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DWAYNE

e raised his hands to the congregation.

For the brothers and sisters in need of divine intervention, let us pray!

Amen.

For those, who have lost their way in the sight of the Lord, let us pray!

Amen.

For the thieves, for the flesh peddlers, for those who have turned away from their families, let us pray.

And let us pray, oh Lord, for our own souls, for who among us is without sin, or without earthly hopes and heavenly dreams? Give us your aid, sweet Jesus, in achieving our goals, in purifying our intentions, and in casting out the devils who walk among us and live within.

DaSHAWN

Suitcase in hand, pockets empty, he stood before her door for a long moment, head bowed.

He never thought he would be reduced to this, not since he was 17 and left home for the last time. His fortunes had been on the rise ever since. At least until recently.

After a long moment, he lifted his hand and range the bell. He could hear her footsteps in the apartment, see her eye on the other side of the peephole. At last, she opened the door.

“Mama,” he choked out. “I want to come home.”

She didn’t move from the doorway.

“Ma, please. I have nowhere else to go.”

At this he nearly coughed out a tear, it was so close to being true. I have nowhere decent to go, was a hard fact. I have not enough money to do anything impressive and no one who loves me, including maybe you.

Finally, hand still on her hip and lips pursed, she stepped aside. He tried to hug her, but she was unyielding.

“Thank you, Ma,” he said. “You won’t be sorry.”

He saw Darrell standing there, on the other side of the room, staring at him with wary eyes.

“Hey, little man!” he cried, jovial now, moving in with hand raised. “Wassup?”

Darrell allowed a fist bump, a man hug.

“You and me, bro,” DaShawn said, mind spinning. “Together again.”

LaTONYA

In the dark, in bed, she squeezed her eyes shut. But her brain was alive to the sound of them talking in the other room.

Please, she thought, please don’t let DaShawn lead Darrell astray.

Please keep Darrell safe, she prayed.

Then she stopped, wondering whether her prayers had any hope of being answered, since she only believed in God when she was praying, and only prayed when she wanted something for herself.

Please help the little children who have no one to care for them, she prayed.

That was her dream, to be a family doctor, to care for the children who had otherwise been thrown away. For the women, pregnant again and again not because they wanted another child, but because they couldn’t say no to some man who had power over them. And for the men, too, broken by too much drinking and too many cigarettes and job designed to wring every last bead of sweat from their bodies.

Please, she prayed, let me pass the test.

She thought she’d passed the test. She didn’t want to jinx it by thinking so. She didn’t want to jinx it by not.

Please, she prayed.

She heard their voices again. She shouldn’t have let DaShawn in, but how could she keep him out? She, who claimed to want nothing more than to help people? She, who worked so hard to convince Darrell she cared for nothing in the world more than him, or son? Turning away her other son would have undermined his faith in her.

She heard them laughing, heard the TV blare on. The bond between them, with no father, with her heading, if she was lucky, to years ahead of school and work, could be good. Or it could be very very bad.

She folded her hands like the nuns had taught her, pressed them thumbs above her heart, fingertips under her chin. She tried to envision a benevolent God, dark-skinned, maybe, and female, blessing her. A God she could believe in, who would allow all good, and keep evil at bay.

“Please,” she said aloud.

Read more about Dwayne here, DaShawn here, and LaTonya here.

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