When Ms. Sinch and the class reach their classroom, she says, “boys and girls, I want you to get your pencils because we have art today”. Asia has totally forgotten that they have art. As a matter of fact, she’s having a hard time focusing on anything else except the Mark of the Beast story that was just told to her. Today is Friday and her class always gets art on Fridays after lunch. “Girls you will go in first to get your pencils and then line back up along the closets”, she instructs. This breaks Asia out of her reverie for a moment. She stops crying, wipes her eyes and face again with the back of her hand, and then on her pants. She bends her head down as she walks past Ms. Sinch hoping the teacher will not notice that she’s been crying. Thank God Ms. Sinch’s too preoccupied to notice Asia has been crying. So, she goes to her desk, gets her pencil and lines back up with all the other girls. Chasity notices Asia’s frightened feeling and attitude. She actually feels this too, and it gives her a heavy heart. The boys noisily trek into the classroom, retrieve their pencils and line up in the front of the class. Chasity again whispers into Asia’s ear, “don’t cry anymore Asia, it’s gonna be alright”. Asia just shakes her head but remains silent.
Asia is now thinking about Mrs. Cameron. Even though she likes art class, she really isn’t in the mood and doesn’t want to go today. She doesn’t feel like dealing with Mrs. Cameron. She’s felt this way ever since the day of the stapled braids incident. So, Asia begins crying again. This time she does not wipe her eyes nor bend her head down,
she lets the tears run freely down her face. And this time when Asia passes by Ms. Sinch, Ms. Sinch notices her crying. Ms. Sinch gently pulls Asia aside as the class lines up outside in the hallway. “Asia, what is the matter?”, asks Ms. Sinch. Asia looks up at Ms. Sinch and bursts out crying. She’s crying so uncontrollably that when she tries to respond she’s incoherent. Every word out of her mouth sounds like jibber, and Ms. Sinch strains to make sense of what she’s saying. Again all the children are staring at her. And she feels that de ja vu feeling once more. Chasity then walks over to where Asia and Ms. Sinch are standing. By this time, Asia is a mess. She has fallen to her knees, then crumbles up like a ball on the floor and continues to hysterically cry. Ms. Sinch is shocked. She’s never seen Asia act like this before and she thinks what could have happened to this little girl that got her into the state that she’s in? And Ms. Sinch asks again, this time a little agitated, “Asia, what has happened to you?” But Asia still is not able to answer, and she just continues crying. By this time, Chasity is by Asia’s side, kneels down next to her friend, and begins hugging her, and silently praying for her friend to get it together as Ms. Sinch and the other children just stand there, watching the two girls on the floor in the hallway. Asia’s shoulders finally stop heaving up and down, but she remains on the floor. With a sigh, Ms. Sinch says, “Chasity, please stand Asia up and take her to the bathroom to put water on her face. I must take the class to art right now but I’ll be right back”. “Okay Ms. Sinch”, replies Chasity pulling her best friend up and then both girls shuffle to the bathroom. The girls over hear Ms. Sinch ask the class if anyone knows what happened to Asia, and the class shakes their heads no. One boy Tommy says, “I did see Asia and Chasity sitting together in the corner of the gym during recess whispering to each other”. “Okay”, nods Ms. Sinch, “thank you Tommy”. Chasity and Asia watch the class get further and further away from them before actually going
into the bathroom.
When the two girls get into the bathroom, Asia runs to a stall, busts through the door, leans over the toilet bowl and begins throwing up.
All that crying has made her physically ill, she’s sick to her stomach. Chasity just stands there with her hand over her mouth. She also feels like being sick too, but she won’t allow herself to throw up because she has to be strong for her friend as well as herself. God tells her this and gives her the strength that her six -year old little girl self needs. It’s her fault why her friend is acting like this. But it can’t be helped. God has told her that she had to tell her friend about the Mark of the Beast story. She will now have to calm and settle Asia down. She first says a silent prayer which she has heard her mother say numerous times and mumbles under her breath, “Lord, please give me the strength to help my friend understand this without so much fear so she can calm down”. And she begins talking fast, “Asia, please stop crying now, you’re making yourself sick!” “Chasity. I can’t help it!”, she sniffs. “You have to! Ms. Sinch will be back here in a couple of minutes and I don’t want her to know what I told you”.
“I don’t want to get in no trouble. The preacher said that not everyone is gonna understand and believe the Mark of the Beast story. That only God’s people are gonna believe and take heed to his warnings”.
There she goes again, Asia thinks as she listens to her friend. Chasity is sounding like a grown up. So much so that Asia finally stops crying. Just in time too because Ms. Sinch walks into the bathroom at that very moment and says, “are you two girls alright?” “Yes we are Ms. Sinch”, they both say in unison. “Now girls please tell me what’s wrong”, Ms. Sinch says looking directly at Asia. Asia looks up at Ms. Sinch with bloodshot red eyes and mumbles, “Ms. Sinch please forgive me for causing such a terrible scene. I got into a fight with one of my big brothers last night and I got in trouble with my mom”. Asia isn’t completely lying because she usually gets into some type of altercation with her second oldest brother. She continues, “I started crying after I told this to Chasity. I am so very sorry for disrupting the class’s afternoon”. “You didn’t disrupt our whole afternoon, and anyway it’s okay. Just as long as you are alright. Do you want me to call your mother?” “No!”, both girls blurt out at the same time. Until then, Chasity is very still and quiet. She had let Asia do all the talking. “Please don’t call my mother”, says Asia, “I don’t want to get into no more trouble!” She sniffs again. “Okay”, Ms. Sinch replies, “but you two must go to art class”.
