The chilly air wrapped the mourning funeral procession in its grip. The grey clouds drizzled rain onto large black umbrellas as the family of Alvin Felton emerged from the black limousines. Entering the church, Katherine Felton was flanked by her two grandsons Amari and Austin. Her face was stoic, her walk heavy. For a great portion of her life, she loved this man and to see him lying in this casket was almost too much for her to bear.
But Katherine was a dignified woman. Her veiled faced hid her tears, the soloists’ melodic voice masking the sound of her breaking heart. She’d seen Alvin lying in the hospital bed before he was pronounced dead by doctors. The heart attack took him quickly, not giving his family time to comprehend what happened. Katherine took great care to ensure her husband’s funeral was regal, the celebration he deserved. Even though she’d seen her husband lying dead more than a few times over the past couple of days, today was exceptionally hard.
Followed by Katherine was Monica and her husband Jaison. Although she was not Alvin’s oldest child, Monica needed to be close to her mama. Not that she was any good to her mama. Jaison had to support her as she walked. The closer she got to the casket, the more audible her cries became. Of all of his children, Monica took his death the hardest. She’d wailed the day he passed and hasn’t been able to be consoled since. Jaison, along with attendants from the funeral home held Monica as she viewed him and then to her seat. Jaison was relieved that Monica finally sat down. He wrapped his arm around his wife wishing there was something he could do but she was a true Daddy’s girl. Alvin’s unexpected death broke her; she had to take medication to sleep most nights.
India rolled her eyes behind her shades at her sister’s theatrics. She was embarrassed that Monica had to be drug to her seat. When she made it to the casket, her daddy looked as if he was sleeping. Viewing her father like this was a bag of mixed emotions for India. Sure she was sad but their relationship wasn’t the best. Whenever she felt guilty for her nonchalance, her girlfriend Naomi reminded her that her father had her whole life to build a relationship and he chose to only do so when it suited him. Naomi squeezed her girlfriend’s hand letting her know that she was there for her, just as she’d always been when it came to her daddy.
Alvin’s youngest daughter Alivia barely viewed him. She’d avoided seeing him since the day she got the phone call. Looking down at the man that did nothing for her except sign her birth certificate pissed her off. She didn’t even want to come today but India convinced her that she needed this closure. Alivia couldn’t wait for this circus to be over so she could get away from all these crying, fake people. Her sisters included. Alivia stood out in the processional to view her daddy. Always the defiant one, Alivia wore all black instead of the white her sister’s decided on. But Alivia was in mourning; she was not celebrating the life of Alvin Felton. She barely knew him.
After the rest of the immediate family filled in the entire middle section of the church, the funeral home signaled for Katherine and Alvin’s daughter’s to come close the casket. Alivia stood back, not caring to be included in this part of the service. As expected, Monica was inconsolable; she dropped to the ground in a mess of tears and anguish. As Katherine closed the casket on her husband, Monica’s sobs were deafening. India tried to help with her sister but the closing of the casket did something to her. Suddenly, she was overcome with emotion for the man she wished loved her the way she expected a man to love his daughter, his first born. Tears she didn’t know she would cry slipped from her eyes and she ended up on the floor next to Monica. Naomi jumped up to get her girlfriend while Jaison went to his wife. To the congregation, they saw two sister’s grieving. Only a few people knew they were crying for two very different reasons.
As Monica and India were helped back to their seats, the service began. Katherine listened intently as her pastor praised her husband. She smiled as people shared kind, thoughtful and funny remarks about him. Meanwhile, Monica was zoned out, not hearing a word. India was staring at each speaker, letting their words roll around in her head. She felt…cheated for not knowing this man the way they did. Alivia rolled her eyes more times than she could count. These people have no shame lying in church, she thought. Alvin Felton was a lot of things but a loving husband and dedicated father wasn’t one of them.
Finally, the service ended and Alvin’s body was wheeled out of the church and his family followed suit. Again, Monica was a mess. Alivia already made up in her mind that she wasn’t going to the burial. As the family piled into the limousines, Alivia ducked off to the side of the building and pulled out her cell phone.
“Hey, come get me. From the church. Nah, I ain’t going to the burial. I’ve had enough of the bullshit today,” she spoke not even caring that she cursed on church grounds. If people could lie on her dead sperm donor in church, she could cuss, she reasoned.
Alivia watched as the funeral procession left the church heading to the cemetery. She considered going but that thought lasted only a few seconds. When she saw Twan pull up, she almost ran to his car. She kicked off her shoes as soon as she was in the front seat. She knew she should wait but she couldn’t. She pulled a joint out of her purse and lit it up. As the marijuana traveled through her body, she felt relief. That tight, panic feeling in her chest was disappearing. Though only temporary, Alivia was grateful for this calm.
Meanwhile, Katherine and her family attended the graveside portion of the funeral and were heading back to the church for the repast. Katherine was exhausted but she knew she had to smile and mingle with the people that came to celebrate her husband. The more she thought about it, the more she needed to be around people. These past few nights of sleeping alone were hard for her. For more than 40 years, she shared a bed with Alvin; she didn’t know how to sleep without him.
Like her mother, Monica mingled with her family and friends even though she didn’t feel much like it. The hurt in her heart would never heal, she mused. Her father was her first love. He showed her how a man should treat a woman. It was no surprise to anyone that she married a man that reminded her of her father. Jaison Hollis was a family man. Nothing was more important to him than his job, his wife and his sons. He was handy, funny and a quiet leader. Everything Alvin Felton was.
India sat at the head table as if she didn’t belong there. And honestly, not many people really knew her, wondering why she was there. As Monica hugged and spoke with her great aunts, uncles and cousins, India felt as if she was surrounded by strangers. Naomi noticed India bouncing her foot under the table. Over the years, Naomi learned that was India’s sign of irritation.
“You ready to get out of here?” Naomi whispered to India. The last thing she wanted was for India to curse someone out or to cause a scene at her father’s funeral. Monica already tried India when they were writing the obituary. Monica refused to add Naomi’s name.
“You’re not married, India. Even if you were, people don’t want to see that, not at my daddy’s funeral!” Monica had exclaimed.
It was Katherine that had to intervene and convince Monica that listing Naomi’s name with India’s wasn’t that big of a deal. Even if she didn’t approve of India being with a woman, she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. There were more important things to deal with.
India looked at Naomi with gratefulness in her eyes. She was only there because it was expected. But no one was even paying her any attention. Without speaking to any one, the couple joined hands and excited the church.
The next Saturday, Monica pulled up to the parking lot of 1800, the Mexican restaurant in downtown Americus. She really didn’t care for Mexican food but this is where India asked her to meet for lunch. Monica had to drag herself out of bed to meet her sister; she was tired. After her father’s funeral, she was so lethargic. Everyone was gone. No one was checking on her. Everyone has moved on but she was stuck in the moment her father passed away. She wasn’t prepared for this feeling and she didn’t know what to do. Eating lunch with her sister would be a good break from the hurt she still felt.
Monica saw India sitting at a booth near the bar. She was relieved that Naomi wasn’t there because she wouldn’t be able to stomach them. For the life of her, Monica couldn’t figure out why India was a lesbian, not when they had a father like Alvin in their lives.
“Hey, India,” Monica spoke while sitting down across from her sister in the booth.
“What’s up?” India asked taking a huge sip of her margarita. She needed this liquid courage to make it through this lunch. After their daddy died, India decided they needed to spend more time together. This task would take a lot of liquor and prayer because Monica and Alivia acted like they were mortal enemies.
India started to ask Monica how she was doing but that question was moot. Monica looked terrible. She looked as if she hadn’t slept in days. Her hair that was usually covered in weave was in a curly puff and a baseball hat. She looked like she lost weight.
“Nothing much. Just trying to make it.”
Though only two years older than Monica, India didn’t feel like the big sister. They didn’t grow up together because while they had the same daddy, they didn’t have the same mama. India’s mama Sylvia caught Alvin first. According to Sylvia, Alvin promised to marry her, especially after getting pregnant with India. But no matter how much Sylvia begged and pleaded with him, Alvin had no intentions on marrying her. Instead, he married Katherine and soon came Monica.
“How’s your mama?” India asked. She had nothing against Ms. Katherine; she liked her. If she felt any ill will towards anyone, it was her daddy.
“She’s ok, I guess. She’s trying to stay busy.”
India nodded her head and looked at the time on her cell phone. She desperately wanted to tell her sister she needed to get some rest or eat or something but she didn’t know how to say that without offending her.
“Hey, India, sorry I’m late. I was just-“ Alivia announced as she plopped down in the booth next to India. She didn’t see Monica and stopped talking as soon as she saw her. “Monica.”
“Really India? Why didn’t you tell me she was coming?” Monica scoffed. She was irritated that India tricked her into coming.
