Lately, it seems like Max is always in the driveway waiting for them, for when they pull up to the house, there he is. The jeep is ahead of the Volvo, so Troy and Harry are the first to see him, and then Asia and Chasity spot
him as well. Troy says to Harry, and at the very same time, Asia says to Chasity, “that’s our neighbor, Max”. Harry’s and Chasity’s impressions of Max are completely opposite of the others. Harry sees Max and thinks, I like this man, I think he and I might get along just fine because they are both big men. Whereas, Chasity sees Max and thinks, okay, welcome to the mountains of Pennsylvania, and doesn’t go any farther than that. For six-feet five inches tall, and weighing over three hundred fifty pounds, red faced Max with the thick dark brown, unruly mass of hair on his face, matching the hair on his head, wearing a plaid timber-man’s shirt and blue overalls, is standing on the front porch waving to them. Troy parks the jeep closest to it, and gets out at the same moment Max steps down to greet him. They give each other a pound as Harry exits the other side with a wide cat grin on his face, comes around, stretches out his hand, and vigorously shakes Max’s hand introducing himself, “hi, I’m Harry, nice to meet you Max”. Max smiles back and reciprocates, “nice to meet you too, bud”. “Max, this is Asia’s best friend’s husband, and they’ll be staying with us”, Troy states as he takes his key out his pocket and opens the front door. “Well, welcome to the neighborhood!”.
By this time, Asia, Chasity, and the children are now beside them and the greetings and introductions continue as everyone enters the
house. Making light of Max’s constant attendance, Troy declares, “Max you’re once again here right on time”, and turning to Harry, “take a seat on the couch while Max and I bring in the stuff”. “Thanks, Troy, but let me also try to help”. “No, no, Harry, please listen to Asia’s husband and rest on the couch. I’m gonna help Troy”, Chasity pleads, steering him towards a chair, and making him sit down. Asia jumps in with, “yeah, Chas is right, all the rest of us can pitch in, the children too. You need to make sure you heal correctly, and the best way to do that is by not straining yourself”. He gets back up from the chair, walks over and gratefully shakes Troy’s hand, and then hugs Asia, “thanks! You guys are the best! Now I know why my wife trusts you with our lives”. What Harry says brings everything into a greater perspective for both Troy and Asia, but especially him. For he’s now getting a better understanding of the compassionate depth behind this most selfless act, which prompts him to reply, “we’re blessed and glad to be able to do this for you guys, now get back into that chair”. Everyone laughs, which breaks the ice, and lightens the apprehensive atmosphere.
Asia and Chasity help the children carry in the light things like bags and boxes, while Max helps Troy carry in the chairs, bed frames, and mattresses. After everything is brought in and down to the basement, and everyone uses the bathroom, Junior and Beary give Caitlin and Jacob a tour of the house. The men settle in the living room, and the women retreat to the kitchen to get drinks, and fix some food. This is also a good way for everyone to get acquainted with each other, and that’s exactly what occurs. Chasity makes Asia sit down, and she does, on the stepladder near the backdoor. Chasity remains standing, “now”, she puffs, “direct and tell me where things are so I can help out”. And that’s exactly what Asia does, she shows as well as tells Chasity where everything is, at least as much as she can think of. The two women work side by side, together, in harmony making French fries and hamburgers, and a large salad. Asia also makes two pieces of salmon for Troy, while Chasity brings iced tea to the men. When she returns, she hugs her friend, and exclaims, “Asia, this is a beautiful house! You
and Troy have created a beautiful home! Once again, thank you for taking us in, and allowing us to be a part of it!”.
