Archives for January 2013

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care Friday Giveaway – *CLOSED*

The winner of the Combo Hair Gift Set is Imaobong Udonkang!
Congratulations on the win, Marie Dean will contact you soon.
Thank you to everyone who participated!

———————————

 

Enter to win a Combo Hair Gift Set! 

blackgiftboxredribbon

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care Combo Hair Gift Set contains three 4 ounce jars of Coconut Vanilla Souffle, Coconut Detangler and Vanilla Repair Conditioning Mask PROLESS.

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care has an array of styling creams, hair moisturizers, leave-in conditioners and conditioners for all hair types.  Each hair product in this Combo Gift Set is formulated with unique ingredients such as fortifying botanical hydrosols and natural botanical extracts, essential vitamins, and wholesome oils and butters that provide nourishment for your hair and scalp. The end result is the promotion of hair growth and healthy hair!

The three products in this Combo Hair Gift Set will give you silky, manageable and intensely hydrated hair! They deliver hair-softening and detangling properties to curly, coily, kinky wavy, straight, dry damaged and chemically-treated hair.

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care Combo Hair Gift Set is a great way to experiment with their hair products to see how they will work best for your hair.

Coconut Vanilla Hair Souffle

Coconut Detangler

Vanilla Repair Conditioning Mask PROLESS

Visit Marie Dean Hair & Body Care giveaway page to enter to win.  Ends 01/31/13.

 

 

http://mariedeanonline.com/Combo-Hair-Gift-Set.html

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care Valentine’s Savings!

Love is in the air at Marie Dean Hair & Body Care

loveballons

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and Marie Dean Hair & Body Care

thought you would like to get your beauty love on and treat yourself

to their scrumptious hair and body goodies!

SAVE 20%
USE CODE: LOVE20

Sale ends February 14

Check out some gift options below, in case you want to treat someone special!

the important details…
*Only one coupon code may be used per order.
**For retail customers only.
***Free Ground Shipping on orders over $75.00 and only within the United States.

 SHOP HERE!

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care love…

8ozjarflat

Give some Marie Dean Hair & Body Care love to that special love in your life!

Create amazing hairstyles with our luscious styling creams, moisturizers, pomades and conditioners.  Achieve silky-smooth skin from head to toe with their scrumptious body creams and body butters.

 

 Goodie Bags…

hairgoodiebag

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care Goodie Bags are a wonderful Valentine’s treat!

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care sample-packed Skin and Hair Goodie Bags are chock-full of products that are leftovers from our handmade batches!  These yummy Goodie Bags are a great way to experiment with Marie Dean Hair & Body Care products to see how they will work best for your skin and hair.

 

 Gift Sets…

blackgiftboxredribbon

Want to give your love some special goodness? Try a Gift Set!

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care has an array of hair and body products for all skin and hair types.  Marie Dean Hair & Body Care products are formulated with unique ingredients such as fortifying botanical hydrosols and natural botanical extracts, essential vitamins, and wholesome oils and butters that will nourish and hydrate your skin and hair for a soft and silky-smooth appearance.  Marie Dean Hair & Body Care Gift Sets include three (6 ounce size jars).

 

Gift Certificates…

New Picture (4)

Still not sure what to get your love?  Try a Gift Certificate!

Gift Certificates are the perfect solution when you just can’t find the right gift or you’re short of time. Gift certificates make a perfect present for friends, family, and business associates.

 

Marie Dean Hair & Body Care Friday Giveaway – 01/18/13 **CLOSED**

Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse

Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse

 

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED…

Congratulations to

Geniveve Taylor!

Winner of the 12oz jar of Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse!

 

This light and fluffy protein-free hair mousse moisturizes and removes kinks, allowing easy comb through.

Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse is an all-natural, ultra-whipped hair moisturizer. This light and fluffy hair cream hydrates and conditions hair. Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse will remove kinks, allowing easy comb through, leaving hair soft as cotton. Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse is also great for braids, twists and chemically-treated hair to smooth and protect ends.

Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse is packed with shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, fortifying botanical hydrosols and extracts, nourishing oils and a vitamin cocktail of B5 and E.

Vanilla Lemon Hair Mousse doubles as a skin softening body moisturizer!

 

Enriched with Lemon Verbana Hydrosol, Shea and Cocoa Butters, Sunflower and Coconut Cream Oils

Removes kinks, allowing easy comb through

Moisturizes and penetrates hair

Adds luster and sheen to hair

Leaves hair super soft and supple

Smoothes and protects ends

 

Visit our Giveaway page to enter to win! Contest ends 1/24/13 at 10:00PM PST.

The Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL isn’t just for cooking anymore.

 

Did you know EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL can heal dry, chapped lips, seal the ends of your hair, condition and moisturize your hair and make your skin silky-smooth?

 

Use as a lip moisturizer

Apply a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on chapped lips to rejuvenate them.

 Use as a face cleanser

Put a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in your palms and apply it on your face. Use your fingers to massage the oil in and rinse with water. Take a washcloth and dip it in hot water. Rinse it slightly and put it on your face. Keep the washcloth on your face for 5 minutes.  Remove the washcloth and splash cold water on your face and clean it thoroughly.

Use as a face lotion

Apply a small amount of extra virgin olive oil to your face.  Massage the oil onto your skin. A little goes a long way.Use as a skin moisturizer: Massage extra virgin olive oil onto moistened or dry skin. A little goes a long way.

Use as a hair sealant

For extra moisture, apply extra virgin olive oil to your ends. You can twist or braid your hair after. Place a plastic cap over your head and leave on for an hour.

 Use as a conditioner  

Apply extra virgin olive oil to your ends and hair, place a plastic cap over your head and leave on for 2-4 hours or overnight. Rinse with shampoo.

Use as a hot oil treatment

Heat extra virgin olive oil in the microwave to warm it.  Saturate your hair with the oil and place a plastic cap over your head.  Sit under dryer for 30 minutes – 1 hour or wrap with a towel and leave on for 2 hours.  Rinse with shampoo.

Excerpt: The Policy

insurancepolicy

The Policy

by Adriene Pickett

Copyright © 2004 by Adriene Pickett

 

Jasmine Miller walked into the bedroom, took the plastic bottle of the poisonous liquid from the dresser, and put it into her purse.

She stood in front of the large mirror, her expression was blank, as if all emotion had been sucked out of her.

She was striking and coffee-complexioned.  Most people thought she was a model, but she was just a social worker for the state ofNew Jersey.

As she patted down her short, straight hair, neatly trimmed around the edges, she noticed in the mirror her husband Derek’s glassy eyes.

She turned and faced the Victorian iron bed with its unique flower design on the headboard and base.  He lay there listless.  The color had drained from his face.

She squeezed her eyes shut and let out a breath.  She wanted this night to end soon.

Jasmine sat down and eased up next to him.  Derek had been lying in bed for hours, and the air reeked of urine and feces.  The odor was repulsive, and she covered her mouth and nose with her hand to keep herself from vomiting.

A cool breeze moved in through the balcony.  The rush of air was intoxicating, and she forced herself to breathe in and out.

She pulled the cream-colored sheets up to Derek’s neck, then lowered her head and pressed it against his chest.  His heartbeat was losing speed, and froth spewed out of his mouth.  The end was imminent.

The stillness of his body made her nervous.  He didn’t even shiver.  Jasmine had read in a pharmaceutical textbook that the human body violently shook after being administered a lethal dose of the drug, but that hadn’t happened.

When the wind blew in again, she could hear her neighbors, Stuart and Grace Woodrow, talking as they barbecued on their patio, and she could smell the smoke that reached the second floor.  She swallowed the air and bit by bit released it.

