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

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Chapter 21


I walked all the way to grandma Bertha’s house to see daddy Presley. Once I got there I placed my bags in the back yard so grandma wouldn’t see them and panic. Grandma and daddy Presley were happy to see me and I was happy to see them! It had been a few months since I had been there last; right before I moved into the apartment that Corn had gotten me.

“I am just here to visit and spend the night” I told grandma Bertha. “Okay baby” she happily chimed. “Just don’t let Pat find out you stayed, okay”.

I hung out with grandma in her room for a while and helped her with her sewing, by cutting out patterns and fabric. She was really happy to have me there; she pinned fabrics on her wall, sipped her vodka and hummed to her jazz music.

I later told daddy Presley what was really happening. “You can stay here during the day while mama is at work” he said. “I am going to talk to Lucinda and see if you can sleep there at night” he continued.

Miss Lucinda was the next door neighbor. She looked like Pam Grier; light skinned with freckles, tall, a thick curvy body and a huge perfect afro.

Miss Lucinda and Momma never got along when we lived with grandma Bertha; Miss Lucinda and her sister used to kick it with daddy Presley back in the day, so Momma never liked them. We enjoyed the rest of the day. I helped grandma cook and helped her with anything else she needed.

The next evening daddy Presley and I walked next door to Miss Lucinda’s house. It looked the same inside as it did years ago. Brown furniture with tan accents and curtains, decorated the small frame house. It had a living room, small kitchen, dining area and a bathroom in the short hallway where two small bedrooms were.

Miss Lucinda and daddy Presley are sitting at the table drinking, smoking and talking; while I sat on the couch watching TV and smoking. We had been there about an hour when a short, but taller than me, thin, light skinned man with a receding afro came out of one of the back rooms. His hair line looked like George Jefferson from the TV show The Jefferson’s, but he was a young man; he wore glasses and did not speak.

He just mean mugged us, making Miss Lucinda look at the floor; as he went to the kitchen, grabbed a beer and went back into his room.

Daddy Presley told Miss Lucinda about my situation. “Lucinda you know how crazy Pat is” daddy said. “You know I already know… huh” went Miss Lucinda. “Well, I need a favor from you, for Joyebell” he said, as she looked at me.

“I need for you to let Joyebell sleep here at night, until I figure out a place for her to go” daddy Presley said, as he paced back and forth in the living room floor with his drink in his hand.

The whole time he talked, she stared at me. It made me want to say “That’s okay” but I did not have anywhere else to go. I did not want to have to go through all of the mess to find another abandoned house or apartment. They talked some more, while Miss Lucinda kept looking at me.

“Joyebell you will have to clean and cook as pay, can you do that” she asked as she lit her cigarette and took a long pull. I shook my head ‘yes’. They talked some more, as if I was not sitting in the room with them. “I gotta go check with Leonard, I’ll be right back” she said as she got up and went to the bedroom in the back; she seemed to be gone forever.

Finally, she came back. “Yeah Presley, she can stay here at night” Miss Lucinda said. “Thanks, she can come back to my house each morning after mama leaves for work” daddy Presley told Miss Lucinda. It was late so daddy Presley went back to grandma Bertha’s house for the night.

Miss Lucinda went down the hallway and came back with a towel set, sheets and blanket with a pillow. Make up the couch for now, we will figure out something else later” she said. “Leonard sleeps late so don’t be making no bunch of noise in the mornings, okay” she told me. I made up the couch, lit a cigarette and lay down on the couch to watch a little more TV and then went to sleep.

A figure is standing over me as I am half a sleep, half awake. I bolted straight up on the couch! Mr. Leonard is standing over the couch looking at me; he had such a mean face. I look away and pull the blanket up to my chest. “Can I get one of your cigarettes” he asked? I shook my head up and down ‘yes’.

“Thanks shawty” he gruffed, as he picked up my pack of cigarettes and pulled one out. He lit the cigarette with my lighter and walked back to his room and closed the door.

I checked the time and it was 8:15 a.m. “Grandma would be leaving soon for work and I could go back to her house” I think.

I got up and folded the sheets and blanket that I slept on and placed them in a chair under the dining room table out of the way. I grabbed my bag from my back pack and the towel set Miss Lucinda gave me and went to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth.

When I finished, I opened the bathroom door to head out and almost walked into Mr. Leonard, who was standing in the hallway.

“Is Miss Lucinda up yet” I asked? “Yeah, she has already left for work, it’s just you and me shawty” he said.

My heart jumped, and he made my ears lightly pound. “Okay, I am heading next door now, my daddy is waiting for me” I said.

“Do you want to light up before you go” he asked, as he headed for the kitchen. “No thanks” I said as I headed for the living room and picked up my back pack. “Bye Mr. Leonard” I said as I headed out the back door.

I looked to see grandma Bertha’s car was gone and entered in the back side door. Daddy Presley had already cooked eggs, grits and bacon with toast. I enjoyed breakfast, took a shower and chilled with daddy for the rest of the day.

At 5:30 p.m. I left and went back next door before grandma came home. Miss Lucinda was home when I got there and she showed me what to cook for dinner and told me to clean the kitchen afterwards.

The three of us sat around watching TV the rest of the night; smoking weed and they drank beer. This was how it went for about a week, I was happy.

The weekend was party central at Miss Lucinda’s house! People were sitting around talking, playing spades, watching TV, smoking, drinking and listening to music.

Daddy Presley and Miss Lucinda were spade partners; I did not know the people they were playing with. I sat in the living watching TV and listening to the music at the same time.