Chasity doesn’t know that Caitlin’s behind her until Asia says, “hey sweetie, how’s it going with the boys?” Turning around, she sees her daughter standing in the kitchen doorway. “It’s going fine, Ms. Asia”, she responds, “I came to ask for some drinks for us…”, and before she can go on, Beary sneaks up and hugs her from behind. She turns around giggling, and hugs him back. “I came to help carry the drinks too, can I? can I?” “Sure, Bear”, and both of them take cups of iced tea which Chasity pours for all four. Both women smile at each other because they know their children are bonding and getting along, at least those two are from what they can see. “We’ll call you guys soon to come and get hamburgers and fries, okay?” “Yeah, yeah”, Beary jumps up and down, “cause I’m hungry!”. “Okay, we’ll listen out for you, come on Bear, let’s bring the drinks back”, and Beary follows Caitlin like a shadow. “Let’s go in and see what the men are up to”, Asia tells Chasity, and as they pick up their drinks and head to the living room, she deducts, “you’ll find out we drink a lot of iced tea”, which makes Chasity give another huge smile.
Something about the mood in the living room makes Chasity’s antenna stand up as soon as she and Asia enter. She knew the guys were in a heated discussion when she brought the drinks to them earlier, but she didn’t stop to find out what it was because she wanted to get right back to Asia. Now, listening to what’s being said makes her glad she waited for she wants her friend present because here lies the perfect opportunity for her to bring up the Mark of the Beast dream for the men are conversing about some type of beastly creature. “The creature’s been sighted again around these woods, so I think I’m gonna help the authorities hunt it down”. “That’s really brave and noble of you, Max, but I’m still unsure of what to do”, Troy responds shaking his head from side to side in a no gesture. “Well, buddy, again, for some reason theys think you can help them”. “I don’t know how I can help, Max, but they can talk to me if they want to, but I’m not sure how that’s
gonna change my mind and make me pick up a gun and go running around the woods, you’ll know I’m no hunter. I just got the shotgun for protection”. Asia sees Chasity’s eyes get big and glance at Harry, but both remain silent. Well, she thinks, it’s better that they start getting used to, and learn how things work up here in the mountains, and one part of it is having and owning a firearm. And how it’s used up here is different than in the city. Weapons are used for either, hunting, recreational use, or protecting one’s property, not for crime.
Chasity casually says, “can someone explain what this creature is and where it came from?” And Asia tells the whole story about how Troy’s boss found the big foot looking creature, and had some of his construction workers bring it to a shed in the woods. And how Troy was saved because he refused to touch it nor have anything to do with it, because the boss and workers who handled it all died from some type of infectious disease. And Max jumps in with, “and now the creature is back”. “What do you mean back?” Chasity asks. “Well, when we found the creature, it was dead and”, but before Troy can finish, Beary rushes into the room and shyly asks, “mommy, when can I eat? I’m hungry”. “You’re always hungry”, Junior teases him for all the children are now standing behind Beary. Getting up, Asia says, “I’m so sorry kids, we adults got caught up in our conversation, the food should be ready now. All of you go to the bathroom and wash your hands, then meet me and Ms. Chasity in the kitchen”. Chasity follows behind thinking she’ll have to wait until another time to bring up her beast story, making her sorry because this would have been the perfect opening.
There’s enough food to feed an army, and Chasity and Asia fix food for themselves and the kids first, then the men fix their own plates. When everyone is seated, Chasity says, “I’ll say the grace if no one minds”, which makes all of them bow their heads in prayer. As Harry looks around, he digs what he sees. They’re all sitting at a dining room table that holds at least ten people, in a dining room that’s right off an expansive kitchen with upgraded and modern appliances.
Shiny, marbled, beige tile adorns the floor, and matching wall paper decorates the walls. He and Chasity’s whole apartment can fit inside just the living room, kitchen, and dining room. There’s still the rest of the house that he hasn’t even seen yet. And to think that Asia said they don’t have a big house, quoting her exact words, “we don’t have a mini Mc Mansion like many others do”. If this isn’t considered big, then he’s curious to see what a mini Mc Mansion looks like up here. Conversation around the table is limited because the Cromwells remain quiet until they are finished eating, and she and the boys pick up on it and don’t talk either; only Max speaks and Troy says a few words in response. Max leaves after dinner in order to make it home before the curfew, finally giving the Cromwells and the Kings much needed time to get more acquainted with each other.