Jasmine touched Derek’s face with her manicured fingers, the nails painted a ruby color, and whispered in his ear, “It’ll be over soon.”

When Derek’s head slowly turned to the side, Jasmine’s hands flew up to her chest, shocked.  He tried to speak but there were no words; all that came out of his mouth was oozing white foam.  He closed his eyes, and a teardrop rolled down his cheek.  Derek Miller went to sleep forever.

Jasmine felt no guilt, just a sense of calmness and relief that it was over.  Derek would no longer cause her pain.

Through the window she could hear Stuart giggling, and Grace’s voice, its tone similar to Daphne Burke’s, Jasmine’s best friend.

She slowly stood and, running her trembling fingers through her hair and smiling nervously, walked toward the bedroom door.   She had gone through with her plan.  She had murdered her husband.

She leaned her exhausted body against the wall and thought back to how this evening had come to pass.

***

 September 

Daphne threw her mustard-colored jacket on the backseat of her red Infiniti, hopped in and began the drive to Willowbrook Mall in Wayne.

It was the kind of late summer in New Jersey she adored, with birdsong in the air and the soothing warmth of the radiant sun on her skin.  The leaves on the trees danced gracefully in the surging breeze.  Daphne inhaled the fresh air.

It was her sister’s birthday, and since work was slow at the greeting card boutique, she had decided to make this trip to buy her a silver bracelet.

Thirty-four-year-old Daphne was a petite, blond-haired woman with meaty legs.  She always turned heads and loved the attention as she sashayed down the street like a superstar.

She had a killer wardrobe, although she earned only $40,000 a year as the manager of the boutique.  She refused to let debt stop her from living well.  Spending money on clothes, fine dining and lavish vacations was a comfortable way of life for her.  “I might as well enjoy life while I’m here because I can’t do it when I die,” she often said to her mother, Alice.

Alicethought Daphne invested too much time with material things.  She believed that if Daphne focused on her true craft– writing, and stopped living in a dream world, hoping that one day a handsome millionaire would walk into the boutique and sweep her off her feet, she could probably be a successful writer.

Instead, Daphne wrote after being dumped, losing a job, or simply being depressed.  She trusted that someone would give her a big break in time because time was all she had.

***

While driving down Main Avenue in Passaic, Daphne saw Derek Miller walk out of Kenneth Jacobs Insurance Agency.

A handsome African American man with hazel eyes, Derek was tall, thick, and an impeccable dresser.  He wore a blue suit in a fabric that breathed money and seemed tailored for his solid body.

Daphne stopped at a light and watched Derek walk to his black Mercedes.  He wore a silly grin as he opened the door.

She had a bad feeling about seeing Derek there, looking so pleased.  Kenneth Jacob’s area of expertise was life insurance.  And Derek didn’t need more life insurance.

Months before, Jasmine had told her the details of their  insurance policies.  Daphne had set off the conversation because she wasn’t sure how much life insurance she should buy for herself.  Jasmine and she had discussed the couple’s purchase in great detail.

In addition to their work policies, Jasmine and Derek had bought a private policy totaling $250,000 for each of them.  Jasmine believed that was more than enough to take care of the surviving party, so why was Derek talking with Kenneth again?

Daphne and Kenneth had had a thing a few years back.  She had dubbed him her sex buddy, but he had christened her his girlfriend.  The “thing” had faded, but hadn’t completely died.

Curiosity got the best of Daphne.  She needed to know what Derek had been doing.  She knew that with a little propositioning, she could get Kenneth to disclose anything she wanted.

Parking nearby, Daphne waited in her car until Kenneth’s staff left for the day.  Then she casually walked up to the two-story brick building and knocked on the door.  She stood sideways at its glass surface, posed without looking at it.  An image arose of Kenneth, tall, slim, and broad shouldered.  His light brown hair was always unkempt.  He had a long nose that made him look boring.

At his desk, he was reviewing papers when he heard the knock.  He walked over to the custom-stained glass door and saw the contour of a woman’s body standing on the steps.  He opened the door and smiled, surprised to see her.  “Hello, Daphne,” he said, taking time to enjoy the view.

Daphne stood with one hip jutted as she turned only her head.  She let out a breath.  “Hey, I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by.”

Stepping back, he opened the door wide.  “Come in.”

She walked inside and looked around.  She was a bit nervous because the only time she visited Kenneth at work in the past was to have sex with him and this was not her intention today.  Entering his office, she sat down in the client chair and struggled to act cool.

Daphne began twisting her curly hair.  Kenneth liked that; it turned him on.  She wet her lips, and crossed and uncrossed her legs in the short, tight skirt.

“What brings you by this afternoon?” he said, tapping a pencil on his desk.

Daphne was frank, but she leaned forward to show a tad of cleavage.  “I saw Derek Miller earlier.  Why was he here?”

Kenneth wasn’t naïve.  He knew Daphne was inquisitive, but he also knew he was sexually excited.  He’d give up Derek’s personal information if it was going to get him into bed with Daphne.

He picked up the pencil and twirled it around.  “He opened up another life insurance policy.”

Daphne didn’t appear as if she was surprised.  She just giggled and said, “Um, oh really.”

“Yeah, he said something about him wanting to be safe rather than sorry.”

She shrugged.  “Sorry for what?”

Kenneth put the pencil down and came around the desk toward her.  “I didn’t ask,” he said softly.

Daphne had anticipated this moment.  She quickly got out of the chair and walked to the window.  “Right, Jasmine did mention something about it before–must have skipped my mind.”

Kenneth stood behind her, reached up and shut the blinds.  “You smell good.”  He pressed his hand against her hip and then slid it down under her short skirt, caressing her thighs.

Daphne swallowed hard and calmly asked. “How much was it for?”

“One million,” he said, trailing kisses down her neck.

She exhaled and placed her hand to her chest. “A million dollars!”

“Yeah.”  He grabbed her arm and spun her around.  “Hey, why all the questions?”  He jerked her head back and began kissing her neck again.  “Do you have any condoms?”

“No, I don’t.”

“You never leave home without them.”

“I did today,” she said, pushing him away.  She grabbed her purse.  “Look, Ken I have to go.”

He pulled her arm and body toward him. “Wait a minute!”

“No, really.  I have to go,” she said, jerking his hand away. “I’ll chat with you another time okay?”

Kenneth held his hands in the air and gave in. “Fine.  If that’s what you want.”

Daphne quickly walked out of the small office.  The news was more than she could stomach.

Derek was worst than she was.  His spending practices were excessive.  He and Jasmine were drowning in debt.  Derek had to have his cake and eat it too, even if it meant losing his house or destroying his marriage.  He was selfish and arrogant.

Daphne suddenly felt sick when she approached her car.  She recalled something else about the night she and Jasmine had the discussion about life insurance policies: Jasmine told her Derek had been acting strange for months, and she had proof that he was having an affair with his twenty-year-old assistant.

***

Making a sharp left turn onto Brook Avenue, Daphne’s sedan nearly struck a teenager as he was crossing the street.  The boy scowled at her and shot the bird.  Her heart pounding, she pulled over to the curb to calm down.  She moved her shoulder muscles to ease the tension and patted her face with a tissue.

Presently she was composed enough to shift back into drive and continue down the street.

She drove more sensibly this time, but as soon as she arrived at the Vista View Apartments in Hackensack she tumbled out of her car and made a dash for the foyer.

Her hands shook as she inserted the key into her door of her studio apartment.  Inside she tossed her purse onto the kitchen table, grabbed the black telephone and punched out Jasmine’s number at the Human Services building in Paterson.

“Department of Rehabilitation, Jasmine Miller speaking.” “Get over here now, Jasmine,” Daphne said, breathing heavily.

“What the hell is wrong, Daphne?”  Jasmine said.

