Mikayla hopped off the school bus, backpack slung over her right shoulder. She’d forgotten that Wednesdays were early release days at her school. That’s what detention does to you, messes with your schedule. Especially after a Baker Act. She would also bet two weeks’ allowance that her momma also forgot. Now, the questions was, should she go straight home and surprise her, or should she find something fun to do in these extra two hours, like maybe call Germaine?
Germaine was acting kinda funny lately. He was like hyper, jittery, snapping at her all the time. He kept telling her to watch out for police cars when they were driving somewhere. He said he was being followed. He showed her some needle marks on his arm. He said the police might think he was selling drugs, but he wasn’t. He was only buying them. The drugs made him feel happy, he said, and then he wouldn’t be so grumpy around her.
She rounded the corner to her house while trying to decide whether to call him. She made it a game, hop scotching to the words as her long dreds flopped alongside her face. Good girl…bad girl…poor girl…rich girl…little girl…big girl…free girl…..well, she couldn’t think of an opposite for that and she sure wasn’t going to say ‘slave girl.’ She caught one of her braids that had loosened, remembering that she needed more beads. That made her think of Germaine again. And then she saw his car.
Startled, she stared at it and walked to get a closer look. Indeed, it was Germaine’s car, parked in front of her mother’s house. What was wrong with that picture? Some of the older kids in detention would have said, “What are you smokin?”
She crept to the side of the house off the front porch and found an open window. She listened. Germaine and her mother. They were talking. Unbelievable! She walked towards the back of the house and noticed the voices were louder near the kitchen window. She slid her backpack off her shoulder and crouched down on top of a pile of dirt and leaves under the window.
“So, likes I said, it’s like this and I don’t mind repeatin’ cuz it’s important you understand.”
That’s Germaine, clear and simple.
“Go ahead, it’s important to me too or I wouldn’t be listening to a pervert like you.”
That’s Momma. Pervert? What does that mean?
“I take offense at that, but it won’t keep me from talkin’ about a deal. As I said, you got a hot little baby who looks like she’s sixteen and who enjoys all the fine things in life, things you can’t give her. I got what’s called a ‘clientele.’ Some gentlemen who like young pussy, young tits and ass, if you will. These are fine gentlemen, like myself. They have cars, money, a nice lifestyle.
“That little spitfire of yours, that Mikayla, she can go two ways. She can end up with some sex disease or pregnant by some fifteen-year-old hood down the street, a school dropout. You and Mikayla can spend the next twenty years raising that baby, and others to come. That what you want? Or, that bombshell of a young gal, your Mikayla, can hook up with me and I can introduce her to fine gentlemen who will pay for her favors. No pregnancy, no disease, guaranteed.
“The way she looks, the way she acts, she’s going to get banged up soon. Do you want her to go high class or low class? How old were you when Mikayla was born? Do you know her father?”
Mikayla heard the shuffle of feet and the clink of ice and the sound of a glass being thrown against the wall. Yeah, Momma, she thought. Don’t let him talk to you like that.
“Whoa, gal,” Germaine sputtered. “I’m just telling you the facts of life. Can you stand there, after throwing that glass at me, and tell me you want the same thing for Mikayla? Of course not.”
“But she’s just fourteen,” Momma said. Mikayla could hear the tears in her voice. “I don’t want you using my baby that way. She may not get all she wants, but at least with me, she can still be a child. She’ll grow up good.”
“She’s already long past being a child. I know she’s fourteen. That’s why she’s fresh, she’s new. These men don’t want broken-down sixteen-year-old whores with needle marks up and down both arms who climb into trucks at rest stops. We want Mikayla and we’ll pay good money for her.”
Mikayla couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Pay for me? Like a slave? Rich men and good money? And didn’t she trust Germaine? In fact, she might be in love with him, or was it love for him like a father, a step-father? Maybe not in love. It was confusing.
Mikayla strained her ears to listen, but there was silence in the room. For at least a minute, maybe more.
“I can’t sell my daughter like this just because–”
“And I can’t risk getting caught with jailbait every time you call her in as a runaway. We gotta work together, come to an agreement. It’s the only way.”
Mikayla heard what sounded like a sob. “You ain’t going to take my baby. That’s all there is,” Momma shouted.
When Mikayla heard Germaine’s next words, she cringed. She knew that tone of voice. “Then I just gonna kill you off and sell her down in Mexico. For the rest of her life she’ll be just a whore, bitch. You’ll never see her again. That’s how dis goes.”
She knew Germaine didn’t mean it, but did Momma? She could her sobbing.
“Let me add a little sweetener,” he said gently.
Just like he said to her when she was hurting from all those men.
It sounded like a container of pills was dropped, rolling onto a table. Then she heard what sounded like little individual pills hitting the surface of the table. She had heard those sounds often in the past, in the bad past, before she was taken from her mother and put into foster care. No, Momma, no….
“I know that you worry about Mikayla, and that causes stress, even sleepless nights. It’s hard to get to work the next day, Rashika, but you need the work to pay the rent. So you need a few of these pills to put you to sleep, to stop the stress. You can’t lose your job and this house here for Mikayla. I can get more of these for you.”
Mikayla closed her eyes against the tears and slid down the side of the house onto the dirty grass. No, Momma, no.