“Because,” India replied. She hoped it wouldn’t be that big of a deal but she should have known better. “We’re sisters. Why can’t we sit down and have lunch together?”
Prior to their daddy’s funeral, the sisters rarely interacted. India served as the mediator but she could never get Monica and Alivia in the same room. She hoped that after their daddy died, they could be closer.
“Whatever,” Alivia mumbled.
The sisters sat in silence until the server came to take their order. Monica didn’t order anything and India couldn’t hold her tongue anymore. “When’s the last time you ate, Monica?”
Monica stared at her sister pensively. She opened her mouth but stopped. Because honestly, she didn’t know. She remembered eating an apple this morning and a banana yesterday but she didn’t know the last time she had something other than fruit. Or a full meal.
“This isn’t healthy,” India cautioned. “You have to take care of yourself.”
Monica wanted to admit she was right but giving India that satisfaction wasn’t something she was going to do. She also wasn’t going to admit her fleeting appetite just wasn’t over her daddy’s death. “Yeah. I guess I’m just having a hard time with daddy being gone.” It was then that she noticed her sister. They looked fine. Actually, Alivia looked better than fine; she looked great. She wondered how they could be ok when their daddy was dead and gone. “I guess you guys are ok.”
India opened her mouth but it was Alivia that spoke first. “Of course we’re ok. Why wouldn’t we be?”
Monica’s eyes widened, in shock that Alivia would admit that. “Wow. Ok. It’s only been a week since his funeral and you’re already ok?”
“Actually, I was ok before he died,” Alivia admitted. “’I’ve been ok all my life.” Even as she said it, Alivia wondered why she was lying to her sisters.
India wanted her sisters to talk but not argue. She could feel it was going that way and she wanted to interject. But at she chugged more of her margarita, she knew she wasn’t ok. And unlike Alivia, she wasn’t going to pretend. “Monica, why would you think we’d be hurt and crushed like you? We didn’t grow up with him. We didn’t have a relationship with him. He didn’t care about us.”
Monica couldn’t believe her ears. How dare they pretend their daddy wasn’t anything but a devoted father. “I don’t get why you two are so bitter. He did the best he could!”
“The best he could? The fuck? I ended up in foster care! That’s the best he could do?” Alivia yelled. She didn’t care that she was in public. Alivia’s breathing was ragged and she could feel her anger threatening to take her over. She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing. After spending a number of years in the foster care system, Alivia saw countless therapists. She recalled how to calm herself down, something she had to do often.
“Alivia, calm down!” India hissed looking around. 1800 wasn’t that crowded but she wasn’t trying to be embarrassed. At the same time, she could only imagine what Alivia had been through. Fortunate for her, she had her mother, even if her father wasn’t around. Alivia had no one.
“That was years ago! He apologized. Why can’t you forgive him?” Monica knew their daddy wasn’t perfect but India and Alivia were too hard on him.
India dropped her head and Alivia’s eyes got low. She stared at Monica, willing herself to remain calm. “I don’t expect you to understand. He was there for you. You had both of your parents. I lived in five different foster and group homes in four years. All because your mama couldn’t deal with the fact that her husband had an affair and another child.”
Even though Alivia signed out of foster care 11 years ago, she still hasn’t recovered from what happened when she was a 14. After Alvin had the affair with Alivia’s mama Bridget that produced Alivia, Alvin promised to leave Katherine. When Bridget realized she was being played for a fool, she didn’t handle it well. She was always a drinker but then she started using drugs. It was Alivia that found her mama dead from an overdose.
She was 14 and she’d been taking care of herself for years but when the state worker came in and said she would have to go into foster care, she told them she could go live with her dad. At the time, she only saw him sparingly. Usually a few minutes before she went to bed. It wasn’t until she got older than realized her daddy was still sleeping with her mama. Alivia was excited to be going to live with her daddy. His house was better than the projects she lived in. Even though she’d never been to his house, Bridget has showed her where he lived a number of times.
When Alivia found out that Katherine refused to let her husband’s bastard child come live with them and that her daddy didn’t really fight for her, bitterness took over her 14-year-old heart. She hasn’t been right since.
“My mama apologized too! She feels terrible!” Monica told her sister. She remembered learning that she had another sister. She was excited at first but her mama’s reaction killed that. Katherine was livid. Monica remembered overhearing her parents argue about it. Somehow Alvin convinced his wife not to leave him but when his child needed somewhere to live, Katherine put her foot down. She forgave her husband for his indiscretions, but she refused to allow his mistake to live in her house. It wasn’t until Alivia got older that Katherine realized she made a terrible mistake.
“She can apologize until she’s blue in the face. I wouldn’t care. An apology won’t erase what I went through,” Alivia stood up and threw $20 on the table for the lunch she didn’t touch. “And stop telling me how I should feel. You just lost your daddy. He’s been dead to me for years. Welcome to the fucking club!”
Alivia stormed off, frustrated that she wasted an afternoon on her birth certificate signer. She was so sick of talking about him. Thinking about him. How was he dead and still the subject of her conversations? Alivia was over it.
In her car, she scrolled through her phone and and called Dee instead. The mood she was in called for Dee’s touch. Twan really loved her and he was passionate with her. She couldn’t handle that. Twan treated her better than anyone she’d ever been with and that proved too much for Alivia. So she had her little side flings to keep her emotions at bay. Dee would be rough. Punishing almost. That’s what she was in the mood for. Dee told her to come by and as she headed to his place, India and Monica walked out of 1800.
“Monica, really. You need to eat,” India said again. She got her food to go and asked for a to go box for the food Alivia didn’t eat. She tried to give it to Monica but she refused it. Monica wasn’t hungry. She was barely listening to India so she didn’t notice her sister was a step away from drunk.
“Was he really that bad?” she asked almost rhetorically. She didn’t understand how the same man that loved her all 37 years of her life could be such a different person to his other children. When she was younger, she knew India was her sister. Katherine had no issue with India coming to the house because she was before her. But as India got older, India felt unwanted at her father’s house and stopped going.
India sighed heavily. She was a little too intoxicated to have this conversation. “Just be glad he was a real father to you.”
India stumbled off, leaving her sister standing outside questioning everything she knew to be true.
India woke up Sunday morning camped out by her toilet. She sat up and immediately became aware of her pounding head. She closed her eyes and tried to stop the room from moving but it was no use. She leaned over the toilet and threw up nothing. Her body heaved trying to rid itself of all the alcohol she drunk the night before. Not that India really remembered it. The only reason she knew she got pissy drunk was her headache and the fact that she was sleeping by the toilet.
She peeled herself off the ground and made her way to the kitchen where Naomi was making lunch. “Good afternoon.” Naomi was short with her girlfriend. She wasn’t in the mood for her today.
India looked at the clock and saw that it was after one. She had no idea what time she went to sleep. She barely remembers what happened after she tried to orchestrate a friendly lunch between her sisters. India got a whiff of Naomi’s pasta and took off running to the trashcan. Again, she heaved up nothing. Once she finished she wiped her mouth and sat down on the floor. Her head was killing her.
“Aren’t you tired of doing this yet?” Naomi asked feigning nonchalance. India was always a social drinker, never getting drunk but toeing the line often. After her daddy’s funeral, India was drunk damn near every day.
India didn’t answer because she had no answer. She didn’t want to get shitfaced drunk but that seemed to be the only time she was ok and not thinking about her daddy. India never thought she had daddy issues. She forgave and forgot the hurt he caused her years ago. But when he died, she had so many unresolved issues that she couldn’t make heads or tails of.
She really thought she was ok when her daddy died. But something was really eating her up. When people spoke of him, they talked about his compassion. His work ethic. His sense of humor. His pride in his family. He sounded like someone she’d love to be related to. Unfortunately, the man she knew as her daddy was none of those things to her. He had little to do with her. He missed important milestones in her life but he was there for everything Monica did. India tried not to be jealous of her sister but it was hard considering she was his first daughter. She thought he didn’t come around because she was gay but because he had nothing to do with Alivia either, it wasn’t because of her sexual orientation.
It took India years to come to terms with her sexuality. Naomi was her first serious relationship with a woman; before her, India slept around with women, but she was never brave enough make it official. When she dated men, she always felt wrong. Like she didn’t belong there. But with Naomi, it was different. She felt a connection that she never felt with anyone. Naomi was the first person that India discussed her daddy issues with. Naomi did everything she could to be there for the woman she loved but…the drinking was getting out of control.
“How long are you going to do this, India? How long are you going to pretend you’re ok? How long are you going to hide your sorrow at the bottom of a bottle?” Naomi questioned. She loved India with everything in her. But she refused to watch India do this every day; she’d rather be alone.
