Hopefully Beautiful - "I more than survived... I thrived."

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Chapter 16


A few weeks had passed since the clinic. It was a Saturday morning; I had just finished cleaning my room and smoking a joint on the back porch; I was just about to get some cereal and watch TV in the den with Sand and Kooky; Michael was over Brenda’s house, where he spent most of his time now.

Corn came in through the second door and said good morning, as he walked over and wrapped his arms over top on mine and gave me a hug; pinning my arms to my side. As he let me go from the hug, he ran his hands down the length of my arms and grabbed one of my wrists and yanked me to him as he sat on the corner of my bed.

He stuck his hand underneath my night gown and into my panties; as he did, we both heard Momma heading towards the back. I saw the fear in his eyes as he snatched his hand away and jumped up from the corner of my bed, and went quickly out the door that lead into the kitchen.

I saw Momma walking into the kitchen at the same time I left out the second door; I didn’t want to still be in the room alone, if Corn did not go with Momma.

Momma is standing in the kitchen with her legs wide and her hands on her hips! Her lips are mashed together and pulled back hard at the corners; her nostrils are flared and her eyes are large! My heart is racing. She looked crazy as I walked past the kitchen door from the hallway on my way to the den.

At the same time I get mad because if you don’t believe Sand and me about Corn, why are you mad? And now I have to wait to get my cereal. I went into the den and sat down on the coach and started watching TV.

Momma came into the den and sat down on the couch with her legs spread open, her elbows and forearms on her thighs, Sand looked at me. Momma’s leg is shaking, her heel wiggling back and forth quickly as she pulled hard on her cigarette. “You didn’t clean that bathroom good,” “I get tired of talking to you” she’s mumbling. “Can’t do nothing right no way, stupid ass”.

I want to get up and run out of the room, but that would just make her even angrier than she was at the moment. My ears are pounding and my heart is racing! “You ain’t gonna be good for nothing but laying on your back” “You bitchery ass bitch”, she said as she swung her elbow into my face! Kooky ran out of the room, Sand covered her mouth so she wouldn’t scream; as she pushed herself deep into the corner of the couch.

I grabbed my face with my hands as I yelled out in pain! I felt her hands trying to choke me, but I am determined not to let her as we tussled on the coach. “I hate you” Momma said, as she tried to bang me in my face with her fist!

I manage to get off the couch and I am running toward the front door. But she is directly behind me and grabs the neck of my night gown and pulled me back; I had almost made it to the front door. She is now hitting me in the back of my head, as I hunched over trying to cover up!

I swung around and grabbed the upper middle section of her arms, pinning them to her side as I slammed her against the wall, by the front door! I thought my heart was going to burst! It scared me to be able to pin her on the wall like that briefly; Momma was a big lady! I didn’t know I could be that strong!

I’m out the door and I am running! Running until I get several blocks away from the house. By the time I had gotten to grandma Bertha’s house, Momma had already called her and threatened her not to let me stay there if I showed up.

Grandma said it would be best if I went to Aunt Marilyn’s, but Momma had already called her too and she did not want to have to deal with Momma either. Grandma Bertha told me I had to go back home and that she would take me when she got home from work that evening.

When she left for work I hung out with daddy Presley until about midday, by that time daddy Presley was drunk and passed out. I already had old clothes over at grandma Bertha’s from years of weekend visits. I got dressed and I filled an old back pack with food, grabbed some toilet tissue, one of grandma’s new tooth brushes (she kept a bag of new tooth brushes), deodorant, a couple of candles and matches from the kitchen, tooth paste, a bar of soap, a towel, several wash cloths, a plastic plate, a plastic cup, a fork, a knife, a spoon and I left.

I walked back to the park that was actually a couple streets over from Momma’s house. It had a huge rocket slide in the center of the park; it looked like a real rocket that went really high in the air. At the top of the rocket slide there was a chamber where you could sit as you blasted off into space.

It used to be Sand, Kooky and my play house when we were at the park; people outside could not easily see you hidden inside at the top. I climbed to the top, hid inside and ate some of the food that I had taken from grandma Bertha’s house. I laid down to think and soon feel asleep.

I jolted up from the rocket slide floor as my heart raced and looked around; it was almost evening time! “I gotta find somewhere to stay”, I think… it’s was almost dark! Tom Joyner used to always say “The Sunny side of South Dallas” on KKDA, but wasn’t NOTHING sunny about South Dallas at night; it was not the place to be a young female wandering the streets alone.

“If I could not find a place to sleep by night, I will come back and sleep in the rocket slide”, I thought as I climbed down to the ground.

I set out and crossed back over 2nd Avenue to search on the other side of the rail road tracks; there were lots of boarded up houses over there. The men that stood out on the corners drinking, watched as I walked from street to street; I kept my eyes straight ahead and tried not to look at them.