“I have to talk to you—it’s important.”

“Come on, in the middle of the workday?  Her friend said.

“Jasmine, just do as I say.”

“Okay, I’m on my way.”

Jasmine slammed the handset down, snatched up her purse and ran out of the tiny office that barely accommodated a desk and filing cabinet.  The instant the elevator doors released her into the lower-level garage she broke into a run.

Twenty minutes later she burst through Daphne’s door.  “What’s happened?” She said, out of breath.

Daphne was at the kitchen table smoking a cigarette.  Her fingers trembled.  She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes.

“Oh, my God you’ve gotten the mammogram results back?”

Daphne shook her head and opened her eyes.  “No, not that.  Sit down.”

“Tell me.”

“Not until you sit down.”

“Okay, now what is it?”

“I saw Derek leaving Kenneth’s office today,” Daphne began.  “That’s why you pulled me from work?”

Daphne stubbed out her cigarette.  “Nope, she said ominously.

Jasmine’s eyes swelled.

“Did you know Derek was buying a large insurance policy today?”

“So?”

There was a momentary silence, nothing but the ticking of the clock.  “The policy was for one million dollars, Jaz.”

“What!” She stumbled off of the chair.

“One million dollars.  He bought a policy on you for one million dollars.”

“Kenneth told you that?”

“Not voluntarily.  I got it out of him.” Daphne wiped her sweaty hand against her skirt.  “It wasn’t easy.”

Looking dazed, Jasmine wandered out onto the balcony.

Daphne followed her friend and began rubbing her back.

“Are you positively sure?” Jasmine whispered.

“Yes,” Daphne said slowly.

Jasmine ran her fingers through her hair.  “He’s going to kill me,” she said in an astonished voice.  “Why else would he take out a high-priced policy on me?”

Chapter 6

Never Forget The Bridge That Crossed You Over

Copyright © 2003 by Adriene Pickett

Published by Xlibris

 

Solomon entered the house hours later and took his time closing the door.  His eyes were red and swollen, and tear stains tracked down his face.  Ivory knew something was wrong.  She put her fork down and immediately rose from the chair.  “What’s wrong, Junior?” she said.

Solomon said nothing.

“And where my babies at?”

Solomon approached his mother and held her hand as he spoke slowly.  “Mama, please sit down.”

“For what?” she said, yanking his hand away.

“Just sit, Mama.  Please.”

Ivory sat down but didn’t take her eyes off of Solomon.  The room was deathly silent.  Everyone stared at him, waiting for an answer.  Solomon gasped and then breathed out fast.

“Fannie Mae and I went over to Miss Smith’s house and she said the girls are gone,” he said.

Ivory’s eyes widened. “Where they at then?”

“Gone?” Lily mumbled. Solomon was growing annoyed with her–the same way she became when Nathaniel asked her silly questions.

“She said those friends of hers—”  He paused and stared at Fannie Mae, who nodded, signaling him to carry on. “She said those friends of hers took the girls.”

“Well… let’s go get ‘em!” Ivory yelled.

“It’s not that easy, Mama,” Solomon insisted.

Fannie Mae began to rub Ivory’s back.

“Why ain’t it that easy?” Ivory said, looking at his glazed eyes.

“They’re gone, Mama.  Those people done run off with the girls.”

“Junior, I ain’t got time for games!” shouted Ivory, who rose with determination.  “Where my babies?” she demanded then headed toward the front door.  “Is they outside?”

“Naw… Mama. They’re not outside. They’re gone.” Solomon began to cry.

“Who would want to take my babies?” Ivory said innocently.

“Miss Smith and her friends obviously wanted them.” Solomon said.

“Why?” Lily screamed.

“I don’t know why, Lily!” he yelled back.

“Where she said they gone, Junior?” Ivory inquired.

“She didn’t say.”

“Why?” Lily screamed again.

“Lily… if you ask me that again…” Solomon shouted then knocked over the plate that was on the table.  He ran to the window, crouched down, and sobbed.

Suddenly the door flew open and there stood Carter. “I heard what happened,” he blurted.  “I saw Pearl Lee and she told me.”

“Pearl Lee know,” Ivory said.

Carter looked at Fannie Mae.  “Yeah, Pearl Lee said she saw Miss Smith  the other day and she acted like she ain’t know nothing about the girls.”

Ivory glanced from Fannie Mae to Carter to Solomon. She didn’t know whether to scream or run out the door again so she simply pulled her apron up to her face and cried.  Fannie Mae held her tight.

“My babies are gone! Those people took my babies!” Ivory screamed.  She pushed Fannie Mae away, reached over the counter, and grabbed her handbag.  “Come on… We got go and find my babies!”

“Where, Ivory? Where we gonna go?” Fannie Mae said.  “We don’t know where they at.”

“Sheriff Thomas on his way over here,” said Carter.

“Pearl Lee and her son, Jacob, went over and got him.”

It all seemed like a bad dream.  Ivory’s entire world had crumbled in an instant.  She felt faint and collapsed to the floor.  Carter and Fannie Mae quickly grabbed hold of her and carried her into the bedroom, placing her on the bed.  Ivory wailed and clutched the pearly white sheets with all her might.

Solomon tried to comfort her, smoothing back her thick hair and wiping away the tears as they fell, but he knew that offered little real relief.  He knew the pain would live in her heart forever.

Ivory screamed with abandon: she screamed for her baby girls, she screamed out of anger, she screamed because she was weak and couldn’t make that woman pay for what she had done to her family, and she screamed because that was all she could do.

Solomon had seen his mother this sad only once before and never thought he would see such despondency from her again.

“She betrayed me,” Ivory cried. “Why?” I treated her like family.”  She pointed her finger at the bedroom door and yelled, “I brought her in my house and she ate my food at my kitchen table!”

Then she looked her eldest son in the eye and softly asked in a distracted tone. “How we get here, Junior?”  She patted her chest and said, “What I do that was so wrong that put us in this predicament?”

Solomon shrugged his shoulders.  What could he possibly say that would ease her mind, stop the tears, and heal her broken heart?  Nothing.  Nothing could make her smile again.

On that supremely hopeless day, Solomon was transformed into a person gripped by anger.  A basic mistrust in other people took root of him.  His heart grew numb—as hardened as that of Miss Smith.  Since that day, he would be haunted by guilt.

The sheriff’s department learned that Miss Smith was paid a handsome fee for the girls.  She knew exactly what she was doing and had profited from the Walker family’s weakness.  Solomon and his mother trusted her and she had betrayed them—all for the sake of money.  It was becoming increasingly clear Miss Smith and the people she worked for had orchestrated the abduction.

During the investigation, Solomon would also learn that Miss Smith began teaching at their school about two years ago.  No one knew much about her except that she was friendly, and liked to engage in conversation and eat a lot.  She appeared to care for the children.  She also seemed educated and even taught her students subjects other teachers knew nothing about.

Folks in town, mainly the women, wondered why she didn’t have a man, but Ivory often defended her. “That ain’t none of yo bizzness. Besides, a man ain’t nothing but trouble.”

Miss Smith was no mystery—she was an ordinary schoolteacher that people simply knew little about.

By the time the news spread, Miss Smith had skipped town.  The Walker family never saw or heard from her again.  Eventually, people stop talking about what happened.  Talk was cheap and they knew the gossip accomplished little besides hurting Ivory and her family.

Whenever the opportunity arose, Solomon and his family would take the train to different counties in Georgia in search of his sisters.  They knocked on doors, visited churches, and talked with hundreds of people.  They did whatever they could to unearth any information about the girls.

Soon they became involved in an organization that assisted families in locating missing loved ones.  The staff claimed the girls could be anywhere in the United States, if not anywhere in the world.