As with her drinking, India’s tears were becoming more frequent. Getting help was the right thing to do but India didn’t know why she just wouldn’t go. As she cried, Naomi walked closer to her. India saw the hurt on Naomi’s face and that made her feel even worse. She knew she had to stop drowning her sorrows in liquor.
“I love you, India, but I can’t keep carrying you emotionally. You have to start helping yourself.” It had only been a week since Alvin died but India was already a borderline alcoholic. Naomi figured it would get worse before it got better and she didn’t know if she was going to be able to continue to handle India’s drunk moments. They were too frequent.
Naomi walked off leaving her girlfriend crying on the ground. It took a lot for her to leave India in the bathroom last night. When she came home from the lunch with her sisters, she was halfway intoxicated. Naomi flipped out, telling India it was stupid of her to drive home while she was drunk. Naomi didn’t doubt that India didn’t remember much of the night because she came home and polished of a half a bottle of vodka. Naomi cried in the bed alone as a very drunk India fell asleep in the bathroom.
India didn’t remember what happened last night but she didn’t dare ask Naomi. She felt like crap knowing she was hurting the person that loved her the most. She had no one but Naomi. Her sisters didn’t understand how she was feeling. Come to think of it, Naomi didn’t either but that didn’t stop her from listening to her, holding her and doing all she could to help her cope. Naomi didn’t deserve drunk India. She deserved the smart, driven, confident India. She knew she had to get her back.
India got off the floor and went to the bathroom to take a shower. After she was clean, she grabbed a banana so she could take a Goody’s powder. Naomi was in the living room so India went into their bedroom. She didn’t want to be alone but she needed to be. She needed to think. She needed to get her life back on track. She turned on her Anthony Hamilton Pandora station and grabbed her journal. She needed to get her feelings out.
She was deep into her writing when her ringing phone disrupted her groove. She wrote three pages already and she didn’t feel like she was done yet. But her mood was interrupted now. When she saw it was Ms. Katherine, she decided not to answer. She wasn’t in the mood to talk to her. As soon as the phone showed a missed call, it started ringing again. Reluctantly, she answered.
“Hello?” India tried to hide her irritation but she know she didn’t do it well.
“India. I’m sorry to bother you. I just didn’t know who else I should call,” Katherine’s voice was shaky. India immediately felt uneasy.
“Ms. Katherine what’s wrong?”
“It’s Monica. She’s been hurt. I don’t know how. I just…I don’t understand what happened!” Katherine cried.
India went into a panic. “Hurt? How? Where are you?”
“I’m at the hospital. The police are here. They are questioning Jaison. They said something about his girlfriend did this. I don’t know India. I just don’t know!”
India’s face was scrunched in confusion. “Jaison’s girlfriend? What?”
Katherine cried quietly into the phone. India felt like crap but she felt obligated to get up and see what happened to Monica. Plus she was nosey…she wanted to find out this Jaison’s girlfriend business.
India let Naomi know what was going on but Naomi declined to come. India wanted to beg her to come but she knew better than to test the waters. Against her better judgment, India called Alivia. She knew her sister wouldn’t come but she held out hope. As she suspected, Alivia declined to come as well.
India arrived at the hospital and was escorted to the room where Monica was. Her sister was lying in the hospital bed. India saw the bruises on her face and her arm was in a cast.
Ms. Katherine couldn’t bear to see her daughter like this and left the room as soon as India walked in. India started to ask her what happened but Alivia beat her to it. India spun around to see her youngest sister standing in the doorway. India was surprised to see her but not more than Monica.
“You know,” Monica began, her voice hoarse. She turned away from her sisters, avoiding eye contact. “I always believed that Jaison was my soulmate. Everything about him made seem like he was made for me. You know what I loved most about Jaison? He was just like daddy. And now I see how much like daddy he was.”
Monica lay in her hospital bed, her sister India sitting in the chair her mother once occupied. Katherine couldn’t bear to see her only child in this state, not so soon after she buried her husband. She went down to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee. Her sister Alivia refused to come further into the room. Monica was surprised she was even here, especially after what was said yesterday at lunch. But Monica figured she was just here to be nosey. Or to be able to gloat that the life she portrayed to be perfect was anything but.
Alivia’s heart almost fell out of her chest when India called her to tell her their sister was in the hospital. It wasn’t like they had they best relationship but Alivia could not take another loss, not so soon. Her mama’s death was the hardest thing she ever endured. Her daddy’s death was confusing. She hated him most of her life but until the day he died, she held onto the hope that he would love her the way he loved Monica. But if Monica were to die…Alivia didn’t know how that would feel. She was afraid to lose her sisters. She gave them hell, she was standoffish and she was mean to them but they were all she had. Them and Twan. But she was an expert at pushing people away. It was her specialty.
“Monica what happened?” India asked her sister again.
Monica turned over and inhaled deeply. She didn’t want to cry but that’s what she did. She wasn’t even sure of why she was crying. “She wants my husband.”
“Who is she?” Alivia asked. She moved further into the room because Monica’s voice was faint.
“Jaison’s other woman. She wants him to herself. She wants me out of the picture.”
India and Alivia looked at each other. Confusion was etched all over their faces. It seemed so farfetched that Jaison was cheating on his wife. He always seemed so quiet and completely devoted to his wife and children. “How did you find out about this?”
“This has been going on for years,” Monica said nonchalantly. “I guess she got tired of waiting for him to leave me and the boys.”
“You’ve known about this? You knew he was cheating on you and you stayed?” Alivia asked disgusted. This was one of the reasons she would never fully commit herself to anyone. Since the day she was conceived her daddy showed her the ways of men.
Monica nodded her head slowly. She wasn’t embarrassed by the fact that her husband was a philanderer. So was her daddy. To Monica, it was normal, expected even. Monica never confronted Jaison or his other women...she just dealt with it. “Yeah. But so long as he takes care of home, I should be satisfied, right?”
Monica followed the same logic her mother did years before. Alivia’s mama wasn’t the first woman Alvin had an affair with, but it was Bridget that drove Katherine to make the decision to stay by her man through his indiscretions. Monica never understood what her parents were arguing about…until she got older.
She vividly remembered her mama telling her daddy that under no circumstances was his bastard daughter, the daughter of the dead junkie coming to live with them. As a school teacher and the mother of a daughter, Katherine couldn’t afford to take care of Monica by herself. She needed his income, her daughter needed her father and they couldn’t afford to take care of another child. That’s how Katherine convinced herself that she was making the right decision. Alvin may have strayed occasionally but he always came home. For Katherine, that was better than getting divorced. And she passed her ‘all men cheat; just ride the wave’ logic onto her daughter.
“But why? You don’t need him to survive,” Alivia reasoned. Monica knew she didn’t. She followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher. A few years ago she earned her specialist degree so she made good money for Americus. She could certainly live without Jaison. But when Monica first learned that Jaison had been unfaithful, she thought of her sisters. How difficult their lives had been because their father wasn’t around. She didn’t want her sons to experience that.
“You don’t just give up on your marriage, Alivia.”
Alivia sucked her teeth and folded her arms. In her eyes, Monica was a lot of things but weak and dependent on a man, wasn’t something she would have ever expected from her sister.
“So what are you going to do now?” India inquired. Like Alivia, listening to her sister speak of her cheating husband so calmly was…disturbing. India would probably lose her mind if Naomi cheated on her. She just couldn’t imagine staying in a relationship where she was cheated on and disrespected.
“I don’t know,” Monica whispered.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Alivia asked incredulously. “The other bitch he was fucking tried to kill you! What is there to think about?”
Monica closed her eyes as the tears dropped from her face. She felt weak. Unwanted. Afraid to be alone. For most of her adult life, Monica loved Jaison. His affair proved how much like her father he was. But just as Katherine toughed it out and made it work, Monica felt she was supposed to do the same. No matter how she really felt, she had to think about her children.
“It’s not that simple, Alivia,” Monica began. “I have to think about what this will do to Amari and Austin.”
“Oh so it’s better for them to know their daddy’s bitch tried to kill their mama? And she stayed with him?” Alivia spat.
“You don’t understand!” That was all Monica could offer. It wasn’t really about love. Staying with her husband was…expected. That did it for Alivia. She left the room, unable to stand it anymore. If her sister wanted to be stupid, then so be it.
Monica lay in her bed and cried quietly. India didn’t understand but she saw there was no convincing her sister that she needed to consider what her husband’s infidelity almost cost her. Jaison came to the doorway and India’s stomach turned.
“Hey baby. Do you need anything?” Jaison asked in a quiet, nervous voice. He had no idea how his wife was feeling right now so he decided to play nice. Not that they argued much or that he was mean or inattentive to his wife before. Sure she could be mean and bossy at times but that was just her personality. Jaison learned to deal with it. People assumed their marriage was a front but Monica and Jaison were truly happy. Or so she thought. His ongoing affair with this woman threw her for a loop.