Not wanting to go to art, Asia asks, “Ms. Sinch, “can Chasity and I stay with you this afternoon?” When Ms. Sinch looks at her, she sees a sad, red eyed little girl with a puppy dog look on her face and once again says, “okay girls but you’re going to have to be quiet because I have a lot of work to do”. “Thank you Ms. Sinch!”, the two girls gratefully respond, and the three of them go back to the classroom. Ms. Sinch sits down behind her desk and begins looking at and grading student work. Asia doesn’t even ask if she and Chasity could sit together, instead she goes straight to her desk, puts her head down on her arm and goes right to sleep. Chasity also puts her head on her arm at her desk, but does not go to sleep. Instead, she says a thankful prayer to the Lord for getting them out of trouble and asks for his forgiveness for them having to lie.
Tanisha is waiting for her sister, Asia, outside in the schoolyard at dismissal. Even though she’s only two years older, Tanisha always feels like more than a sister to Asia, she feels like her mother. Asia and Tanisha have a loving, caring and dedicated mother, but that doesn’t matter to Tanisha when it comes to her sister. She’s still going to mother her because this is her calling in life. She feels that she was put here on earth to protect her sister. Her face is drawn into a frown as she takes her book bag off her shoulder and throws it on the ground. She’s five feet tall and a chubby girl. Her mother says she’s been big since infancy. And because of this, she seems to be a dominating figure, even though she’s only an eight- year old child. She wipes sweat from off her dark brown forehead. She shifts from foot to foot and begins getting impatient waiting for her sister to come out of school. She can’t imagine what’s keeping her so long. “Why is this girl so late!?” she asks herself and sucks her teeth. All of the other children have come out of school except her sister and her friend. “What is this girl’s name?”, mumbles Tanisha to no one. This is what she’s thinking as she walks back toward the school building, huffing and puffing. She then spots Asia and her friend coming through the last cafeteria door on the right as she reaches the grey metal fence that separates the big yard from the small yard. Still frowning, she stops in her tracks and waits for her sister and her friend to reach her. She knows that Asia’s friend has something to do with her being so late coming out of school.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Are the first words out of Tanisha’s mouth when Asia and Chasity reach her. She stares at Asia first, then at her friend, then back at her sister again. Asia ignores her sister’s obvious question and instead with her head bowed down and with that deja vu feeling coming on again she asks, “Tanisha, can we walk my friend Chasity home because she missed the school bus?” This is said with an anxious yet avoidance voice. Tanisha is standing there with her hands on her hips now glaring at Asia and her friend. Chasity just stands there with an anxious and worried look on her face. She knows she can be in a lot of trouble for missing the school bus. And that’s the last thing she wants is more trouble. She and Asia have already diverted enough trouble for the day. So she definitely doesn’t want to create any more problems, so she just stands there quietly waiting for Tanisha’s response. With an obvious attitude Tanisha asks again, “Asia, what happened to you? I can see you’ve been crying. Your eyes are all red and puffy”. “Nothing really”, replies Asia. But then goes on, “I had a fight with John the bully at lunch time”. “You had a fight in school?”, replies Tanisha astonished. Because she knows she and her sister cannot fight in school nor get into any kind of trouble when it comes to school. “Not really a fight, just an argument”. And that’s when Asia remembers that she’s supposed to meet John after school to settle their lunchtime conflict. But she had totally forgotten about it what with everything else going on and Chasity’s story and all the crying……Tanisha’s suspicious about Asia’s explanation because she knows her sister would not cry from an argument. And she interrupts her sister’s thoughts and says, “well we had better get going because
it’s already late and we have to……..” Tanisha stops in mid- sentence and asks, “where does Chasity live?”
And for the first time since the two girls came out of the school building and faced Tanisha, she addresses Chasity, and actually acknowledges her presence by turning to look at her. Chasity breaks her silence then and utters, “I live across the highway from your building”. “Oh shoot!”, says Tanisha and sucks her teeth as she grumbles, “come on”. She rolls her eyes and sucks her teeth again as she starts walking real fast. Asia and Chasity run, skip, and shuffle to keep up with her irate sister. The projects are across the highway from Asia and Tanisha’s building. They have to already walk seven long blocks just to get to their building. Now they would have to walk an extra five blocks to get to the projects because they cannot take the highway shortcut. Cars zoom past at over sixty miles per hour. It’s too late for that because it’s already past three o’clock in the afternoon. And the cars go even faster after three o’clock. Nobody really knows why, but this is the case. Four children got hit by cars running across the highway short cut road in the past five months. Two died and two got hurt really bad. Bad enough to scare many children into taking the longer route to the projects. So, they will now have to walk over the bridge instead, making their journey even longer. Tanisha hisses and swears under her breath as they walk.