Teary-eyed and exhausted, Ivory spoke softly to the young white woman sitting behind the desk taking notes. “My heart will never be right till I see ‘em again.”  She buried her head in her bosom.

The stress of searching drained them mentally, but it ended soon enough months later.  The pursuit was fruitless and it became financially impossible to continue.  Before long, Solomon and his family lost all hope of ever finding the girls.

The township ultimately found a replacement for Miss Smith and another school term soon passed.  It was a demanding year for Solomon, Lily, and Nathaniel—struggling to continue to live life without their baby sisters.  They struggled to maintain their strength and self-love, and the ordeal would prove a learning experience that few knew.

On a raining evening, Solomon and his mother sat on the porch.  Ivory observed the overcast sky.  “Junior,” she said, “maybe this was His plan.  I know one day we will be together soon.”  She grabbed his hand.  “There’s a reason for everything and for that, we must believe in Him.  He will guide us and keep my babies safe.  They know we love ‘em, Junior.  They know we want ‘em back.”

Even God cannot change the past and Solomon knew that things were out of his control after what had occurred.  No one could not turn back time.  What was done was done.

The only thing left to do was pray that one day he would be met with opportunities to find what he had lost.  He knew that to accomplish this he had to go forward and make something of his life, and avoid becoming embittered or letting the past destroy him.

A large part of his life had been abducted on that summer day.  In the wake of the agonizing incident, Solomon steadily followed his instincts and never overestimated anyone.  Most importantly, he never again abandoned his family.

In his heart of hearts Solomon believed his sisters would return home.  His willpower, coupled with the inspiration that one day his entire family would come together again, allowed him to move forward and live his life to the fullest.

——————————————————————————————————–

Buy (U.S./CAN): Amazon.com Barnes & Noble Xlibris

Chapter 3

Never Forget The Bridge That Crossed You Over

Copyright © 2003 by Adriene Pickett

Published by Xlibris

 

Nothing could keep Solomon from looking back.  He had to get to Miss Smith’s house.   More than two months earlier he had promised his sisters he would bring them back home, and he was going to make good on his promise.

Solomon ran as fast as he could.  He moved swiftly through the backwoods as if time was running out—as though the world were about to end.  His chest heaved and his heartbeat quickened with every step.  The force of his effort pained him.

Fannie Mae trailed behind, willing herself to speed up.  She tried to lift her long legs higher and move quickly, but she didn’t have it in her.  She kept pace with Solomon but lagged behind, gasping for air.  She could have caught up to him or even beaten him had she been ten years younger, but years of working the fields and carrying heavy loads of cotton had compromised her knees and weakened her legs.  She tried to keep up but he was too fast for her.  She pleaded for him to slow down but Solomon simply ignored her and made straight for Miss Smith’s house.

Fannie Mae was a tall slender woman with short straight hair that was neatly trimmed at the edges.  Folks who didn’t know her often mistook her for a man because she always wore pants, oversized shirts, and blazers.  But once she took off those heavy garments and sported a T-shirt or a form fitting dress that accentuated her voluptuous figure, there could be no doubt as to her sex.

Solomon kept running.  He knew the moment Miss Smith suggested that his three sisters be placed into her friend’s custody it was a bad idea.  He knew it then and he knew it now.

Now, months after the infamous meeting with Miss Smith and his mother, and just barely a hundred feet from her house, a bad feeling spread through him.  He was nearing the moment of truth.

Solomon ran.  He stumbled over a rock and fell face down.  He tried to stand but his unsteady legs weren’t ready.  He fell again, this time hard. He wanted to reach out to break the fall but his body hit the ground anyway.

He clutched a handful of dirt and moaned in pain.  He looked up at the sky and beheld the glare of an ominous sun that seemed to prevent him from going further and discovering the truth.

He lay helpless on the ground struggling to roll over.  With his back against the hot earth, he placed his palm on his chest in an attempt to calm down.  He took several deep breaths and slowly exhaled.

Solomon crawled inch by inch, tearing his already scruffy jeans.  He pulled his white T-shirt up to his face to wipe off the sweat.  He was determined to get to the house.

Slowly raising his head, he caught sight of the house.  It was a modest ice-tea-colored home sitting on two acres of land.  It wasn’t like most of the other homes in the area, which were little more than shacks.

Miss Smith’s younger brother had recently built the house.  Solomon admired the beautifully decorated white window frames and wraparound porch, so much so that he promised his mother he would build her one just like it.  He loved the porch, sometimes sitting in Miss Smith’s rocking chair for hours, mesmerized by the swaying pecan trees and brilliantly blue violets.

Solomon turned away from the sizzling sun, determined to look again at the house—the one place that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Tears trickled down his face.  Once the salty wetness grazed his lips, he tried to stand but was unable, paralyzed by fear.

As the dirt sifted between his fingers, his heartbeat picked up again.  He suddenly felt sick, as if a thousand knives pierced his flesh, gradually ripping his soul apart.  He closed his eyes and prayed.  “God, help me.  Please.”

Suddenly Fannie Mae’s shadow fell over him as she reached out her hand.  He took hold and she pulled him to his feet.  He looked at her firmly and was determined to stand again.  “Thank you.”

“Fannie Mae smiled. “Let’s go now.”

Soon they headed straight down the short path that led to Miss Smith’s home.  The distance seemed endless, as if the road were extending as they moved closer.

Miss Smith was standing on the porch—all three hundred and fifty pounds of her—without a care in the world.  She must have known they were coming—the devil always knows.

She wore a slight grin as they approached her—Solomon’s father called it a crooked grin—but her expression changed and she looked troubled.  Solomon and Fannie Mae quickly approached, both of them nervous and hoping that their worst fears had not come true.

Solomon stared solemnly at Miss Smith.  His intention was clear and he hoped she’d grasp the seriousness of the situation.  She looked startled, feigning the jumpiness and pretending  not to notice his sober state.  Then her fat hands began to tremble and she spoke slowly.  “Solomon, I have some…” She hesitated, raising her hand to her mouth and gently coughing.  After clearing her throat, she said, “…disturbing news to tell you.”

Solomon’s hands flew up to his chest as if to ward off an emotional blow.  He had know better to trust anyone other than family.

“What is it, Miss Smith?” he said, “What’s happened to my sisters?”

“The girls are gone, Solomon.  They— “

He broke in, shaking his head.  “What do you mean they’re gone?”  Angry and frightened, he spread his legs wide to keep them from shaking.  Then he kneeled down and started to breathe heavily.

“Those people I told you about, Solomon, well…” she stammered.  Her hands fell away from her large hips and went up in the air.  “They just upped and took the girls.  I don’t know where they could be.”  She lowered her head and turned away from Solomon and Fannie Mae toward the end of the porch wearing a scarcely perceptible grin.

When Miss Smith heard Fannie Mae yell out her name, she glanced up and turned to them.  “I practically looked all over Georgia for them, Solomon.”  She spoke mechanically, as though from a script.  “That’s why I haven’t been to the hospital the past few days to see your mother.”

Solomon’s face grew hot and his heart raced.  He’d expected something to be wrong, but never in his wildest dreams did he expect this.  He was distraught, panting and pacing the floor of the porch, inching his way toward Miss Smith.  He wanted to hurt her.  How could my sisters have disappeared?  Why would her friends do this?  This can’t be happening.

He stood in front of Miss Smith and stared at her chubby face, which was wet from perspiration.  Their eyes locked, unmoving.  She was scared now and breathing heavily.

Fannie Mae observed them both and thought that at any moment Miss Smith was going to collapse from heart failure.  The woman always perspired easily, no matter what she was doing.