“She needs you to get the hell out of here,” India snapped.
She couldn’t believe he had the nerve to show his face.
“No, India. It’s ok,” Monica announced. What she didn’t want was any more drama. She’d had too much today. “Jaison can you go check on my mama? She’s been gone for a while.”
India looked at her sister incredulously before shaking her head and chuckling to herself. “No, I’ll go check on her. She doesn’t need to talk to the man that almost got her daughter killed.”
Jaison hung his head in shame, unable to give a rebuttal. Monica hated she bared her secret to her sisters. On top of everything else, their judgment was too heavy for her. India left the room, unable to stand being in the same space with her sister and her cheating husband.
Once alone, Jaison ventured closer to his wife. He was terrified of getting too close to her. Not that she was capable of hurting him physically in her state but because he couldn’t bear to see her hurt was because of him.
The whole affair just got out of control. Any other time Jaison slept around, the women knew it was just sex. When the thing started with Tracy, he wasn’t even looking to get involved with anyone new. Jaison really didn’t have a good reason to cheat on his wife. He wasn’t terribly unhappy at home; the other women were just willing. He and Tracy flirted quite a bit on social media before exchanging numbers. They even met up a time or two, out of town for drinks. It was all very innocent in Jaison’s eyes.
The first time they slept together, Jaison and Monica argued about something-something insignificant. But Tracy was right there to make him forget all about it. Jaison didn’t know when or where Tracy wanted more than sex but she became a fool. She kept telling him that she wanted to be with him and that she was in love with him. He didn’t get it. The only thing they did was talk and have sex. He tried to end it numerous times but Tracy always pulled him back in. Last week, he tried to end it for good. He thought Monica was becoming suspicious so he needed to let it go. For real. Actually, his wife was lying in the hospital because he tried to end it for the last time.
“What have you told the boys?” Monica asked. The closer Jaison got to her, the more her heart ached. She turned her head so that she didn’t have to look at him. His very presence was draining her.
“Just that you were in a car accident. That’s all.”
“Ok,” Monica answered. Her oldest Amari was 16 and very much attached to her. She didn’t want him to see her like this much less know the real reason. Austin was three years younger and not that he didn’t love his mama but he was closer to his daddy because they enjoyed the same activities like fishing and doing yard work. Monica’s decision to stay with her unfaithful husband was rooted in her children’s well being. She wondered if Jaison considered his children when he had an affair. So she asked him.
“I did,” he admitted. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you, Monica. I promise. I really don’t know what happened.”
“You were sleeping with another woman that wanted my life. That’s what happened.” Monica wiped the tears away. She didn’t want to cry anymore but she didn’t know what else to do with the hurt in her heart. Monica was leaving church when Tracy called her. Jaison and the boys stayed home so she didn’t hesitate to go meet with the woman that was sleeping with her husband.
Monica arrived at Wal-Mart’s parking lot to set the record straight with this woman. Monica studied Jaison’s other woman. She was ok. She wasn’t drop dead gorgeous or anything. She honestly had no idea what her husband saw in her. Tracy began the conversation by telling Monica that she and Jaison had been messing around for a few months and Tracy just thought she should let his wife know. Tracy had pictures of her and Jaison together. To people that didn’t know them, they looked like a happy couple. Tracy was surprised, disappointed even, that Monica already knew about the affair.
Monica let this desperate, pathetic excuse of a woman know that under no circumstances, was Jaison leaving his family. The conversation didn’t go the way Tracy envisioned and she stormed off. It wasn’t her intention to hit Monica but adrenaline and love pushed her to accelerate when Monica walked back to her car. It was a crime of passion.
“I know but…I’m sorry. I mean it.” Jaison didn’t really know if she would ever forgive him but he was going to spend the rest of his life proving that it was her that he loved.
“Is it over?” Monica didn’t care about what he was saying right now. What she needed to know is if he was done with her. She knew he was but he needed to hear the words come out of his mouth.
Jaison rubbed the back of his neck and sighed heavily. “Yes, Monica it’s over. But…”
“But what?” she couldn’t fathom a need for a ‘but’ in that sentence.
Jaison inhaled deeply again. His heart was beating so hard in his chest, he was surprised that Monica didn’t hear it. His pause was too long so Monica asked him but what again.
“Will you consider dropping the charges? She has kids. I’m just trying-“
“What?” Monica was sure she heard wrong. “What the hell did you just say?”
Jaison looked scared and he knew he took a chance with asking her that but…he was just trying to make peace with both of them. If he was ending things with Tracy, he at least wanted to be able to make it a clean break. “Baby, I-“
“Get out! GET OUT! GET THE HELL OUT!!” Monica shouted. The hurt she felt when Tracy’s car plowed her down was nothing compared to what her husband just asked her. When Jaison came closer to her, she reached over to the night stand and hurled the cup of water she was drinking at him. Jaison ducked but the water splashed all over him. He couldn’t even be mad at her; he just wiped his face and quickly walked out of the room.
Watching her husband leave her hospital room, the hospital room she was in because he made the decision to sleep with a psycho woman, she felt her heart leaving with him.
Alivia had no idea why her sister pissed her off so bad but she did. If she wants to be stupid and stay with her cheating ass husband, that was her business. But…Alivia was still hurt by it.
Twan was blowing her up but she ignored him. She left the house without telling him where she was going and now, he was checking up on her. She rolled her eyes as she ignored his 4th call to her. She didn’t understand why Twan dealt with her. The more she pushed him away, the more the refused to leave.
That’s what I get for crying about my dumb ass daddy to him. He thinks he’s going to fix me, she thought solemnly.
Alivia has struggled with her daddy issues for years. All of her life actually. Twan was different than the other men she talked to. Twan didn’t seem to care about her caramel skin, phat ass, and flat stomach. He wasn’t even moved by her dimpled smile, which was hard to come by most days. Twan had been there for her at her worse. After she signed out of care, she had no real plan for her life. She lived here, there and everywhere with anyone that would take her in. She worked mostly retail jobs because she had no idea what she liked to do. She could do hair but she only did it when she felt like it and she developed a reputation for being shady.
Twan got her back on her feet, enrolled at the Tech and now, she was a licensed cosmetologist. He never threw what he did for her in her face; instead, he just wanted to love her, make her his wife. But Alivia never wanted to get married. After witnessing her daddy’s nonchalance about marriage and now Monica’s situation, there was no way she was going to subject herself to the farce of marriage. Even though she lived with Twan, she never really admitted they were a couple. Twan took care of her. She made enough money to contribute but Twan just wanted her to be happy so he didn’t ask her to pay a single bill in the house. He thought he was showing her what a real man was supposed to do. He thought she would recognize that he was the man she wished her father would be.
Alivia pulled up to Chris’ house and got out of the car. She wished sometimes that things with Twan would be more casual like they were with Chris. Or Dee. Or Malik. With everyone else, it was just sex. No emotions. No talking. With Chris, he allowed her to release her frustrations in the most intimate ways. She always felt lighter when she left him. Between sex and weed, Alivia was coping with her life.
Inside Chris’ apartment, Alivia was wild. Chris loved when she was aggressive like this. He had no idea why she needed to release with some pain, but he didn’t mind to oblige her cries to pull her hair or spank her. Sex with Alivia was always an adventure and Chris always looked forward to her calls.
After 45 minutes, Alivia had gotten her fill and the only thing she needed now was a joint. She walked down the stairs looking in her bag for her keys to remotely unlock her car.
“So this is why you’ve been ignoring me?” Twan asked.
Startled, Alivia dropped her keys. “Damnit, Twan! You scared me!” She tried to pretend that she wasn’t bothered by Twan catching her but for some reason, she was a little afraid.
“My bad,” Twan replied sarcastically. “This is why you’ve been ignoring me for hours?”
“I’ve been to the hospital to see my sister.”
Twan chuckled, not buying her lie for a second. He knew her sisters were not her favorite people so going to the hospital to see one of them was out of the question. Alivia was the same person that refused to go see her sisters when her daddy died. “You could have picked a better lie, Liv.”
“You can call up there and find out yourself. Monica was hit by her husband’s girlfriend.”
Twan raised his eyebrow, still not believing her. Personal information about her sisters? That was definitely a stretch. And beside the point. “What are you doing here?”
“Twan, can you move your car so I can leave?”
“Not until you answer my question.” Twan folded his arms and studied the woman he loved. He’d been checking out the apartment complexes in town looking for her car. He couldn’t believe he found her so quickly. She didn’t even try to hide the fact that she was at another man’s house.