One guy smiled, he was really dark, had a short afro and had really large lips; I turned my head and kept walking.

The first house that I checked looked okay from the front. I went around to the back of the house and I saw that it had two old living room couches, along with some folding chairs, sitting around in the back yard; but no one was there. I walked between the furniture and up the steps to the back porch. I wanted to look through the back window to see if it looked like someone was living inside.

As I got closer to the window I heard voices. I looked into the window and there was a group of men standing around watching a woman; that was naked and whose back was to the window. She was on her knees and another man was standing in front of her with his pants down.

I stumbled back, turned around and took off running! I heard the back door open and a man yell ‘Hey!’, as I turned the corner of the house running as fast as I could.

After that, I stayed away from houses that had furniture in the front or back yard, I stayed away from houses that had lots of beer cans, bottles and cigarette butts; there had to be people hanging around for something.

I wandered around a while more, but I was getting scared; it was almost dark. As I walked along the rail road tracks on Trunk Ave, I noticed a side street at the far end of the rail road tracks near Metropolitan Ave. It had high grass and weeds around the two houses.

The grass and weeds reached up to the side windows of the house. The house had a front porch with two old columns in the front, and a back porch with two stairs.

There was also an alley that ran along the back of the old abandoned houses. The grass and weeds were over grown in the back yards too. I could easily hunch over and disappear in the grass and weeds.

I had finally found a house that looked unused, and if it did have anything in the back yard, you could not see it for the grass and weeds; which was a good sign to me.

I went around the back of the house and checked; the back door was locked. I was able to get the back window open without breaking the glass. My heart was racing; I was happy and scared at the same time. I climbed in the window to take a quick look around before it was completely dark.

It was already getting dark inside the house but I could see that it was old and needed to be cleaned. It had an old musty mildew smell; it even had mold on the walls in the bathroom and there was no water or lights, but I did not care.

I climbed back out the window and went and sat across the other side of the rail road tracks in the trees; and watched the house for a while to see if anyone was going to come back to the house once it got dark.

Once it was dark I waited about 30 more minutes and I climbed back into the house through the window. It was completely black in the house; I was feeling my way through the room when I thought I saw a shadow move… I screamed and starting swinging at the air!

Nothing was there but the sound of my voice echoing off the walls; and the sounds that the old house was making, which did not help!

I backed up quickly until my back hit the wall in the dark, I moved along the wall until I hit the corner; I put my back to the corner in the living room, slide down and pulled my knees up to my chest; I cried until I fell asleep.

The next morning I got up and went to use the bathroom, but the toilet did not flush because there was no running water. I remembered how we flushed at home when the water was turned off because we couldn’t pay the water bill. “I just need to get water from somewhere to flush with” I thought as I grabbed peanut butter, crackers and a soda out of my backpack and walked around the house.

Now that it was fully daylight, I could really see what the inside looked like. It had two bedrooms with a living room, kitchen and bathroom. The house was old and you could tell from all of the dust and spider webs that no one had lived there for a long time. I felt my insides fall as I thought about this being my house now, “But at least it didn’t look like other people had been living in it and it wasn’t nasty” I thought, as I stared out the window, I felt safe.

After I finished eating, I went to the back door window and peeked out, before slowly opening the screen door to make sure that no one was seeing me leave the house; and quickly hopped down the stairs and headed out into the little alley behind all of the other houses. At the end of the alley I made a right and headed across the street, towards the railroad tracks to walk to the main street; that is where the corner store sat.

As I crossed the street into the store parking lot, I noticed that the store had these beautiful green ivy plants hanging in pots out front. “I’m gonna have me some plants like that in my house one day” I thought, as I walked into the store.

After I found and picked up a bottle of Lysol, I headed toward the restroom. I noticed that there was a door opened just past the restrooms; that led outside to the back of the store. I looked out the door and just outside it sat two buckets stacked, with a mop inside it and a broom propped against the wall.

I quickly went into the restroom; pulled out my bar of soap, wash cloth, tooth brush and deodorant and washed up. Once I had finished, I stepped outside the restroom and got a drink of water, as I looked to see who was around. I walked over to the open door and looked outside to see if anyone was out there and saw that the gate was open.

I quickly tossed the Lysol into the bucket; picked the mop and broom up and placed them under my arm and grabbed the bucket handles with my other hand, and took off running toward and out the open gate.

Once I got back, I took the broom and started knocking the spider webs and dust from the ceilings, walls, door frames and swept the floor. As I swept the floor I felt bad for taking the broom and buckets, “God forgive me”, I prayed as I used a piece of paper for a dust pan. I could not mop or wipe anything down yet; I had to get water first, the corner store did not close until 10 p.m.

I headed back out looking for items for my house. I went back by some of the abandoned houses that I had seen the day before, and looked for items to go back and get later that night. After the store closed I took the two buckets back to the store, jumped the fence in the back and opened the gate to bring the buckets in.