Miss Smith’s face turned pale.  She didn’t know what Solomon’s next move would be—so she eased herself back a few paces.  When Fannie Mae saw Solomon curl his fingers into a fist, she jumped between them. “No, Junior!” she screamed.

He closed his eyes trying very hard to hold back the anger and keep his hand at his side.  Fannie Mae whispered into his ear, “Junior, getting upset will only make things worse.”  She moved closer, talking quietly.  “And hitting her would be wrong.  Your mama and daddy raised you better than that!”

Solomon sucked in the hot air in deep breaths.  He knew Fannie Mae was right.  He needed to control his temper if he wanted some answers.  So he turned toward Miss Smith again and calmly asked, “Weren’t those people friends of yours?  Friends you went to school with?  Friends you trusted?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head.  “Oh, no. No no no, Solomon, those were people I had met recently. I told you that.  Remember?”

“Naw, Miss Smith.  I don’t remember you telling me that.  You must have left that part out.”

He knew she was lying.  She had told his mother and him that those people were her good friends.  Suddenly his fist rose to Miss Smith’s cheek and she quickly raised her hands to protect herself.  “Don’t hit me, Solomon!” she screamed.  “Please!”

Fannie Mae shouted, “Junior, don’t do it!”

Tears jetted down his face and he shouted, “Miss Smith, you told Mama and me those were your friends!  You lied to us!  You lied to Mama and you knew she was sick!  You knew she would do anything you suggested!”

Miss Smith was speechless.  Solomon waited for an answer.  When she didn’t respond, Solomon, who was two inches taller than her, came close—so close that her perspiration dampened his shirt.  He felt her coldness, her wickedness.  It sent chills down his spine.

Solomon pointed his finger at her forehead.  “You said they would help us out until Mama got well!  That’s what you said all right!”

Although Miss Smith was very big, she knew full well the implications of Solomon’s young strength.  She was terrified.  Her massive body shook as she stood next to him.  “Solomon, you must be mistaken,” she said.  She glanced down at the cracked floor.  “Anyway, we have got to try and find them.  I know they’re somewhere in Georgia.”

“You know they’re somewhere in Georgia,” Solomon repeated.

Solomon grabbed her hair that she kept neatly twisted in a bun, pulling the bun apart and her face close to his.  She was shaking.  Miss Smith knew he had every right to hurt her.  She carefully grabbed his other hand while Fannie Mae held onto to the one that was grappling with her hair.

As soon as he felt Fannie Mae’s hand, he eased his grip on Miss Smith’s hair.  Then Miss Smith smirked again, apparently thinking she had gotten away with something.  As soon as the smile tapered off, Solomon slapped her—hard.  “You son of a bitch, Miss Smith! You must think I’m a fool or something.  Don’t you?”

Sobbing, she patted at her face.   She was shocked heart at what he’d done.  “You…hit me!  How could you? I don’t know what you’re talking about, Solomon.”

Solomon reached for hair again and shouted, “I’ll do it again if you don’t tell me where my sisters are!”

“I told you:  I don’t know!  Those people took them! Why are you so mad at me! I didn’t do anything wrong!  They did!”

Fannie Mae pulled Solomon by his shirt, in the process tearing it.  As she dragged him away from Miss Smith, his sneakers scratched the wooden floor, leaving skid marks.  “Junior, she ain’t gonna give us no more information.”

Solomon fell to the floor and cried.  “But she knows more.  I know she does.”

Fannie Mae kneeled down next to him.  She grabbed his chin, pinching it, and whispered in his ear, “Look at her, Junior.  You think she’s gonna admit to something like this?  Look at her good, Junior.   She’s a smart lady and she knows better.”

Fannie Mae picked him up.  “Come on, let’s go wait for Carter.  Then we can go get Sheriff Thomas.”

Solomon clenched his teeth and jumped up.  He patted down his clothes, shaking off the dirt.  He turned toward Miss Smith, wanted to ask her why.  Why did she have to hurt his family? But his lips could not form the words.

Solomon gazed into Miss Smith’s eyes and realized that the person he had befriended and trusted had shattered his life.

He turned away from Miss Smith and slowly walked down the steps.  She carefully watched his every move—her eyes darting between him and the rope he kicked to one side when Fannie Mae pulled him away from her.

Solomon took his time in an effort to ensure she felt afraid.  He wanted her to know that at any moment he could turn around and strangle her with the piece of twine that lay on the porch.  He saw the cord too.

He looked up at the pale blue sky and exhaled when he reached the bottom of the steps.  He knew his life would never be the same, as surely as he knew this news would destroy his mother, tearing into her soul with its sadness.

When Solomon started to look back again, Fannie Mae said, “No…don’t.  She’s the one that has to answer to God one day.”

He and Fannie Mae then headed toward the path that would lead them home.

——————————————————————————————————–

Buy (U.S./CAN): Amazon.com Barnes & Noble Xlibris

Chapter 4

Never Forget The Bridge That Crossed You Over

Copyright © 2003 by Adriene Pickett

Published by Xlibris

 

Despite their troubled life, none of the members of this hardworking family could have ever envisioned such a tragedy.  The Walkers lived in an imaginary world believing all they needed to survive was each other.  Love would keep them together, faith would sustain them, and hope would lead them out of poverty.

They believed God would call forth better days, put more food on the table, and fill their pockets with money.  But God hadn’t warned them about Miss Smith.

Solomon was six years old when his father told him not to trust anyone but family.  His father had offered this advice after Solomon became convinced that his classmate Tate Hawkins had stolen the dollar he earned picking cotton.  Solomon was devastated because he had considered Tate his friend.

Solomon sat on the porch steps while his father clipped his hair with a pair of scissors. His glassy eyes looked up at his father, when he tapped his shoulder with the scissors.  “Junior, never trust anyone you don’t know and always go with your first instinct.”

Solomon turned away from him not to avoid the lesson but because he was hurt and gripped by the pain of betrayal.

“Never overestimate anyone because nobody is who you think they are,” his father said.

When Solomon didn’t respond, his father smacked him with the back of his hand. “You hear me, boy?”

Solomon simply nodded like the child he was.

“Never forget the bridge that crossed you over, Junior.  Always be there for your family because they are the only ones who’d always have your back.”

Solomon considered his father’s critical statement as he and Fannie Mae returned home.  It was the most difficult walk of his life.  He and Fannie Mae remained silent—dead silent—both of them sadly ruminating over what had just transpired.  His sisters were gone and no one knew where they were.

How was he going to break the terrible news to his mother and siblings? No adolescent should ever have to experience so much heartache and suffering, but Solomon had seen it all.  He was learning first hand what it was like to lose someone you love suddenly and tragically.

He and Fannie Mae decided to leave a note outside her door for Carter, instructing him to come to Ivory’s house right away.  Solomon couldn’t wait any longer; he had to tell his mother at once.

They took the shortcut home—the route leading to the hill.  He and the children always took this way home.  It was a rough course but quick.  When he was a child his father also took this route home, and Solomon always complained about the rigorous walk.  “Nothing in life comes to you easy,” his father said. “So stop complaining and keep on marching forward.”

And that in turn is what Solomon would say to the other children when they fussed over the hike.

He paused when he and Fannie Mae reached the top of the hill, then he took a moment to reflect on his life’s purpose.  Why had he been put on this earth?  Was it to forever witness pain?  Would he ever see better days?

Fannie Mae turned to him and saw the sadness in his eyes—the same sadness that had nearly ruined his life just five years earlier.  “We got to go and tell Ivory, Junior,” she said with urgency.

When he did not respond, she squeezed his shoulder.  “You aw right?”

Solomon couldn’t speak or move.  He refused to take another step, paralyzed by the realization that he didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news.  He remembered what had happened the last time.  He knew more bad luck would certainly kill his mother with grief.  Could her heart take another blow?  Could she survive another disastrous incident?