There were days he had no idea why he loved Alivia. She had a terrible attitude. She held grudges. She had no idea of how to let go of her past hurt. But he’d also seen her calm side, her vulnerability. Alivia was a little girl masking as an adult. He asked her to go to therapy a number of times, but she refused, contending she’d had enough therapy for a lifetime. After he held her when she cried for the father that cast her aside, Twan wanted to love her back to happiness. But she wasn’t receptive to anything he was doing for her. She was rejecting him the same way her daddy rejected her.
Alivia looked down at the pavement, noticing the glimmer of some of the concrete. The specks caught her attention and she tuned everything else out. She didn’t know how something so simple could be so fascinating. She was quiet for too long and Twan became frustrated.
“Fine, Alivia. You got it.” He turned to walk away, lamenting the years he spent trying to love someone that was unlovable. Before he got in his car, he had one more thing he needed to tell her. “You know, I did everything I could for you.
Everything. I never asked you for a damn thing except for you to love and respect me. How you couldn’t handle that, I don’t know. But until you work out your daddy issues, you will always have problems. Get help.”
Twan got in his car and drove off, leaving Aliva confused as to why his leaving was hurting her.
“India. INDIA!” Naomi yelled into their bedroom. She’d been home for a few hours and despite her thought to stop drinking, India came home from the hospital with a bottle of Hennessey. India was slipping in and out of reality, the liquor freeing her from all the conflicting thoughts dancing in her head.
“Hmm?” she said looking in the direction of her girlfriend. Naomi looked pissed but India’s drinking made her believe Naomi’s anger was sexy. India stumbled off the bed and reached out to Naomi. She tried to kiss her on her neck but Naomi pushed her away. Her liquid courage told her not to be deterred. India caught her balance and went back in. She grabbed Naomi around the waist, loving the softness of her skin. All she wanted to do was lay her down and show her how much she loved her.
“India get the hell of me! You’re drunk!” Naomi cautioned. She pushed India again and she stumbled, their bed stopping her from falling. India gave her a stupid grin which only infuriated Naomi more. “Your sister is here. I’m going out. I’ll be back.”
India couldn’t process anything Naomi said but she was gone before India could ask her what she meant. India sat on the bed, trying to comprehend what was happening. Naomi said her sister was here. It couldn’t have been Monica so that meant it was Alivia. She wondered why she was here.
India steadied herself and walked up the hallway to the living room where her sister was sitting. Alivia was leaning back on the sofa, staring off into nothing. “What are you doing here?”
Alivia turned her head in her sister’s direction at the sound of her voice, which was slurred. “Are you drunk?”
Not that they were close, but Alivia didn’t know India drank much less got drunk. India never flossed her success as a nurse practitioner, but Alivia always pegged India to be too bougie to get smashed. She seemed more like the wine type.
India ignored her sister’s question and asked her why she was at her house again. She also needed to find her phone to see where Naomi went.
“Twan kicked me out. I need somewhere to crash for the night.” Alivia was back to staring off to nothing.
“Nothing. Can I stay here or not?” Alivia snapped clearly frustrated.
Even in her semi drunken stupor, India knew that Alivia had to be desperate to come here. So as much as she wanted to find out what was going on, she got quiet. She ambled down the hall way and got a towel and wash cloth from the linen closet. She handed them to Alivia. “Guest bedroom is the second room on the left.”
Alivia took the items from her sister and sank back into the sofa. India started to leave the living room and find out where her girlfriend was but Alivia stopped her. “Do you think our lives would have been different had he been there? You know, if he would have really loved us?”
India took in the familiarity of her sister’s words. She’d asked herself this a million times. Would I be a lesbian? Would I feel inferior? Would I be skeptical of men? Would I be drinking my life away? Those are all the questions she had. Naomi’s father was in her life and she was still gay. That left India to conclude her problems were her fault.
She plopped down next to her sister and smelled the marijuana on her. She wanted to fuss but this was not the time. “I don’t know, Liv. We can’t really play the what if game.”
Alivia sighed deeply. “I know. I used to think Monica had it made. Daddy was there all her life and her husband’s girlfriend still ran her over.”
“She’s only staying with him because her mama stayed. At least that’s what Ms. Katherine suspects.”
Alivia cut her eyes at her sister. With everything that happened today, she didn’t need India heaping shit on her. “You’re saying this is my fault?”
“How would this be your fault?” India inquired. Even if she wasn’t drinking, she didn’t understand how Alivia got to that conclusion.
“Her mama stayed with him even though he cheated on her with my mama. Ms. Katherine stayed in spite of me.”
India cocked her head to the side, still confused. “We didn’t ask to be here. His decisions shouldn’t be affecting us like this.”
“But they are.”
The sisters sat in silence letting their revelation linger. They were grown women with careers and relationships. Why were their father’s decisions such a big influence over their lives, over how they felt? The worst part about their thoughts was they couldn’t ask him about it. They never did it while he was living but now that he was gone, the need to know was becoming debilitating.
Alivia avoided talking to her daddy at all costs. She wanted him in her life but the bitterness in her heart wouldn’t allow her to let her guard down. Even though she was almost 30, she was stuck in the moment her daddy didn’t fight for her. That one moment defined her, formulated all of her decisions, created the standoffish, often callous woman she is today.
India always told herself she was ok with her daddy not being around. Even though she was his first child, she always felt like an outsider. When she was younger, she used to go to her daddy’s house once or twice a month. She and Monica used to play and Ms. Katherine was…pleasant to her. But after a while, India noticed her daddy was never there. He never spent time with her and to her, that defeated the purpose of her going over there. As she got older, their relationship was sporadic. She called on his birthday and Christmas mostly, never Father’s Day. India wanted to believe her daddy was an old school man, not accustomed to being affectionate. But he doted on Monica and that never sat well with her.
India and Alivia mulled over their dead daddy and the mess their lives were in. This was the most they’d ever said about how they felt. Mostly, they built up a wall and kept each other out. But tonight, their mutual suffering was forming a bond.
Katherine sat in her breakfast nook drinking her morning coffee. It’s been a few weeks since her husband passed away and she was still not used to the loneliness. Since he retired years ago, they would share their morning coffee in this same spot before he would run out to do whatever tickled his fancy. Even if she took her morning coffee outside on the deck, she would remember how he and her son-in-law built this deck as an anniversary present. Every square inch of this house reminded her of Alvin. And for the first time in her marriage to him, she was plagued with guilt about staying with him.
Her daughter was suffering because of the decision she made to stay with her husband. Katherine never expected that her child would find herself in a situation where she would feel she needed to stay in a marriage that almost killed her. Back when Alvin had his last child, Katherine contemplated leaving him for good. She and Monica went to stay with her sister for a few days until Alvin convinced her to come back. Yes, she depended on him financially but beyond that, she loved her husband. If she was honest with herself, love wasn’t the main reason she stayed. Katherine stayed to spite everyone that said Alvin Felton wasn’t the marrying type.
Since the day she and Alvin began courting, she was fighting women off left and right. Alvin was one of the most handsome men in town. But when he married her, she knew that she won him for good. Until she found out he was still sleeping around. Although she was hurt, she was not losing her husband to some woman that only had him for a moment. She never considered what her daughter saw, what she learned from her need to “win”. Now, Monica was paying for it.
Katherine sipped her coffee, lost in the silence of her thoughts and the house. It was not lost on her that she was alone, completely alone. She remembered her mama telling her that she’ll find out who was really her friend once she experienced a loss. When Alvin died, her house was bustling with people sharing their condolences, calling her, wrapping her in hugs and prayer. Now, she’d be lucky if anyone thought of her at all. Other than Monica, her “friends” weren’t really coming around or checking on her much anymore.
Monica was lying on the sofa flipping through the TV. She’d been home for a few weeks now and she had no idea how people did this. Sitting at home all day was literally driving her crazy. That and thinking about the direction her life was heading.
Against her better judgment, Monica didn’t press charges on Tracy. She contended it was an accident and the whole thing just went away. Monica called Tracy right before she got out of the hospital to explain why she wasn’t throwing the book at her.
“You thought you were going to get me out of the picture,” she warned. “I hope you see now that Jaison isn’t going anywhere.”
Monica let her know that if she so much as looked in her husband’s direction, she would regret it. Tracy understood she was lucky that Monica was so kind hearted and backed off. She wasn’t trying to go jail.
Monica heard the front door open and her husband walked in for lunch. He worked for the city and since her accident, he was coming home for lunch every day. Not that Monica had a meal prepared for him, but Jaison didn’t want to give his wife any reason to think he was still messing around.
Jaison came in with bags from Zaxby’s. He didn’t even call Monica to see if she was hungry; he just bought it. He was having to do that a lot these days. Even though Monica had a broken arm, she could still do things around the house; she just chose not to. Jaison and the boys took care of the things she usually did and Jaison had to admit, it was harder than he thought. He had no idea how Monica taught all day, picked up the boys, helped them with their homework, cooked, got his work clothes out and ironed, cleaned up and washed clothes. He thought Monica was some soft of robot but he had a newfound respect for his wife.