Mr. Leonard would pass me the joint, as he and his friends sat on the couches laughing and talking. Folks finally started to leave around 12:30 a.m., leaving only a few of the die-hards still sitting around getting high.

Miss Lucinda came and sat next to me on the couch and whispered “You need to help Presley home, so he doesn’t fall and hurt himself”.

Daddy Presley was done; he was three sheets in the wind. He stood in the middle of the floor and swayed back and forth, talking loudly. “Okay” I said.

I got up and helped daddy Presley out the back door and walked him over to his back door and into the house. I made sure he made it to his room and watched him as he lay across his bed. I locked the door from the inside, closed it and headed back to Miss Lucinda’s house.

When I got back to Miss Lucinda’s, the guy sitting near Mr. Leonard had a weird smirk on his face; Mr. Leonard was just finishing up rolling a joint. “Come on and sit down” Miss Lucinda said, as she patted the seat next to her.

She smiled at me as I sat down. Mr. Leonard passed the unlit joint to his friend who fired it up, took several hits and tried to pass the joint back to Mr. Leonard.

“Naw, give it to shawty” he said looking at me. The guy looked strange; his eyes looked funny and were glued to the joint. I took it from him, lifted it to my mouth and inhaled.

I felt my eyes grow big! I looked around and everyone was staring at me. I felt my insides light up with a feeling I had never felt before! My heart slammed in my chest!

Miss Lucinda smiled at me and said, “Oh, yeah she got a good hit! Pass that”. I handed her the joint, “What is that” I asked? “It’s a primo shawty” said Mr. Leonard’s friend. I looked back at the joint Miss Lucinda had in her mouth; I wanted to grab it from her mouth and hit it again! It was the best feeling I had ever experienced!

Mr. Leonard, who had been quiet up until now, laughed and pointed his finger at me. That was the first time I had heard him laugh since I met him; he hardly smiled, let alone laughed. The sound made my insides jump, it was evil; there was a darkness around him that sat in the back of him, like a shadow. We smoked all night it seemed; we were up so late I did not wake up until 1:30 p.m. the next afternoon.

It had almost been a week now since that night, and every evening after I left grandma’s they smoked primos with me.

Once I got there from grandma’s house; I came in and sat down in the living room waiting, for Miss Lucinda and Mr. Leonard to start smoking, like they usually did when I got back from next door.

I had been fidgeting all day waiting to come back over to smoke. When I smoked, I did not feel sad or alone. It made me forget things. So I was ready to feel better.

Mr. Leonard pulled out a joint and I settled back on the coach, I felt myself get excited. Miss Lucinda seemed different tonight from the other nights though. He passed the joint and I pulled hard and inhaled… nothing… no rush? I looked at the joint and then at Mr. Leonard.

“What’s up” he said? “This is not the same, this just a joint” I said. “I know; I can’t keep just giving you all of my ‘white girl’ to smoke” he stated.

I just stared at him and then looked to Miss Lucinda; I wanted to start crying. Miss Lucinda jumped up and marched into the kitchen; she seem like she wanted to smoke too.

I looked back at Mr. Leonard and I watched as he pulled out a baggie with a round white looking rock inside it. He broke a piece off, chopped it up with a razor and sprinkled it on top of the weed in the joint that he was now rolling.

Miss Lucinda quickly came back over and sat quietly down on the couch; while Mr. Leonard began to talk.

“This shit cost way too much money to be just letting ya’ll smoke my shit up for free” he stated. “But I let you live here for free with me” Miss Lucinda said nervously.

“Yeah, but what about her” he said, looking at me. “She ain’t did nothing but smoke my shit up for the last week. She don’t pay no rent and cooking don’t help buy nothing” he said like he was getting mad.

I heard them talking, but all I could do was watch him roll up the primo joint; he was taking too long. Finally he finished rolling.

“Look if you gonna be smoking, you gotta be contributing to the pot” he said. I nodded my head ‘Yes’ even though I was not really paying attention to what he was saying.

“You been with men right?” he looked at me. I looked at Miss Lucinda, but she just stared at the joint. “You cute little shawty, you could make enough money to buy your own primo and get your own apartment to live” he said.

I continued to look at him; I didn’t have any words that would come out. I know he is not saying what I think he is saying, but I don’t want to make him mad and he not pass me the joint. So, I just stared. I looked back at Miss Lucinda.

“Leonard, what about her shopping for you” she asked him? “She can make way more money the other way Lucinda” he stated. “Her family will cause a whole lot of trouble if they find out, shopping would be better” she said.

“Do you know how to shop shawty” he said as he looked at me? “What’s shopping” I asked. He finally passed the joint to me; I greedily inhaled and held it, while he talked. “I get credit cards that are sent to people that died” he said with a smile. I smiled, because he smiled; I was also happy to be smoking.

“You will take the card and go shopping where I tell you too”. “I will give you a shopping list; you go to the store and buy it with the card. Easy right?” he said, gesturing his hands palm-up and shoulders hunched.

Miss Lucinda took the joint from me and inhaled “You can do it Joyebell” she said, as smoke came out her mouth and nose.

I jumped, literally, up from the couch. Every time I smoked a primo, I would walk back and forth to the window to peek out the curtains, as if I was watching for someone who was coming to get me.

I peeked out again and turned to look to see if it was my turn to hit the joint yet. Mr. Leonard held the joint. “So you shopping or what shawty” he asked as I looked at the joint in his hand. I shook my head ‘Yes’. He passed me the joint.

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