The women clean up the kitchen, Troy takes Harry downstairs to begin arranging the basement, and Junior shows Caitlin and Jacob how to use the shower. Through these continued interactions, they begin to learn about each other on the surface. Asia learns that Chasity’s basically been a house wife her whole life, and Chasity finds out, that Asia’s a career woman, being a teacher for over twenty years. Troy and Harry are both construction workers, and Harry wants Troy to help him find a job up here, after he heals, for he’s lost his job in the city. Caitlin and Jacob find out that Junior likes to taunt and tease his little brother. All in all, they find out even though they may have their differences, they have more in common, than not. The children are allowed to stay up past their bedtime to watch and play video games because tomorrow is Sunday and they don’t have any school. The kings usually attend church, but are going to pass on it in order to assist in the Cromwell’s settling in. That’s when they find out that Chasity’s a preacher, and both Asia and Troy are elated for they welcome every bit of spirituality that they can get. Harry and Chasity are just grateful to be alive and well, and that they and their children are no longer in the city, but in a better place.
At nine o’clock on the dot, a loud siren, that’s also used to alert the
volunteer firefighters there’s a fire, goes off, signaling the start of the curfew. If there’s actually a fire, then the siren continues to sound for ten minutes instead of just five. All the Cromwells give a questionable look and Troy explains the sound. “Oh”, Chasity says, “this is more civilized than what they do in the city. Y’all heard the police drive around and holler in bull horns that the curfew is about to begin, and warn people of the consequences involved in disobeying it”. “Yeah, I know”, Asia responds, “that’s so demeaning”. “Tell me about it girl, almost everything they do down there is demeaning, and that’s only some of the degrading things done to people. Now you know some of the reasons why we needed to get out and escape from the hell hole”, Chasity huffs and puffs. And once again Asia notices that her friend’s obesity is affecting her, and this makes her wonder about she and Harry’s health. She doesn’t know how much they weigh, but it can clearly be seen that all of the Cromwells are extremely overweight. Caitlin and Jacob have big round bellies, Chasity looks like she’s over three hundred pounds, and Harry’s so huge, there’s no telling how heavy he is. Forcing the devious thought to the back of her head, Asia sighs, “I know it’s crazy in the city, but girl it’s bad up here too. I guess it’s bad everywhere”.
Hearing the fatigue in her friend’s voice, Chasity hugs Asia saying, “girl, I know you must be tired, why don’t you and Troy go get some rest, I’ll take care of the kid’s baths, and the rest of the stuff for me and Harry”. “Are you serious?” “Yeah, girl, you’ve been through a lot in such a short time, go lay down, it’s okay, I can take care of things”. Asia does not argue because Chasity is right, she’s more than exhausted, she’s wiped out, and she’s been moving on remote control. They hug each other again, Asia then drags herself to her bedroom, uses the bathroom, and falls onto her bed in total surrender. Chasity goes to the other bathroom that the children are using to see how they’re doing. Being gentlemen, the boys let Caitlin shower first, and Jacob is now bathing. Junior says that he’s going to bathe his little brother, when Jacob is finished, and he’ll go last. Troy walks up as Junior is telling
Chasity how the bathing arrangements are going. “I’m really proud of you boys, and I know your mother will be too when I tell her how well you’re treating our guests”. “Thanks dad”, Junior responds with a big grin on his face, which makes all of them grin. “Where’s your mother?” “I hope you don’t mind, Troy, I sent her to get some rest”, she answers. “No, not at all. I’m glad you did, I know she’s tired. By the way, your beds are all put together, and they’re ready for you guys”. Chasity nods, “thanks again, I’ll settle the kids down for the night, you go and get some rest with your wife”.
