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Posts Tagged ‘LaTonya’

15. LaTONYA: The Mistake

ressing hard on the knots in the pink shoulders of the woman down from Memphis, LaTonya let her mind wander to what lay ahead. The minute this session was over — she stole a glance at the clock: in exactly 17 minutes — she had to rush out the door and drive to the college, then drive like a bat out of hell back for her tutoring session with George.

Should she cancel tonight? She should really go home, make dinner for Darrell, get that boy back on the right track. Remembering how she’d slapped him this morning, she felt guilt and remorse wash over her.

“Ow!” the Memphis woman yelped.

“Sorry, sweetheart,” LaTonya said. They always said they wanted it firm, but when it came down to it, they just wanted to be petted.

The MCats were less than a month away now. She really needed this lesson with George. There was only one night in the week when they were both available and the office at the spa was free for them to use. It had to be tonight.

She’d call Darrell, right after this session and again after her class, check in and make sure he was all right.

The woman from Memphis tipped ungenerously but LaTonya barely registered that. Things that would have crushed her a few years ago didn’t matter anymore. All she cared about now was getting Darrell out of high school in one piece, and getting herself into medical school.

She had worked so long and hard for this, taking years to get through the local community college when Darrell was younger, and then driving more than an hour each way to work on her bachelor’s, deciding she wanted to be a doctor, the grinding amount of studying to get ready for the tests while she finished up her degree. No time to waste, at her age.

She listened to the recording of the last class as she drove to college, then taped the evening’s lecture as she took notes, doubling up because she was so distracted. Darrell was fine, he’d assured her. He’d cook himself some pasta. Yeah, he was studying, not just playing XBox — trust DaShawn to pull that foolishness out of a hat for his little brother at Christmas.

Had anyone seen Darrell near the fire, LaTonya worried, hardly conscious of the words her hand was writing. Were the police looking for him now? At her house?

Under her desk, she checked her phone for messages, texts, but everything was clear.

Then, in the parking lot, before she drove back to town for her lesson with George, she called Darrell and he didn’t pick up. She waited a few minutes, called again, and then texted him. Sometimes he wouldn’t pick up the phone, but he always checked his texts. She dialed her son’s cell phone, then the home phone, but there was no answer at either.
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12. LaTONYA: Control

aTonya had already tried to wake Darrell up three times — the gentle calling-up-the-stairs time, the louder calling-up-the-stairs time, and the shoulder-shaking firm-voiced time — and three was her limit. She had class tonight, which meant she had to get to work ten minutes early so she could take off ten minutes early, and she knew from unfortunate experience that she couldn’t leave that boy in bed or he’d never make it to school.

“Come on, sleepyhead,” she said, yanking off the covers, averting her eyes because having raised three sons she knew that a young boy in the morning most likely had a stiffy. It was something she saw often enough on the massage table, but on her own baby, uh uh, she didn’t need to know.

“Oooooh,” he groaned.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw that he seemed to be strangely dressed for sleep, in some kind of dark, bulky clothes, and couldn’t help but look down.

Not some kind of dark, bulky clothes, she saw, but his clothes, his real clothes, hooded sweatshirt and jeans and even, yes, it was true, his fucking sneakers.

“What the hell is going on?” she cried.

“What?” He opened his eyes and looked around as if he had no clue where he was.

“Darrell Antonio Jones, you get out of that bed right this instant and tell me why you are wearing your clothes!”

She jerked on his arm and he sat up but then just kept sitting there, his head in his hands.

“I musta fallen asleep with my clothes on.”

She wanted to believe him, she really did. God knew she had enough to think about, with the layoffs at the bath house and exams coming up and her MCat lessons with George. And Darrell had been a good enough boy, until recently, not goody-good like his brother Dwayne but nowhere near bad like DaShawn. But something told her the balance was shifting.

“Don’t lie to me,” she said, trying to grip his shoulder, though he shook her away. He was a good six inches taller than her now, and twenty pounds heavier, all muscle. What control did she have over him, except his love and respect for her? She’d always sworn she would never lay a finger on her children the way her father had hit and slapped and beaten her, though she’d been sorely tempted with DaShawn. But she’d always resisted.

Darrell, her baby, the child she’d had by choice as a fully consenting adult and not because she was too young and stupid to say no to some sweet-talking boy, looked straight at her then, his deep brown eyes with their curled lashes locking straight on hers.

“I was out,” he said.

“Out.” She crossed her arms tight over her stomach, nodding fast and trying to think what that meant. “Where were you out? You weren’t at the Go Go, were you? Because I told your brother and I told you too, if I caught you hanging out at that nasty place…”

“No, Ma,” he said wearily. “I wasn’t at the Go Go.”

“Well then where? I was up till midnight. There’s no place else to go out after that in Hot Springs at this time of year.”

“I just went to the park,” he said, looking at her again. “With my banjo. I sat in the gazebo. I just wanted to play some music, be on my own.”

She wanted to believe him, she really did. She looked around the room.

“Where is your banjo?” she said.
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