“Hey baby,” Jaison announced while handing her the bag of food. Monica sat up and took the bag from him. She didn’t want anything from Jaison but she was hungry. The past few weeks, she’s been cold, distant. Jaison knew it but he couldn’t do anything about it. He knew he messed up bad and she was just going to need some time to forgive him. But the fact that she was still in the house gave Jaison some hope.
“Thanks.” That’s all Monica could offer. She had about a ten word daily quota for her husband. She couldn’t find anything to say to him. He was smart enough to steer clear of her; the one time he tried to force her to talk, Monica cursed, yelled and threw things at him. He kept their conversations very surface, mostly about their children.
Monica sat up and took her food out of the bag. Jaison was watching his wife and he reached inside her container to open her sauce for her. Monica hated that Jaison had to do things for her. It made her think he thought she needed him. She hoped he knew she was only here because of her children. Emotionally, Monica was done.
Monica struggled to understand how her mama stayed with her daddy after his affair. On the outside, she held it together but, on the inside, she was a mess. Jaison betrayed her trust, her loyalty, her love. Monica wondered if Jasion truly understood the devastation of his affair. For a few minutes of sexual pleasure, he threw away 17 years of marriage. Monica’s mama stayed with her daddy until he died. She didn’t understand how her mama did it.
Some days, she still loved Jaison and she really wanted to forget he was sleeping with other women. Other days she hated him. She wished he would just leave. She actually thought she would feel relieved if he left. But what would Amari and Austin think? Their whole lives, they have experienced the same thing she did: married parents. Monica knew that not every child had that. Her own sisters included.
All her life, she had her daddy in her life while her sisters did not. A few weeks ago, she pleaded with them to understand their daddy wasn’t perfect and he deserved their forgiveness for not being there. But now…it didn’t matter that he was with her daily. What she was experiencing now was a two-fold pain: her husband was a cheating bastard and so was her daddy. He wasn’t the ‘father of the year’ she made him out to be. He didn’t care about her mama or her because he risked losing them over and over. That realization was hurting her as much as it did the day he died.
Monica and Jaison ate in silence, Jaison because he had no idea what to say and Monica because her thoughts kept her occupied. The ringing of her cell phone interrupted their quiet lunch. When Monica saw it was Tracy calling her, she instantly became angry. She answered and placed the phone on speaker, glaring at Jaison.
“What do you want?” Monica questioned. This woman had no reason to call her.
“You might want to lose that attitude, Monica,” Tracy quipped. Jaison almost choked on a French fry when he realized it was Tracy. His face scrunched up in confusion and his chest got tight. The cold sweat of fear covered him. Tracy called him a few times but he ignored her. He wasn’t going to be dumb enough to talk to her again.
Monica was taken aback by Tracy’s new found confidence. She silently cursed out her husband, not believing he was dumb enough to still be entertaining this woman.
“Tracy, what do you want?” she asked through clinched teeth.
“I tried to call Jaison but I guess you have him afraid to answer his phone,” Monica imagined Tracy’s smug face and rolled her eyes as she struggled to control her breathing. She wanted to go through the phone and choke the life out of this woman.
“What. Do. You. Want?” Monica repeated emphasizing each word.
“Just wondering if you like the name JJ.”
“What are you talking about?” Monica yelled. She was not in the mood to play with this woman.
Tracy snickered loving how exasperated Monica was becoming. She held all the cards now. And she relished in that power. “You know as a nickname. As in Jaison, Junior.”
Monica stared at the phone dumbfounded. It took her a second to put two and two together but when she did, all the air left the room.
“Tell Jaison to call me so I can tell him when my first appointment is. Since he’s such a family man, I’m sure he’d want to be there to hear OUR baby’s heart beat for the first time.”
Tracy’s tone was one of gloating because now, she was winning. Monica clicked the end button, unable to stomach her voice any longer. She stood up and peered down at her husband who showed fear of a man who knew his whole life was about to be over.
“M-M-M-Monica,” Jaison stuttered. “Baby, let me just-“
Monica reared back and slapped Jaison as hard as she could. She reached back to strike again but he grabbed her hand. That only infuriated her more. She doesn’t know what happened after that. She blacked out. With one arm, she was on Jaison hurling punches and kicks at him. She was enraged. She was devastated. She was broken. She felt herself being pushed back into the sofa and she came back to reality. She was breathing hard and her mouth was throbbing. She reached up to touch her lip and saw blood on her fingers. She had no idea what just took place but Jaison’s work shirt was torn and bloody. He was walking quickly out the door. She heard him crank up his work truck and leave.
Monica didn’t know what she did or said to him but her heart was about to beat out of her chest. This house was too small, this space was closing in on her. She jumped up and grabbed her keys to leave as well.
She had no idea where she was going but she knew this place was no longer her home.
“India, can you come in here for a minute?” Dr. Woods called from her office.
India panicked as she wondered what her boss could want. India popped a mint in her mouth and went to the doctor’s office.
It was almost two pm and they had a little bit of downtime at the moment. India was sitting in her office staring off into nothing. When she wasn’t moving, India couldn’t stop thinking about her daddy and or Naomi. She was pushing her away and she didn’t know how to stop it. And anytime she wasn’t at work, she was drinking. It was almost like she couldn’t stand to be sober and think about all the things she wanted to say to her daddy. But the last couple of days, India was drinking at all hours of the day. At lunch a few hours ago, she had a margarita. She wasn’t drunk but she was definitely tipsy.
“Yes ma’am,” India announced as she popped her head into Dr. Woods office.
“Come in, have a seat. And close the door.”
India couldn’t read Dr. Woods so she was unsure what was about to happen. India knew she was toeing the line by having a drink at lunch but for the most part, she didn’t drink every day at lunch. Just the days it was too much. But most days, she was working off a killer hangover.
“How are you feeling today?” Dr. Woods inquired.
In her inebriated mind, India thought it was a trick question. She cocked her head to the side and paused before answering uneasily. “I’m fine.”
“You sure? Because you seem…a bit off lately.”
India was sure she was busted. Professionally, India was all about business. After working a year as an RN, India knew working in a hospital wasn’t for her and she needed to do something else. She loved nursing so becoming a nurse practitioner was her goal. A few years ago, she landed a nurse practitioner position with a new primary care physician in the city. She loved that Dr. Woods was a black woman; everyday she went to a job full of black girl magic.
“I’m good. Just…I’m good.” India had to really work to make sure she was talking normal. She hoped she wasn’t working too hard to sell being sober.
“You know,” Dr. Woods began removing her glasses. “If you need some more time…I know how it is when a parent passes. Don’t force yourself to be ready, India. Take your time. All the time you need.”
India wasn’t sure if the relief that washed over her was visible, but she felt like she avoided a huge catastrophe. Honestly, she thought she was “over” her daddy passing but she really wasn’t. She had so many unanswered questions, questions that she didn’t want the answers to until now. While he was alive, India was strong, motivated, more confident. She was living her life to prove to him that she made it without him. Now…she was struggling. She could almost laugh at the irony. She didn’t understand how he was capable of going almost 40 years without developing a relationship with her.
“I keep thinking I’m alright to come back to work,” India admitted. “Some days, I’m good. Others, not so much.”
“I completely understand. When my mother passed, I had a really hard time. I was doing my medical rotation as an intern. My daddy wouldn’t let me quit because he said my mama would have wanted me to go on, which I knew was true. So I tucked my grief away and poured myself into my first intern year. At the beginning of my second, I had a breakdown. Exhaustion. Grief. Disappointment. Depression. I just lost it.”
India noticed the blank expression on Dr. Woods face and knew she wasn’t proud for having to admit that.
“India, the medical profession is a beast. Yes we are helping people but we often fail to help ourselves. I’m just going to be frank, whatever you are doing to cope, it’s not working.”
That fear that India had when she first walked into the office returned, only stronger. Her eyes darted all over the office even though avoiding eye contact with Dr. Woods was a sign of guilt. Luckily, Dr. Woods was scribbling on a notepad and didn’t notice the guilt on her face.
“Here,” Dr. Woods announced as she tore a sheet off her notepad. “This is the name and number of my therapist.”
India took the paper, surprised that someone as successful as Dr. Woods needed therapy. “Thanks.”
Dr. Woods knew that India was not ready for therapy yet but she wished that she would be honest with herself that she needed help. “You have to deal with your grief before it deals with you.”
Her words cast a chill over India. She had no idea why she was so against therapy but she was coping as best she could. India decided she would call this lady but not today. Or tomorrow. She would wait. On what she didn’t know.
Dr. Woods stood, indicating the conversation was over. “Take the rest of the day off. No, the rest of the week.”
