My mom was beautiful with chocolate skin, her name was Aayla Williams. She got pregnant by her boss when she was 18. She didn’t tell him she was pregnant before she ran away. She didn’t want him to know anything about me. She never told me anything about my dad, other than she was afraid of him and that he was a powerful man. I don’t even know his name. She changed her name to Anna Jones, a very common name, an alias to protect us. I started using the Jones name too. We moved every year around my birthday, so he wouldn’t find us. She just knew he was looking for her.
She died in a car accident when I was 5. It was my first day of kindergarten. I remember waiting for her holding my teachers hand. All the other kids were gone. My teacher took me to the principal’s office and sat me down. The principal came out with a woman in a slutty dress suit thing, Georgina. I didn’t like her. In fact I hated her. She was my caseworker. She always wore a nasty perfume that smelled like an old lady’s armpit. It always made my nose wrinkle. The principal told me about my mom, then he sent me on my way with the ugly, smelly woman. I was scared and sad, but I didn’t cry. I didn’t have any family, so I got placed with a family that already had 4 kids.
I only stayed there a short time. The 3 boys were mean to me and their little sister. When the oldest one, the 9 year old, took her dolly, she cried. When I told him to give it back, he shoved me down. I hit the back of my head on the bed frame. I jumped up and scratched his face. I scratched him pretty hard because he bled. He ran off crying to his mommy, saying I scratched him for no reason. After getting a belt to my butt, one for each scratch mark, they sent me back to Georgina, claiming I had “anger issues." They may have been right, I was always mad. I was placed with 6 other families before Georgina said I was a pain in her ass. To be rid of me she put me in an orphanage.
I ran away from the orphanage the day after my 14th birthday. Mikey, an older boy at the orphanage, liked to try to touch me and the other girls. He was big, but I always pushed him away. I told Georgina about him, but she didn’t care. She said I was being over dramatic, and that I just wanted attention. For my birthday Mikey wanted to give me “something special.” He got behind me while I was in my room. With one arm around my waist, pinning me to him. His other hand shot down the front of my top, grabbing my breast. “Happy birthday, Oreo. I have something for you," he said. With his smelly breath hot on my neck. I elbowed him in the gut, then clawed the front of his basketball shorts, causing blood to drip down his leg. I don’t think he’ll try that move again, but it was still my breaking point. I'd had enough. I hitched across 4 states to get to Wyoming. There I found a little diner. I was hungry so I stopped in, and I never left.
Zeke owned the place. He was a large, bald man with a heart of gold. I don’t mean fat either. He was tall and incredibly fit with big muscles. He could be really intimidating, but I knew better. He took one look at me and knew I was a runaway. “Hey there baby girl, what can I get for you?” I sat at the counter on a stool. I read over the menu, everything sounded so good. I didn’t have much money so I settled on a Dr. Pepper. I remembered my mom drinking them all the time. I hadn’t had a soda since her.
He sat the soda in front of me along with a club sandwich. I looked up to him fearful, I couldn’t pay for it. “On the house." He winked at me and smiled. I tore into the sandwich, I was so hungry. It was the best thing I ever tasted. “You want some fries?” My mouth was full so I just nodded. “Where are you from?" He placed a plate of fries in front of me.
I wiped my face and swallowed. “California.” He nodded. “Where you headed?” I really didn’t know. I just wanted to get out of that place. “Away.” He hmphed “You got a name?” I don’t know why, but I felt like I could trust this gigantic man. “Cass Williams.” I decided to go back to my real name, the one my mother gave me. I was done with that old life.
Zeke offered me a job at the diner and a place to stay. His only condition; I had to graduate high school. I was glad to agree. I would be free for the first time since my mom. I took summer classes and graduated early. I had just turned 16. I never made friends at school, because I didn’t care to, I just wanted to finish. Zeke was my only real friend. He was more like a dad to me, the only person in this world I cared about and he cared about me.
