’t think.” Quintarius put his arms around his mother and kept his head on Romina’s stomach.
“What did I tell you about saying ain’t?” Romina was hoping to get the attention off herself.
“What did your dad tell you about always saying sorry?” Romina hated when her children used that word. It was the word her father had used to describe her when she was growing up. Emmanuel hated it also, but his reasoning was different.
“I apologize, Momma.”
“That’s better,” Romina said and kissed Quintarius’ forehead.
“Why are you trying to change jobs, anyway, Momma?” Quintenerra finished the last of her math homework and joined the conversation from her seat at the table.
“I need more money. Y’all are getting bigger and so are the bills. I need a better job. I hate being here without a phone. What if I need to call 9-1-1?” Romina still had one arm around Quintarius. She put the application down on the counter next to her and wrapped her other arm around him.
“Can’t you get the money from dad or grandma?” Quintarius asked.
“I don’t like asking them for money,” Romina told Quintarius. What she didn’t say was that she didn’t want to tell them how the bill had gotten so high and so behind in the first place.
“They want you to type at this new job?” Quintenerra asked.
“It’s a receptionist job, so I’ll have to type.” Romina was glad to change the subject.
“Momma,” Quintarius began, “that application says you have to take a typing test. Are you going to be able to pass it?”
“I’m going to try.”
“How are you going to be able to keep your letters straight? You know you have trouble with mixing up your letters sometimes, Momma.” Quintarius looked up at Romina. Romina looked down into his face. She was silent for a long time. She gently pulled Quintarius’ arms from around her and gestured for him to go back to the kitchen table. No one spoke. Romina changed the subject.
“Quintenerra, I’m coming to your school this week to volunteer, OK?” Romina smiled big, thinking this was something to which Quintenerra looked forward. She saw the quick exchange of glances between Quintarius and Quintenerra and knew she was wrong.
“Uh, I thought you were trying to get a new job,” Quintenerra said while turning away from Romina. Romina could hear the alarm in her daughter’s voice.
“I am,” Romina started slowing, “but that doesn’t mean I won’t have time to get involved in your school activities. Hey. Look at me,” Romina requested gently. Quintenerra reluctantly turned back to look into her mother’s face.
“Yes, Mommy.” Quintenerra forced herself not to look away from Romina. Romina stared at her baby girl. She knew why Quintenerra didn’t want her to volunteer in her class. Romina had heard the children snickering behind her back when she couldn’t help them with what seemed to be simple words and simple math problems. Romina was the only mother who volunteered but never read a story to the class.
Romina remembered the humiliation of trying to read a book to Quintarius’ first-grade class a few years ago, and she let all her children’s teachers’ know that she’d be happy to volunteer her time but she would not be reading during storybook hour. It was a small school, and all the teachers were aware of why Romina didn’t want to read. They’d all accepted all the other help Romina offered and never pressed the issue about storybook hour.
The one thing her children’s classmates and teachers did love about her visits were the goodies she brought with her. Romina may not have been able to read or do math well, but she could cook any mother in her children’s school under the table. She didn’t use recipes. She just had a talent for cooking the most delectable dishes. This was the one class in high school in which she had excelled; that is, once she convinced the teacher to allow her to create her dishes without having to rely on recipes.
“If I can’t make it this week, you promise not to be dissappointed?” Romina watched Quintenerra surpress a smile.
“Yes, Mommy. I promise.” Quintenerra wondered if the relief showed on her face.
“Well, I’ll let you know. I might be really busy.” Romina turned from her daughter and started pulling cans of vegetables from the cupboard. She fought back her tears by taking deep breaths. She didn’t want them to know she knew they were embarrassed by her. At that moment, the doorbell rang, and Romina motioned for her children to stay seated and walked past them to the front door.
She looked through the peephole, but she didn’t recognize the lady standing on the other side. She was dark-brown, very pretty and alone. Romina couldn’t understand why she wasn’t sure she should open the door. The woman didn’t look threatening. She looked young.
“Yes, who is at?” Romina spoke into the door with her eye still set close to the peephole.
“I’m looking for Romina Morgan, please.” The lovely woman on the other side of the door stepped back a bit, realizing that she was probably being watched through the peephole. She smiled into the glass eye, and Romina found herself smiling a bit, too.
“And, you are?” Romina spoke into the door again.
“My name is Xavari. Forgive me for just showing up to your house like this, but when I called your number it was disconnected. We have a mutual friend.”
“Who?” Romina asked puzzled, thinking there wasn’t anyone they could know in common.
“Um. Emmanuel Portman.” Xavari dropped her gaze as she said the name.
Romina stepped back from the door, unlatched the chain, disengaged the deadbolt, unhooked the backup lock, twisted the lock on the door knob and pulled opened the door. She looked at the young lady and smiled.
“Sorry to bother you? Is this a bad time?” Xavari shifted uncomfortably but tried to pretend like it was the most natural thing for her to be knocking on a stranger’s door.
“You said you know Emmanuel,” Romina asked her.
“Yes,” Xavari said. Romina continued to smile warmly at her and Romina’s next words stunned Xavari.
“Is he the father of that baby in your belly?”
Copyright© 2011, Faydra D. Fields. All rights reserved.