I filled the two buckets with water and sneaked back out; leaving the gate unlocked. I took the buckets of water back to the house. I flushed the toilet with the water from one bucket. I poured half of the clean water into the empty bucket. Poured Lysol in the other bucket, used one of the cloths from grandma’s and started wiping things down; especially the bathroom and the kitchen as best I could in the dark.

I mopped and re-swept the floors. Once I finished, I poured the dirty water out in the back yard. I took the two buckets back to the store and rinsed them clean and then refilled them with fresh water. I placed the two buckets down outside the gate, went back inside and locked the gate back from the inside. I jumped the fence and carried the buckets of water back to the house so that I could have fresh water.

I left out again and walked three blocks back to one of the abandoned houses I went to earlier in the day; the front yard looked like they threw everything out of their house into it, that they no longer wanted. As I turned the corner there was a bunch of people gathered in the yard next to the house and there were several men in the group. I quickly turned right and continued to keep walking past the street.

I went to the other house where I saw an old ratty twin mattress earlier. I looked around and quickly started dragging the small mattress to the railroad tracks; and then along the tracks until I was near my end of the neighborhood.

With there not being any street lights, I was hoping I was not noticed dragging the mattress along the railroad tracks. I did not see anyone and I don’t think anyone saw me; at least no one offered to help me if they did.

I pulled it past the house, to the end of the corner and made the right; and then another right into the alley. Then making my way through the back yard, I pulled it onto the back porch, swept it with the broom, and took it into the living room. I later, went back to the first abandoned house to find that there was no one standing around. I folded and grabbed the old card table and took off running, dragging it back to the abandoned house.

A few days later I spotted and grabbed an old folding chair. I felt pretty good once those items were in place. It was my room. I had a mattress, table and chair. “I just needed to make it pretty” I thought as I drifted off in a tired sleep.

Thursday morning I set out towards 2nd Avenue, heading to the house to see if Sand was outside. As I get to the corner near the dry cleaners I hear “Joye”, it’s Sand. We ran over to each other and hugged!

“Where you staying”, Sand asked? “In one of the abandoned houses over that way”, I pointed. “You should not have left me by myself Joye, Momma’s mad, she said I know where you at”, Sand said. “I’m sorry” I said as we hooked arms around each other’s shoulder and crossed back over 2nd Avenue.

“I need you to bring me some clothes to grandma’s house this weekend” I said to Sand. “Leave them in a bag in daddy Presley’s room in the corner and I will pick them up”. Sand shook her head okay.

“Show me where you live” Sand demanded. We walked off together towards the abandoned house.

Sunday morning I walked to grandma Bertha’s house, hoping Sand had had a chance to bring the clothes and leave them for me. Grandma was still sleep when I got there and daddy Presley let me in through the back door near his room at the back of the house. I took a shower first, while grandma Bertha slept and daddy Presley cooked for me.

I stayed hidden in daddy Presley room so grandma wouldn’t know I was there. Sand had hooked me up! She left me clean underwear and clothes; along with a few pairs of shoes! I was so happy I almost cried. She had even placed another bag inside that bag with food and a can opener that she had taken from Momma’s pantry; and there was a sheet and pillow with a case.

I ate the breakfast that daddy Presley cooked me; and changed my clothes, grabbed a blanket from daddy Presley’s room and put it in the bag of clothes that Sand left. Daddy Presley was happy for the company at first, but the more he drank that morning, the louder he got and seemed annoyed with me in his space; so I hugged and kissed him bye and left before he let grandma Bertha know I was there, she would make me go home.

I wanted to cry, “Everything in my world was just wrong” I thought, as I walked the long walk back to the other side of South Dallas! I didn’t want to go back to the room in the abandoned house.

It was so empty and raggedy with the rickety old card table with the torn plastic fabric top and dented brown metal folding chair; but the mattress covered with the sheets, blanket and pillow would not look too bad.

“It just needs something pretty in there” I thought as I started to cry. “Stop it” I yelled into the air, as I pressed my lips together, trying to keep from crying! I was finally almost back to the house.

As I walked up the rail road tracks and I passed the connecting street where the store sat, “Joye”… I stopped and looked around; I thought I heard someone call my name? I crossed the street and as soon as I did… “Joye!”

The ivy plants that were hanging in the parking lot were calling me!? I know it’s them! They looked so lonely and unloved. I felt my feet moving, running towards the hanging plants; I picked up speed as I crossed the lot and snatched two ivy plants! Grabbing two hanging hook tops in one hand and continuing straight across the parking lot and turned the corner.

I ran crying up the street and cut into the back alley and slowed down and walked. Once home I placed one pot on the rickety table and the other on the counter in the kitchen.

I watered the plants from the water bucket and lay down on my bed; I stared at the plant until I fell asleep.

It was pretty.

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