India was relieved and scared all at the same time. Because too much free time meant she would have time to think. And if she had time to think that would screw with her emotions. And once her emotions were screwed, she would need a few drinks to calm the emotions down. She didn’t know how to get out of this cycle.
India folded up the piece of paper Dr. Woods gave her and smiled faintly. She didn’t know what else to say so she just said thank you again. She left the office to gather her things.
On her way home, she avoided the temptation to go get more liquor. She had enough for today but she didn’t want to have to go out again. However, she wasn’t in control of herself right now and somehow, her car was pulling into the parking lot of the liquor store.
Knowing India was at work, Monica decided to try her luck with Alivia at her shop. She couldn’t go to her mama’s house because right now, her mama was partly to blame for where she was in her life. Being right handed, Monica struggled to drive but somehow she made it across town.
Monica walked into the shop and Alivia’s eyes got low. “What are you doing here? And are you bleeding?”
Alivia left her client in the chair and rushed to her sister. The other stylist in the shop went to lock the door. She didn’t know if this woman had been in a fight with her man and she wasn’t taking any chances with any mess in here.
Monica looked defeated and tears pooled in her eyes. She couldn’t speak. Alivia was slightly irritated but at the same time concerned. She lead her sister to the back and told her she would be back in a few minutes.
Alivia went to go finish up her client so she could tend to her sister. “Hey Tee. I’m going to take off for the rest of the day. If she came up here to me, something is definitely wrong.”
“No problem,” Tee replied. “You got anymore heads today?”
“Just one. I’ll call her and reschedule.”
“If she still wants to come, I’ll do it for her. Just let me know.”
Alivia smiled at Tee’s generosity. Over the years, Tee has gotten to know Alivia better. She didn’t know everything because she was so quiet and reserved but she did know that her parents and her sisters were spots of contention. Tee learned not to talk to her about that. Tee was a little older than Alivia, so she tried to be more of a mentor to the young woman that carried her anger around like a bag.
“Thanks. I really appreciate it.” Alivia was grateful for her working and somewhat personal relationship she had with Tee. Tee gave Alivia a chance when she first started doing hair and she’s been loyal to her.
Alivia got Monica from the back and she practically had to walk her out of the door. Alivia helped her into the car and they headed to India’s. Monica noticed they weren’t going to Alivia’s place and she asked her where they were going.
“Twan kicked me out. I’ve been staying with India,” she announced. She pretended not to care that Twan was through with her but it bothered her more than she was willing to admit.
“He kicked you out? Why?” Monica was grateful for the temporary reprieve of her messed up life.
“Cause, I was cheating on him,” Alivia responded nonchalantly. She kept her eyes on the road, oblivious to the change in her sister’s demeanor. They drove to India’s house in silence, both sister’s heavy with the weight of their problems.
At India’s, Alivia parked in the grass so that India and Naomi could get into their garage when they got off work. It only took her one time to park in front of the garage for Naomi to raise hell. Alivia thought she could have had a little more tact but she really didn’t have any other options for somewhere to live so she had to play nice. She was quite sure she was wearing out her welcome with Naomi.
Alivia unlocked the door to let Monica in. Monica took in India’s home. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been here but the décor was different. Probably the influence of Naomi. Instead of the subtle, neutral designs from before, the décor was eclectic. From tribal masks to photographs of the African country side to pictures of Africa itself, Monica felt like she was in some sort of African art museum. It wasn’t her style but Monica could say it was tasteful.
“India?” Alivia called from the front door. “What are you doing home? Why aren’t you at work?”
Alivia followed her sister’s voice to the kitchen and immediately frowned because India was drinking. Again.
At first, Alivia thought India was just relaxing with a drink or two. But when she noticed she was drinking every night, she was concerned. She never said anything because India always got up to go to work. Because she was a hair stylist, Alivia didn’t have to get up early every day. So most mornings she didn’t see India going to work with a hangover and more often than not, late.
“My boss sent me home to handle my grief,” she slurred. She gave a stupid grin as she raised her glass as if she were toasting.
“How are you drunk already?” Monica quipped. She glanced at the time on India’s kitchen clock. It was barely 3 pm and she was on her way to her comfortable drunken stupor.
It was then that India noticed Monica was at her house as well. “What are you doing here?”
Monica sighed heavily. “She’s pregnant.”
“Who?” Alivia asked.
“His girlfriend. His other woman. His side bitch.” Monica spat. “She’s pregnant.”
Both India and Alivia’s eyes nearly popped out of their head. “That muthafucka!” India exclaimed. “I’m gonna kick his ass!”
“I think I already did that,” Monica stated. She ran through the events that took place at her house a little while ago.
“Jaison really was like daddy then, huh?” Alivia said quietly.
“Yep,” was all that Monica could offer. She left the kitchen in search of the living room. She needed to sit down. Her sister’s followed suit. “Jaison cheated on me and got another woman pregnant. Alivia cheated on her boyfriend and he put her out. Maybe we should just become a lesbian like you India. Your life is fine.”
“You think my life is fine? Well it’s not.” India sneered.
“Oh yeah, you’re drinking in the middle of the day.” Monica observed.
“All day, every day,” Alivia bantered.
Monica smirked before giving a hallow laugh. “Damn. Look at Alvin’s daughter’s winning at life.”
Each sister sat in silence as Monica’s words settled into their minds. Slowly the sarcasm of the statement began to fade and what was left was the harsh reality.
Naomi pulled into the garage and sat in the car for a few minutes. She wasn’t expecting India to be home already and she wasn’t prepared to fight with her. Not today. She had a really long day and all she wanted to do was take a long bath and chill in pajamas.
Naomi begrudgingly got out of the car with the groceries she picked up and went in the house. As soon as she walked in the kitchen, she saw the bottle Crown Royal on the counter and wondered how India was already drinking. Naomi already made up her mind that she wasn’t going to deal with India tonight. She was just going to hole herself up in the other bedroom. She didn’t mind Alivia being here because she stayed in their guest bedroom, but Naomi wondered how long this arrangement was supposed to last.
Naomi left the kitchen en route to her bedroom. She prayed India wasn’t in there. However, she glanced into the living room and was shocked to find India sitting with Alivia and a crying Monica. Alivia saw her first.
She smiled faintly and wondered what prompted this gathering of sisters.
India took a big gulp of her Crown and Coke and got up to greet her girlfriend. She hit her knee on the side of the coffee table sending her drink crashing onto the dark hardwood floors. Alivia went into cleanup mode but India barely noticed the mess she made.
“Hey baby,” India said through a big smile. She couldn’t deny how much she loved Naomi. Since they have been together, India knew her life was much better because of her girlfriend. India leaned in to kiss Naomi but she moved back to avoid the contact.
“You’re drunk. Again,” Naomi stated. She just about had it with India and this drinking. She didn’t care who was here.
“Every day India! Every damn day you sit up here and drink until you pass out! I’m sick of it! I refuse to stay here another night with your drunk ass!”
Naomi started to walk away but India grabbed her. She was too inebriated to accept what Naomi was saying. Naomi snatched away.
“Don’t touch me! Don’t you fucking touch me! I will not compete with a bottle, India. Not when I was there when no one else was!” she screamed. By now, Alivia and Monica got up to try to keep things calm.
“Naomi, you’re not competing with anything. I’m just having a hard time with my daddy. But you know that, baby. You know that,” India tried to reason.
“Well go get some damn help and stop drowning your hurt with alcohol!” Naomi yelled.
For the second time today, someone told India to get help. But she wasn’t in the right state of mind to receive it. Again, she reached out for Naomi this time more forcibly and again, she snatched away. Alivia stood in between them and pushed India back to the living room. Naomi stormed to her bedroom.
“I need to go talk to her!” India stated but instead of going to the bedroom, she headed to the kitchen to make another drink. Monica interceded this time.
“What the hell are you doing? Another drink? While your girlfriend is pissed right now? Why are you being stupid?”
India stared blankly, unsure of why her sister was talking to her. “Go deal with your cheating ass husband before you come up here trying to tell me what to do!”
Monica opened her mouth but no words came out. Instead, her eyes began to flood.
“India!” Alivia shouted. She was becoming frustrated with her sister now. India was the oldest but because she was drunk, she was acting like a child. Alivia wasn’t going to keep dealing with it. She snatched the bottle off the counter and headed to the sink. She took the top off and started pouring it down the drain.
It didn’t immediately register with India what her sister was doing but when she did, she jumped into action to try to stop her. Monica watched as her sister’s tussled and she wasn’t going to get in it. India’s words kept her feet planted.
Naomi came back in the kitchen after she heard the commotion. She planted her suitcase by her as she watched India and Alivia struggle with her bottle of liquor. Naomi wished her girlfriend would fight for her the way she was fighting for her alcohol. “I’ll be back tomorrow to get the rest of my stuff.”
