After returning home from picking up the girls and getting them to school, Naima settled in to finish up her proposal. She had a solid six hours until she needed to leave for her presentation, and she knew she would need every second. Dealing with drama with her mother was not anything she cared to do. Besides, her looming proposal deadline would keep her mind off Allison.
“Young African American boys are prone-”
“Research says that African American boys have the tendency-”
“Young males in such environments-”
Naima erased her third attempt at the sentence and grabbed the ringing phone without taking her eyes away from the screen.
“Ugh, I can’t stand how you answer the phone that way.”
“Hello Aretha,” Naima recited, rolling her eyes at the fact that her baby sister could not even get through a simple greeting on the phone without finding fault.
“You busy today?”
“Yes, Aretha. I have a major project due today. I still have a lot of writing left to do on it.”
“How are you waiting until the last minute to get something done? I thought you were supposed to be educated and all that? “Educated negroes” be the main ones I tell you. So smart that they stupid. I ain’t sayin’ you, per se, Sis. I’m just sayin. Reminds me of folks at my old job when-”
“Aretha what is it that you need?”
“Well did you know that some people served Mother notice yesterday?”
Naima spun around in her chair and stared at the opposite wall. “Serve her notice for what? What in the hell is going on over there?”
“Well apparently one of Bruh’s women got mad at him and called the housing people on him. They told Mother’s social worker that she got felons staying with her. I don’t see how it is any of their business, but now Mother callin’ me sayin’ that some white man brought papers by yesterday sayin’ she got fourteen days to vacate.”
Naima groaned. She could already imagine what her mother was doing. Nothing. Just like the time when Naima was eleven and the cops came by following up a suspicious tip about drug activity. When the cops knocked on the door, her mother stood in the hallway paralyzed, looking like she expected it all to go away if she just looked sad enough. Well it didn’t go away. Instead they ransacked the tiny apartment and found all sorts of pills and weed in both her brother’s room and her mother’s dresser drawer. The cops hauled her mother and brother to jail, leaving Naima to care for her siblings since she looked older than her years. That time was just one of many over the years. Now here they were again, twenty years later and Naima knew that she would have to be the one to rescue her mother and brother once again.
“Aretha! I don’t have time for this. Did she at least call down to the county office to find out what was going on? What is she going to do? Aretha can she come stay with you?”
“Girl, you know Mother. She ain’t do nothing when they sent all those other letters-”
“All the other letters?! How long has this been going on? I can’t believe you’ve been knowing about this and haven’t so much as said boo about it, but you had no problem calling me to borrow money for your car and everything else!”
“Well, you know how Mother is. She didn’t want anyone in her business and thought that they were just bluffing.”
“In her business? But now ya’ll want me in her business to come help take care of her business! And of all days, today is the last day that I have any time to deal with this mess.”
Naima was both livid and hurt at the same time. Livid that they let this situation escalate to this point. Livid that they knew she would be the one to pick up the pieces. And hurt that it was all they saw her as- the clean-up woman.
“Aretha, go over there by Mother and tell her I’ll be there in about 40 minutes. Make sure she is ready and please, find any paperwork that you think could help.”
“Oh Naima, I ain’t got time for that. Joe is supposed to be here any minute now to take me out for the weekend. And I’m not done getting ready.”
“Aretha Shanice Jordan. I cannot fucking believe you. You find the time to call me so I can go bail Mother out. You find the time to go out with that trifling man of yours, who’s married, might I add. But you don’t have the time of day to help me when it comes to dealing with our mother. I swear to God, girl, if you don’t go over there right now and let Mother know I’m on my way, this will be the last conversation you and I have.”
Aretha gasped, shocked that her sister had the nerve to call her out in such a manner. But she complied.
“Fine, I’ll send one of the kids, but I don’t have time to be babysitting no grown woman, I got my own life. So you better go over there, quick, fast, and in a hurry. I gotta go.”
Naima slammed the phone down and went through the mental preparations to get ready to see her mother, a task she avoided at all costs.
After checking her outfit to make sure it was casual enough to avoid her mother’s snide comment about her “money,” Naima made a last minute decision to wear Tasha’s cartouche necklace. She hadn’t worn it in years, but something about wearing her wife’s pendant made her feel protected.
She retrieved the dark jewelry case from Tasha’s nightstand drawer. Out fluttered a cream colored envelope with Tasha’s name written in unmistakably feminine script that wasn’t her own.