Some of the apprehension that Troy felt when Asia first told him about Chasity and her family moving in with them, is wearing off little by little. Even though it’s only the first day, things seem to have gotten off to a good start. However, they still haven’t talked about any finances, and he’s anxious to do so. Asia is sprawled out on the bed asleep when he strolls in the room, which gives him a chance to quietly look at and admire his wife. He studies her high cheek boned, medium brown, smooth face, and sexy curves, and is touched by her beauty. Feeling horny, he mumbles, “I’m a very lucky man”. “Huh?” “Oh, Babe, I thought you were sleeping, didn’t mean to wake you, go back to sleep”. Groggily, rolling over, she replies, “I’m not sleeping”, and sits up. He sits down on his side of the bed, props up the pillows behind his head for comfort, and blurts, “Babe, I’m glad things are going well, and I don’t want to be a party pooper, but I think we need to talk about…”, she finishes his sentence, “money and finances”. He patiently, and quietly waits for her to gather her senses, to hear what she has to say next. Choosing her words carefully, she begins, “well, honey, let me start with the bad news, you probably already know Chasity and Harry don’t have any money. But the good news is that before I fell asleep, I counted the money I received from envelopes given to me and it came to almost three thousand dollars!” He looks at her with disbelieving eyes, and after whistling, asks, “are you for real”? Vigorously shaking her head up and down, Asia excitingly responds, “yes, yes, yes!”
Obviously in a state of shock, and not knowing what to say, Troy utters, “wow”. What he really wants to say is are you sure? But the look on his wife’s face tells him everything he needs to know. She’s widely awake now and is exuberant. Grinning from ear to ear, she goes on to say, “remember you were the one who told me to have faith, and the Lord will take care of it? Well, you were right because He is taking care of it”. “Yea, yea, yea, Babe, you’re also right. It seems like this is turning out to be a blessing for all of us. Chasity’s helping you with the kids, and I guess Harry’ll help me with the house when he gets better”, Troy says, as he turns his wife on her stomach and massages her back and shoulders. “Oh, Troy, that feels so good”, she coos, and closes her eyes to enjoy the full effect of the compassionate and loving act. “You know you’re gonna get something started”, and right then, he gives his wife a long sensual kiss on her lips. The kissing turns into a heated hugging, and feeling each other up. Troy momentarily breaks the hold, jumps up from the bed, closes and locks their bedroom door, and rejoins his wife. Removing each other’s clothes, they make long sought after passionate love, that knocks both of them out cold afterwards.
Chasity sends Junior and Beary to their rooms, and brings her children downstairs to the basement. Harry is relaxing in a lounge chair with his feet up waiting for them, and when he sees his wife, he says, “Chas this is one of the best things that ever happened to us!” With her hands on her hips, she replies, “I don’t want to say I told you so, so I’m gonna say you’re right”. By now, the children spot their beds on the farther side of the basement which makes Caitlin exclaim, “mommy this is a big house with a lot of room. Did you know they house was so big before we came?” “No, Cait, I didn’t. And as a matter of fact, Ms. Asia told me that she didn’t have such a large house”. Harry intervenes with, “I know, if this ain’t considered big, then what is?” Running to his bed and jumping on it, Jacob yelps, “I don’t care about no size, all I know is that it’s nice, and they are too!” Caitlin goes to her bed, and as is customary, waits for her mother to join them so they can all pray together before going to sleep. Chasity joins them and they
bow their heads as she says a pray out loud. It’s a prayer of gratitude for their good fortune and that things will continue to go well. She also thanks the Lord for being so merciful, and they all end it with, “Amen!” Helping Harry into their queen size bed, Chasity then unpacks some things they will need immediately, like bandages and dressings. She cleans and changes his bandages just as the nurse showed her how to, uses the small bathroom next to the washer and dryer units, puts on a gown, and squeezes into bed with her husband. He’s already snoring, but she remains wide awake. She can’t believe that they’re here, in Pennsylvania, at Asia’s house, with her family. She thinks about her apartment in the projects, and how much of a contrast it is to the mountains. This brings back the last confrontation between she and Gladys, and she relives the years they were friends and neighbors, and hopes that Gladys and her kids will be alright. She knows that she and Harry will sometime soon have to go back to the city to tie up loose ends like handing in the license plates of the car. It doesn’t matter whether or not they tell the super they left because the management can junk the stuff they left behind. She’s moving onto bigger and better, and leaving all the negative people and stuff behind. And she finally
falls into a peaceful sleep without having the dreadful nightmare.