He looked up at Fannie Mae with puffy red eyes.  He softly said, “You go on.  I’ll be there soon.”

Fannie Mae started to walk forward when he yelled, “Please, don’t tell Mama nothing until I get there!”

She smiled, and went back to him to caress the side of his face.  “I’ll wait for you, Junior.  I promise.”

His lips were quivering. “Thank you.  I just need some time to myself.  Just a little more time, that’s all.”

Fannie Mae continued down the hillside toward Solomon’s house.  Lily and Nathaniel suspended their catch ball when they saw her heading down the slope.  They watched her slowly trek down the bumpy hill trying not to fall.

“Why she moving so slow?” said Nathaniel.

“I don’t know, Nate,” Lily responded sharply.  She hated when Nathaniel asked simple questions.  “What I want to know is, where are Junior and the girls?”

Nathaniel picked up the ball and dribbled it. “Maybe he took them to the store to buy them candy or something.”

“Maybe,” Lily said as she snatched the ball away from him.

Lily was concerned.  Mature for a twelve-year-old, she acted more like an adult, emulating her mother’s maternal qualities.

Fannie Mae was all smiles when she reached them.  Although she ached with stomach spasms and her legs felt like buckling, she maintained her phony, pain-defying grin.

“Hey, Aunt Fannie Mae,” Lily said.

“Hey, babies.” She rushed over to them and gave them each a big hug.

“Where’s, Junior?”  Lily and Nathaniel said in unison.

Fannie Mae turned and glanced at the hill.  Solomon was nowhere in sight.  Suddenly her eyes became glassy and a teardrop rolled down her face as she turned away from the bright sunlight.  She quickly wiped her face.  “He’ll be here soon.”

“He’ll be here?” Lily said. She was puzzled.  Her hands went up in the air. “And what about my sisters?”

When Fannie Mae grabbed her hands Lily could feel her shivering.  “You’re shaking, Auntie.  What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she said.

“You promise it’s just nothing?” Lily begged.

“Now, Lily…you know I ain’t go’n promise you nothing.”

Fannie Mae chuckled nervously and said, “Let’s just wait for Junior.” She tried to change the subject. “Hey, what your Mama got cooking in there?”

“Fried chicken,” Nathaniel said giggling.  “John Henry and Miles stole two chickens from Mr. Amos’ farm and gave one to Mama.”

“You bet not ever do nothing like that if you know what’s good for you!” Fannie Mae voice, placing her hands on her hips and shaking her head.  “That was wrong.  All Mr. Amos done for that family.  But since Ivory cooked it…good…’cause I’m hungry.”

Fannie Mae could always make the children laugh with her refreshing capacity for silliness.  Yet Lily merely eyed her mother’s best friend with a firm stare.  She never gave in to anything and she definitely didn’t buy her story.  Lily was as headstrong and persistent as a bull.

“That girl knows she got her daddy’s ways,” Carter had said to Fannie Mae on one occasion. “Nobody can make her budge.”

This time, however, Fannie Mae got her way. Perhaps Lily simply couldn’t handle any bad news just yet. Perhaps she wanted the fried chicken as much as Fannie Mae did. Or perhaps she was just being respectful and decided not to inquire again—something she had learned from both of her parents.

Lily held onto Fannie Mae’s hand, gripping it tightly.  They walked inside the house.

——————————————————————————————————–

Buy (U.S./CAN): Amazon.com Barnes & Noble Xlibris

Chapter 2

Never Forget The Bridge That Crossed You Over

Copyright © 2003 by Adriene Pickett

Published by Xlibris

As Solomon walked on, he saw Fannie Mae sitting in a swing chair on the porch.  Fannie Mae was his mother’s best friend.  She seemed sad and appeared to have been crying.

Solomon stood behind the broken fence holding onto the shabby pole.  He said, “Hey, Fannie Mae.”

“Hey, Junior,” she answered. “Where you going?”

He leaned forward, bending the already collapsed fence, and yelled, “To get my sisters!”

“Um, is that right,” she said softly.

“Yeah, Mama wants them home. She’s all better now.”

Solomon could sense Fannie Mae’s uneasiness. “I was going to see Ivory this afternoon but I was waiting for Carter,” she said.

Solomon sensed something was wrong.  He opened the gate and quickly walked up the steps.  “You never waited for Carter before just to see Mama,” he said with concern.

“I know, but—“ Fannie Mae nervously uttered.

Solomon saw her shivering.  He moved close and sat beside her.  “Is something wrong, Fannie Mae?” he said.

She didn’t respond immediately.  She turned her head toward him, stared into his eyes, and swallowed hard.  “Junior,” she forced herself to say, “Pearl Lee said she was by Miss Smith’s house the other day and nobody was there with her.”

“What are your saying, Fannie Mae?”

She shrugged and went on. “Pearl Lee said Miss Smith didn’t know nothing about the girls.  Said they ain’t been staying there with her.”

“What?” he said disbelievingly.  “Are you sure, Fannie Mae?”

Fannie Mae whacked the bottom of his leg.  “Is my name Fannie Mae and am I your mama’s best friend?” she yelled.

Solomon nodded.  “Yes, ma’am.”

“Then that’s what she said to me, Junior.”

Solomon could see her chest shudder when she exhaled.

“I was so scared and nervous—I walked down to Mr. Cloverfield’s store and called Carter at work.”  Her voice trembled as she spoke.

“But…maybe…Pearl Lee drunk some moonshine today.  You know how she is,” Solomon said.

Fannie Mae rolled her eyes and waved her hand.  “You know Pearl Lee ain’t touch none of that stuff since she accidentally shot off her husband’s foot.”

“Well…the Pearl Lee I know…”

Fannie Mae interrupted, “And the Pearl Lee I know don’t lie.  Not even when she drunk. That woman got a good heart.”

Solomon lowered his head and scraped his fingernail into the wooden chair.

“You of all people should know that, Junior.”

“But what she said doesn’t make any sense.”

“I know that. That’s why I’m waiting for Carter.”

Solomon turned away from her and stared at the road in confusion.  He knew Fannie Mae  would never make up a bogus tale. Something wasn’t right and Pearl Lee must have gotten the story wrong.

Fannie Mae began scratching her arms, then her legs.  “I can’t keep still, Junior. I’m waiting for Carter to go with me down to see Ivory.”  She shook her head.  “Something ain’t right, Junior.  I can feel it in my bones.  Something ain’t right at all.”

“Well, I can’t wait for Carter! I’m going over to Miss Smith’s house to see for myself.”

“Naw, you wait for Carter,” she insisted.

“Fannie Mae, I can’t!  I have to go now! They’re my sisters!”

Solomon took off running.  Fannie Mae got up and ran after him.  “Junior, we should wait for Carter!”

Solomon raced by a maple tree. He considered its simplicity and hoped that when he arrived at Miss Smith’s home, things would be the same way: familiar and trouble-free.

In fact, the day had started out simply: Solomon should have been at the field engrossed in a rousing game of baseball, or at the movie house with his siblings watching a funny film, or even taking a walk to his favorite resting spot, Lake Hope.

Instead, he and Fannie Me found themselves in a race to save his three younger sisters from some very evil people.

——————————————————————————————————–

Buy (U.S./CAN): Amazon.com Barnes & Noble Xlibris

Chapter 1

Never Forget The Bridge That Crossed You Over

Copyright © 2003 by Adriene Pickett

Published by Xlibris

Three of the Walker sisters were abducted at the end of summer in 1964.

The air was still hot and sticky.  Fourteen-year-old Solomon spent most of his time at Lake Hope ogling the water hyacinths and occasionally diving into the lukewarm water.  Swimming was the surest relief from the brutal heat.