India turned at the sound of Naomi’s voice and for a second, she was utterly confused. She heard what she said but she was stuck. She wanted to stop Alivia from pouring her drink down the drain but she also wanted to stop Naomi from leaving. She couldn’t do both. Naomi watched her continue to struggle with Alivia as the last of the liquor was discarded. Alivia started going through the cabinets until she found the other bottles. Alivia started pouring out the other bottle of Crown, too.
“Alivia stop! Damnit STOP!” India screeched.
“I see what matters most to you,” Naomi cried. She practically ran to the front door, her tears making it difficult for her to see. As the door slammed behind her, she felt her heart cracking in her chest. She’d done nothing but love India. Be there for her when no one else was. And she chose liquor over her.
India felt like she was having an out of body experience. She saw Naomi leaving but she couldn’t make herself go after her. Not when Alivia was pouring her comfort down the drain.
“INDIA!!” Monica screamed! “Stop it!”
Defeated, India yelled out in anger. In a rush, she flung open her cabinets and started throwing all her dishes against the wall and on the ground. Pieces of her plates, glasses, and coffee mugs scattered everywhere. She demolished everything in that cabinet and then moved on to the next. She was hurt, angry and out of control.
Monica and Alivia screamed for India to stop as they ducked and dodged the pieces flying everywhere. Fearing that India was going to hurt herself or them, Alivia almost tackled her. Alivia wrestled with India to stop her from reaching for more things to throw, her saving grace was her drunkenness. India lost her balance and the sisters tumbled to the ground.
“Alivia! Get off me! Let me go!” she yelled at her sister.
“No! Calm down! Just calm down!” Alivia had no idea where this calmness was coming from. Because she felt anything but. Seeing her sister like this was taking her back to when she was 14. Her mama’s drug of choice was cocaine but she did drink quite a bit too. Alivia wished she would have stopped her mama the way that she was stopping her sister. Right now, Alivia’s only purpose in life right now was to not lose someone else.
Even though Monica couldn’t do much, she got down on the ground next to where her sisters were struggling. She started to stroke India’s hair and started speaking to her softly. “It’s ok, India. It’s ok. We’re going to be ok.”
Slowly, India’s rage began to dissipate. Wrapped in her sister’s arms, India’s fury became tears. She cried. She wailed. She let out all of her hurt. All of the pain she carried about their father was leaving her body through her tears.
“Why didn’t he want me? Why didn’t he love me?” she asked over and over.
Soon, all three of Alvin’s daughters were in tears. Their hurt manifested differently but one thing in common: the sins of their father.
After their tears dried and the floor in the kitchen got too hard, the sisters moved to the living room. They sat in silence, all three trying to come to terms with their issues. Their father was at the center of it.
“For 36 years, I thought he was the world’s best daddy,” Monica stated breaking the silence. “I loved him with all my heart. People say a girl’s father is her first love…I believed that. That’s why I married Jaison. He was just like my daddy in every single way. And I stayed. Just like my mama. My parents shaped what I thought marriage was supposed to be. But…I can’t stay through this. I just can’t.”
“Who would expect you to?” India asked. She’d drunk plenty of water and was closer to sober now. And since she cried her heart out, she felt a little lighter.
“My mama probably. And my kids. I gotta think about my kids,” Monica said. “I’ve seen what not having a daddy around can do.”
Both India and Alivia felt a sting of hurt but truth be told, their daddy was there for Monica and she still wasn’t any better off.
Alivia took a huge drink of her bottle of water. “Yeah, you end up in foster care and push away everyone that tried to love you.”
She checked her phone every so often hoping Twan tried to contact her but she knew better. She hurt him and there was no coming back from that. “Twan tried to love me but I couldn’t let him. Men don’t stay. Men leave. Men aren’t going to be there for you. I searched for love in so many men. So many. And the one guy that wanted me to love him…I spent my entire relationship trying to push him away before he left.”
“Not all men were like daddy, Liv,” India offered. Even though she said it, she didn’t believe it. “I just want to know how he was able to live without taking care of his children. All of us.”
Monica exhaled, her mind wondering. “I used to think he did the best he could but truth of the matter is, he did what he wanted. He left us out here to fend for ourselves. He didn’t teach us about life, about marriage. We had to figure this stuff out on our own.”
“And to make matters worse, he stopped us from knowing each other. I had no one.” Alivia was heart broken that she spent four years of her life in other people’s care. Even before that, she saw her sister’s occasionally. Alvin didn’t make any effort to make sure his daughters grew up together. Alivia assumed that since India and Monica both had their mama’s they were better off.
“Yeah we spent too much time playing the ‘who did daddy hurt the most’ game,” India stated.
It was Alivia that didn’t want to sit around and feel sorry for herself. She’d done that most of her life and it’s gotten her nowhere. Empowered by having this conversation with her sisters, Alivia needed to shake up the status quo. “So what are we gonna do? Are we gonna sit here and talk about how bad he hurt us? He’s dead. There’s nothing we can do about that. We’re not going to get any answers. But we can still be ok.”
Contemplating the question posed, the daughters of Alvin Felton thought about how they could take back their lives for the hurt their father caused.
India spoke first. “My boss gave me the name of her therapist. I’m going to call her tomorrow. I’m tired of being stuck in my hurt. I’ve done enough damage to myself. And to Naomi.”
A few tears escaped her eyes as she spoke. She was in denial because it was easier to stay where she was comfortable in her hurt than to put in the work to heal. What did healing mean? It was uncovering hurt. It was uncovering pain. It was uncovering the reality of her life. And that was something India was afraid of.
Monica scooted closer to her sister on the sofa and wrapped her arms around her. “I think that’s a good idea. I might need her number too.”
India rested against her sister, surprised by how comforted she was by just being able to have her close.
“I’m going to file for divorce,” Monica announced. “I will not be my mama. I’m going to tell Jaison that I will not do any formal child support on him so long as he promises to be there for the boys like he’s always been. I cannot stay in a marriage for the sake of my kids if I’m completely miserable. What good is staying with him if we can’t show our boys a real marriage?”
Alivia didn’t really know her nephews at all so she asked how they would feel about their dad being out of the house.
“Truthfully, Amari will probably be ok. He’s such a mama’s boy. It’s Austin. He will not take it well. At all.” Monica paused as the reality of what she was saying took root. “Oh God this is going to be hard! I bet Jaison didn’t think about what this would mean for his children!”
Monica had second thoughts but only for a quick moment. She worried about Amari and Austin but she knew she couldn’t force herself to stay with Jaison. Her heart was too damaged. Her soul was weeping. If that made her selfish, she would just be that.
“Just be honest with them,” Alivia suggested. “Well as honest as you can be. What you don’t want is for them to be 30 and 40 working out their childhood issues.”
“Yeah I think I’m going to get them into therapy as well.”
Alivia unconsciously rolled her eyes. “I’ve had enough therapy for a lifetime.”
“So what are you going to do?” India asked. Alivia moved from the oversized chair to the sofa and leaned against Monica as well. She felt the same calm India did. It was almost magical.
“I’m going on hiatus. I’m just going to take some time away from here, from everything. Think about my life. Reevaluate. Recharge. I’m tired of carrying this bitterness around. I need to purge.”
Alivia didn’t have a lot of money but she could take a weeklong trip to the beach. Miami was too busy so she was thinking Destin or Clearwater. Alivia heard that bodies of water had calming effects; she planned on testing the theory. A week at a beach, with no interruptions and no plans should do wonders for her.
“Liv,” India said. “Can you promise that if this trip doesn’t get you together you will give therapy another shot?”
Alivia rested her head on the back of the sofa and contemplated her sister’s request. She’d been to therapy once, sometimes twice a week the entire time she was in foster care. She rarely talked. Rarely shared anything of substance. Mostly because she wasn’t good at forming relationships and because she was too angry to talk about her mama dying or her father allowing her to go into foster care. Maybe therapy didn’t work because she was so young. Maybe she was old enough to deal with her issues now…
“Ok. I promise.”
The daughters of Alvin Felton continued talking about how they wanted to fix their problems and it was refreshing to have support from each other. They did something they never got to do growing up: they talked.
They talked about their childhood. Fond memories. Sad times. Funny moments. They talked about their goals and dreams. They talked about their favorite foods and celebrity crushes. They talked about their fears and their favorite shows. They talked all night, making up for lost time until they fell asleep on the sofa.
Alivia never imagined she would talk like this with her sisters. Or with anyone for that matter. Even though she felt cheated, Monica was grateful for the bond she and her sisters were making tonight. India was excited to finally be able to address their hurt and build a real bond.
This night wasn’t going to cure the hurt they had surrounding their daddy but this night served as a springboard for healing. Together they decided they were done with being held captive by the sins of their father.