The weekend after graduating I had a really nasty customer. He came in and sat in my section. There was nothing special about him, he was pretty average. Average build, average height, average looks. I greeted him, told him about the specials, asked for his drink order, the usual. His reply: “don’t let your nappy hairs get in my drink. In fact get me something in a bottle, that way I know you don’t poison me, ni**er.” At first I was shocked. People don’t use that word in civilized society. It’s just so wrong. No one has ever dared to call me such an offensive, distasteful, and rude name. The more I though about the word itself the angrier I became. “Well don’t just stand there, get your sorry ass moving."
I saw red! My hands balled into fists, my jaw clenched. Suzie, the little, red-headed server saw me. “Cass, I need you." Her cool, soft touch on my arm caused me to jump. I grabbed him by the collar, pulling him out of his seat. I wanted to mangle his face. To let him know just how insignificant and pathetic he was. My first was ready to fly at the stupid surprised look on his face. A bear paw sized hand caught my fist mid swing, while a steel bar wrapped around my waist. “You get your pansy ass out of my diner, and never come back. If I ever see you again, I’ll personally throw you out like the trash you are."
Zeke pulled me through the back of the diner. He sat me down in a chair behind the building, where we took our breaks. He was pacing in front of me like a caged animal. He had murder in his eyes. He was pissed! I gripped the sides of the chair to keep myself seated. I just knew I was done. I finally found happiness and now it’s gone. Just like that, I lost everything I worked so hard for. All because of that racist piece of trash. I hung my head, shaking it in disappointment, my eyes squeezed shut. I won’t cry.
He stopped in front of me and took a few deep, calming, breaths. “Baby girl, are you okay?” My head snapped up, surprised, speechless. Zeke continued “I heard what that bastard said to you. I almost let you hit him, but there were kids in the booth behind you.” Okay, I cried. A tear escaped my eye and I jumped up wrapping my arms around Zeke. No one ever stood up for me. He truly did care about me. I wasn’t fired. I still had a job. I still had a home.
He rubbed my back, soothing me. “I’m alright, now. Thank you, Zeke.” He kissed the top of my head and let me go. “Good. Take a few, get yourself calmed down, and come back in when you’re ready.” I nodded and sat back down while he went back inside. After a few deep breaths, I pulled some napkins from my apron to clean my face up. When I was calm and ready to go in, I stood up and brushed myself off.
I grabbed the door handle, but I was shoved from behind. My lip hit the lock causing it to split open. I turned around to my attacker. “So the little ni**er thinks she’s tough, huh.” He swung, hitting me in the jaw. He caught me off guard, but I quickly recovered. He swung again, but I was faster. I ducked his blow, just barely. I punched him in the nose. It hurt my hand, but he grabbed his face, screaming. “You fucking bitch!” I made a better fist and connected to his head, near his ear. He fell to the ground. Zeke slammed the door open and went straight for the guy. He grabbed him by the throat, lifting him in the air. “You done fucked up, son. Your dumb ass is going to jail.” Just then the Sheriff came around the corner. Zeke practically threw the guy into the sheriff’s arms. “I got video and witnesses. I’m pressing charges and so is she.” Sheriff looked at me for confirmation. I nodded in agreement.
Zeke put his arm around my shoulders, kissed the top of my head and lead me inside. He sat me down and attended to my lip, I forgot it was bleeding. “You’re a tough little cuss, but your fighting skills are crap.” I chuckled. He always knew just what to say. “Are you going to teach me, old man?” I joked with him. “You’re damn right I will." He answered in all seriousness. Then he placed a Dr. Pepper float in front of me. “Drink up. It’ll help you feel better.” Dr. Pepper was my favorite, but I’d never had it in a float. It was amazing.
After that Zeke trained me to fight. He had me run a mile every day. He wanted me to build up my stamina. Once the mile became easier he increased it to 5 miles. He had me lifting weights to get me stronger. He taught me fighting stances and how to punch, kick, and block. He even got me a punching bag and hung it in the break area. Sometimes we would spar, but he always won. He would never just hand over a win. I was getting pretty good. He even told me so, but he expected me to keep training, to never stop. “Once you stop training, you get sloppy,” he would say. He would check on me once in a while to make sure I stuck to it. Of course I did. I was determined, and I was damn good.