It was a typical scorching August afternoon in Mission, Georgia when Ivory Walker returned home from the hospital and ordered her eldest child, Solomon, to go get his three younger sisters.  “Bring them back home,” she said, “and don’t forget to stop by Mr. Cloverfield’s store to get them a slice of watermelon.”

Solomon smiled and shook his head.  His baby sisters loved the sweet goodness of watermelon, made all the better by a dash of salt.  He never disappointed his mother or his sisters.

After leaping off the porch and starting on his way.  Solomon didn’t mind the sun beating down on his back, and the moist air that soaked his shirt, and even the tight shoes that caused his feet to ache, all because his sisters were coming home.  It had been more than two months since he last saw them, and that was way too long for him.

More than two months ago, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Solomon’s schoolteacher, Miss Smith suggested that his four-year-old sisters, Magnolia, Hyacinth and Rose be placed in the care of her friends until Ivory recuperated.

***

On the side of the dirt road stood a large maple tree that blocked the view of the other homes.  For years it had served as a resting place and a source of shade for Solomon and his siblings.

Solomon jumped and snatched a leaf from the tree.  He slid his fingers across it and pressed it flat.  Then he brought the leaf to his nose.  The scent was fresh, the way it was supposed to be—nice and simple.  Instead of discarding the leaf he decided to keep it in his pocket for good luck.

Before continuing, he glanced back at his house and smiled.  Everything was normal—from his mother’s fastidious garden to the meandering peach tree in the backyard and the ragged out-house to one side.  Everything would be complete now that his baby sisters were coming home.

The house itself was a shotgun shack, tucked back in the woods.  Made of wood, it was held up by large concrete cinder blocks at each corner.  The shutters banged raucously against the outer side on windy days.  The slanted front door squeaked—a sound that over time became accepted by the Walker family as a normal part of things.

On the walls hung a few paintings, Ivory tried to make her home attractive with what little she earned working two jobs as a housekeeper for the Cloverfields and a seamstress at Ethel’s Tailor Shop.

Solomon’s father had made the wobbling kitchen table when Solomon was a child.  According to Ivory it wobbled even then.  She maintained her late husband deliberately made it that way.  He knew she would argue with him over it.  The fact was, he loved to watch her fuss.

The house was wired for electricity right before his father died.  The children enjoyed doing homework and helping their mother with chores at night after the quality of light had improved and kerosene lamps became a thing of the past.

Ivory brought home useless items the Cloverfield family had thrown away.  There were always fresh bouquets of flowers from Ivory’s garden throughout the house.  The lingering floral scent of their home made up for the things it lacked.

Ivory’s true passion was the natural world.  Aside from her children, gardening was the most important thing in her life.  It brought out the best in her.  Her conversations were always enlightening, but after gardening they conveyed a sense of calm wisdom.  She tended to smile and laugh more, even when her children were defiant.  After gardening, she wasn’t as critical of the kitchen table.  It put her in control.  When she gazed at the sun, she saw it as serene, not fiery.  And when the clouds gathered above, it no longer meant rainfall; instead it signaled a chance for her to congregate and have personal closeness with her children and friends.

Everything their home possessed brought life to it.  From the second-hand furniture to their every thought and physical movement.  Everything was infused with meaning.

A painting of a bouquet of flowers hung on the door.  His mother’s sister had painted it as a wedding gift.  The small pink vase held an assortment of beautiful flowers that spilled over the bulbous container.   White daisies with yellow disks, common sunflowers, heart-formed violets of a lovely blue, and trumpet-shaped wild potato vines beautified the ordinary vase.

Solomon appreciated the time his Aunt Ruby had taken.  She had thickened the paint of the flower heads, making them radiant.  The colors were so well blended they looked animated.  Solomon felt certain she had intentionally broken off a flower from its stem and placed it on the bottom of the painting, where it lay next to the vase, enhancing its realism.  Aunt Ruby’s message seemed to be that no matter how beautiful life may seem all things will ultimately wither.

His mother hung the painting in its place before Solomon was born.  She said it was real pretty years ago.  Solomon Senior said it was meant to be there.  The brilliant colors were warm and made him happy.  They reminded him of glory.  He was happy with who he was and what he had.  And that is why he left it up, even after the cheerful colors had faded.  It was a welcoming symbol.  And the Walker family certainly had their share of visitors.

***

Hard times set in after his father died in 1959,  Because Solomon Senior had been the breadwinner and sole provider they all had to pitch in and work.  Luxuries became a thing of the past; a piece of fat back was fundamental to their survival.

There were two small rooms and a small kitchen. Amazingly, Solomon’s entire family managed to live in it.  Ivory and the children shared one room.  At one time, the second room was the children’s bedroom and play area, but when Ivory’s boyfriend and the father of his three younger sisters, Bill, moved in, it was strictly used for his junk and belongings.

Solomon Senior wasn’t even in the ground when William Chicago Wright appeared in the Walkers’ lives.  Bill, as most people called him, had been waiting for someone like Ivory his entire life—someone who would take care of him.  He counted the days and finally met the lonely woman who fell in love with him and showered him with love and affection—the very things Ivory needed most.

Solomon was convinced Bill had his eye on this mother for quite some time.  During the funeral service, Miss Parker, an elderly woman who was a beloved family friend and was like a grandmother to Solomon and his siblings, began consoling him, rubbing his back and fanning his face with an accordion-shaped paper fan.  When Solomon turned around to see the young child kicking the back of his chair, he caught his first glimpse of Bill.

Uninvited, Bill sat in the back of the room unconcerned with the sad faces and painful cries.  He was calm, a bit too calm for Solomon’s taste.  It was clear something was wrong with him.  His pokerfaced expression never changed during the entire funeral service.  Looking at him sent an eerie chill down Solomon’s spine.

When Solomon glanced at him again, Bill shook his head and acknowledged him.  Bill smiled, showing every last crooked tooth in his mouth.  He gave the impression he was doing a good deed just by being there, but Solomon knew the happy face was as phony as the skin-tight brown suit and shimmering yellow tie.  The sight of him disgusted Solomon.

Solomon was baffled as to why this strange man who was of no relation was sitting on the family side.  Bill stood out like a green tomato with his high yellow skin tone, cinnamon hair, and unsightly freckles.  His eyes were sinful green.  He was short and thin and had the frame of a young boy.  He was a sight for sore eyes.

From that day on, Bill carefully observed Ivory, studying her behavior and her speech, even correcting her when he felt it was appropriate.  He befriended her family, acquaintances, and friends and made a special effort to analyze Solomon, who was her right hand and now the man of the house.  If he could manage Solomon, he’d be a shoe-in. Life for Bill would be a piece of cake.

Bill followed Ivory to the market and to work, and sent her flowers and cheap gifts.  He gave all the classic signs of being in love with her.  She needed a companion and he came into her life at the perfect time.

One afternoon following church service, Bill walked over to Ivory.  He rubbed his nose before speaking. “Hello, Ivory.  How are you this afternoon?”

Goose bumps spread on her arms.  She was a zealous admirer.  “Just fine, Bill.  And yourself?”  she said, massaging her arms.

“I’m feeling good,” he said.  His tongue slowly slid across his lips.  “Reverend Dean gave a good sermon today.”

“He impressed me a great deal,” said Bill.  “I think I will join the church.”

Ivory looked up at him cross-eyed, as if she didn’t understand the word “impressed.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in church.” He said.  “But after hearing Reverend Dean’s oration—“  He raised his eyebrows and took in a deep breath.  “He encouraged me this morning.  His words just took me off my seat.  I couldn’t stay still.”

“Yeah, he do that all the time,” Ivory said in her typical unschooled manner.  “I really like him too.”

She stared at Bill’s freckles and smiled.  “The congregation is like family.  They real good to everybody.”

Bill grinned.  “Yes, I can see that. They’re quite a family unit.”

Solomon stopped attending church soon thereafter because it was too painful watching Bill seduce his mother.  Bill hounded her, grinning with his stained teeth.  The word around town was that Solomon Senior was a hard workingman and had some money stashed away at home.  But the story was farfetched.

Solomon felt betrayed.  How could his mother be with another man?  How could she let someone like Bill inside their home?  Then one day, Miss Parker explained things to him.  She said, spitting snuff into a tin can, “Solomin, yo mama is like any person out there.  She human and she need a friend too.”  She raised her eyebrows.  “If you know what I mean.”

She grabbed Solomon’s hand.  He pursed his lips.  Here words only enraged him more.  “Besides, you chil’rens need a man around the house.”

Solomon started to say something but she quickly interrupted.  “You chil’rens need a daddy.  That’s what I mean, Solomin.  You all will have a daddy now!”

It took some time, but Miss Parker finally convinced Solomon to see things as she saw them.  Her words of wisdom were always soothing.  He walked into her home feeling betrayed and left with a complete understanding of his mother’s emotions. He would soon have to reconcile his feelings in order to put up with Bill’s presence.

Miss Parker pushed the old can aside, her eyebrows rising emphatically again as she stared at him from an angle.  She wiped away some snuff from her face with her apron.  “I know he ain’t nothin’ like Senior, but he can be a good person if you give him a chance.”  She pointed her finger at him.  “He’s gonna take good care of you chil’rens. You wait and see.”

With that, Ivory let herself fall in love again.  There was a humorous side to Bill that reminded her of her late husband.  He had a rare way of brightening both her laugh and her smile.

There was also a dark side to Bill that was nothing like Solomon Senior.  Bill loved to be around white folks—the kind that allowed black folks in their lives momentarily; either because black folks cooked for them, cleaned for them, took care of their children, or were plain subservient to them.

Bill was uncomfortable being around most black folks, who he considered largely ignorant people.  He believed white people respected him and treated him more like their own because his skin was extremely light—nearly white but not quite.

He once told Ivory that his grandfather was white, as if that had any impact on his racial background.  Any fool knew that white folks believed only thing: if a person had even one drop of black blood in him, he was black. His bragging did not impress Ivory or Solomon.

Bill rarely worked to provide for the family.  Yet Ivory continued to love and protect him.  She learned to live comfortably with what she had because she believed she would never find anyone like her late husband again.

The only decent quality Bill possessed was that he was kind to the children.  He never beat them, but that didn’t stop Solomon from disliking him.  His mother deserved to be treated like a queen—the way his father had treated her.

Bill was in heaven living in the house.  He had a roof over his head, food in his stomach, and a woman who catered to his every need.

***

Space had gown scarce when Solomon’s three younger sisters were born.  Yet Bill wouldn’t allow his mother to clean the second room and make additional space for the growing family.  “Bill’s junk,” as Solomon often referred to it, was his prized possession.  No one could disturb it.  His belongings were too precious to be in the same room with Ivory’s furniture and personal things.  His junk needed to be segregated in its own storage room.  This was Bill’s view anyway.

Neither Bill nor Ivory ever knew it, but Solomon and his friends Jefferson and Augustus Booker, who were twins had gone through Bill’s things one afternoon.  What they found had surprised them.  Inside one of the large trunks were nude photographs of white women in explicit poses—caressing their genitalia, and several pieces of gold jewelry, such as a watch without a wristband, and a massive ring that Bill had gotten from an ex-girlfriend.  There was an inscription on the inner circle that read, Happy Birthday BillLove, Mary Anne.

Bill could have pawned the jewelry or sold it for food when Solomon’s family had needed it.

There were historical books about World War I and II.  There were old photographs of Bill’s family that featured graceful handwritten notes describing his family members by names and the places they had visited.

And there were the love letters—from a woman named Agnes Hartley who he loved and wanted to marry.  One of the letters revealed how Agnes’ father uncovered their relationship and along with a group of rednecks, tried to hunt Bill down.  Bill fled Atlanta and ended up in Mission.

***

So two adults and six children found a way to live in a single room.  Ivory put up a partition of stained, lime-colored curtains that separated the children’s area from the adults.

It was cramped space.  Most times, Solomon and his nine-year-old brother, Nathaniel slept on the floor while his twelve-year-old sister, Lily shared a bed with the girls.

Solomon and his siblings often played outside because of the limited indoor space.  They enjoyed playing with their neighbors—the Booker family on the left side of their house and the Jamison family on the right.  All three houses were old and tattered—probably built at the same time.

The Jamison’s had eleven children and lived, commonly enough, in a pint-size house.  Most families were sharecroppers who earned very little and couldn’t afford spacious living quarters.

Although the Booker family didn’t have any children, Mr. and Mrs. Booker were raising their twin nephews, who were Solomon’s age.  Mrs. Booker’s sister abandoned them when they were infants.

Life was rough.  They were three families struggling to get through each day and holding on to each other for support.  Each other was all they had.

Solomon’s family had been more fortunate, especially when his father was alive.  He was a good man.  He was good to his many friends, never disappointed anyone, and folks trusted him.  He would give the shirt off his back to someone who needed it.  So they always had friends who looked after them and helped them through demanding times.

Ivory and her late husband made a habit of sharing their food with neighbors and friends even when money was tight.  On a day Solomon had earned fifty cents for picking cotton and was chewing over whether or not to share it, his father told him, “If you’re good to your friends, Junior, one day they will be good to you.  Especially, when you’re in need.”

Whenever the Walkers received they in turn would give. That was their master plan, their purpose in life.  After reading an article in the newspaper about the treatment of some black teenagers at a convenience store in Mississippi, Solomon Senior angrily held up the paper, glanced at Solomon wide-eyed, and said, “Kindness never hurt anyone, Junior.”

It certainly never hurt his parents.

The Jamison family handled more than its fair share of misfortune.  When Ivory made scrumptious biscuits on Sundays, her family at them with fruit preserves or syrup.  The Jamison’s weren’t nearly so lucky.  They ate their biscuits with lard.  Ivory gave them jars of preserves and syrup whenever possible.

The act of sharing formed the backbone of the Walker family, although Miss Parker took exception.  “That’s why you don’t have nothin’,” she said to Ivory one Sunday afternoon.  “Cause you give it all away!”

It was also difficult for Mr. Jamison to keep a job.  He wasn’t lazy like Bill, and there was no doubt that he was a hardworking man, but it was liquor that held him back.

White folks didn’t tolerate black folks arriving to work intoxicated and disobedient.  At his worst, he was an abusive alcoholic who beat his wife and children.

Often—usually on payday—he frittered his money on gambling and blamed it on Mrs. Jamison.  One day at work, his boss questioned him about a machine that was inoperable.  Mr. Jamison pursed his lips , slammed his hand against the countertop, and harshly cursed his boss.  “Hell if I know!” he shouted. “You the boss!  You should know what’s wrong with yo machines!”

Solomon Senior did his best to give him advice, but Mr. Jamison’s mind was already set.  Pig-headedness controlled him and liquor consumed him, wearing down his better self.

Solomon Senior’s advice went in one of Mr. Jamison’s ear and out the other.  Mr. Jamison lost his job that day.  He didn’t pay attention to Solomon Senior’s suggestions and apparently wasn’t concerned about his family’s well being and future.  This unfortunate penchant would lead the Jamison family to hell and back many times.

——————————————————————————————————–

Buy (U.S./CAN): Amazon.com Barnes & Noble Xlibris