This is an extremely rough draft of what may be the opening scene from the piece that I want to work on for NaNoWriMo this year. It’s a story that has shifted in my head over the years but I hope to keep it in the forefront by working on it this year.
“Maya, have you left the city yet?” the disembodied voice asked through the Bluetooth as I hopped into the driver’s seat of my Chevy Tahoe. The dulcet tones of her voice were soothing but the sound reminded me of the nagging feeling that had been bothering me all day as if I’d forgotten something.
“I’m leaving right now, Mom” I said in response as I began to maneuver through the garage, making my way to the exit.
“You forgot, didn’t you?” she asked. I exhaled quietly because I was sure now that I had forgotten something and that it probably related to one or more of my three children.
My silence prompted my mother in law of 16 years to giggle. She now knew for sure that I’d forgotten but was waiting for me to admit it.
“Yes, Noni apparently I forgot” I said good naturedly. Since my return to work part time I’d been juggling my work and personal lives in light of my husband’s request for a divorce six months prior.
“Baby, you promised that Greggie could spend the weekend with the kids. I’ve already cleared everything with his foster mom and wanted to know what time you’d be getting home” she reminded me.
Until this last minute call from my mother in law Karen, affectionately called Noni by my children, I’d completely forgotten about my promise to allow the kid’s new friend Greggie to spend the weekend at our Millburn, NJ home. I’d also promised to bring home a myriad of foods for dinner tonight instead of cooking since I’d be in the city all day.
“Don’t worry, I already asked them what they wanted for dinner and I’ll order the food. That way it should give you time to get here. I’ll order for you too” she told me as I concentrated on making my way out of the city.
Even though it was before 2:00 pm on a Friday I hoped to make good time getting back to Jersey so that I could stop at our new favorite Millburn bakery Sugared to pick up some cupcakes and brownies for dessert since Noni would take care of ordering dinner.
I made good time on the 40, sometimes 50, minute drive and after a quick stop at the bakery where the owner, Jazz, threw in two Amaretto infused cupcakes for me when I told her about the sleepover I headed home.
I pulled into the long driveway behind the house noticing the kids playing on the other side of the yard before I pulled into the detached garage. I walked through the back door and encountered my in laws sitting next to each other at the kitchen island.
“Hey baby, how was your day?” My father in law asked with a smile as he leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.
“It was okay. I love only having to go into the city once or twice a week though; if I had to go any more I’d need a driver” I told him.
He chuckled and said, “The commute has been stoking your road rage, huh?”
I laughed in response and spoke to them for a while about the kids before I went upstairs into my bedroom and changed into a pink crew neck sweater, jeans and Uggs to combat the crisp October air. I knew that I lucked out with my in laws; I was fortunate that they’d loved me from the start and I returned the sentiment. They’d been a godsend during our whole marriage and since the separation I’d begun to rely on them even more.
The kids had come in and I could hear the older boys in the study as my six year old daughter and ten year old son bounded into the kitchen. They bombarded me with questions and jumped around in their excitement at having their friend staying with us for the weekend.
“Ma, is Greggie going to stay upstairs with Arnaud?” Alain, my second oldest child asked.
“I guess so, honey” I responded. As the oldest, Arnaud had the entire third floor which consisted of two rooms, a full bathroom and a living room type of space. It only made sense for the boys to stay up there since Greggie could stay in either Arnaud’s room on the sleeper sofa or in the other room which had a twin bed. The food had arrived while I was upstairs and my mother in law and I unpacked the bags while I answered their questions about what we were having for dinner and dessert.
Just as I finished speaking, the two boys pushed through the door. My son Arnaud was already speaking, excited to tell me something.
“Ma, Greggie said that his dad is in that picture with Uncle Mick in the study. You know, the one with his group?” he announced as he entered. I could see him in my peripheral vison as he made his way over to the table.
“What are you talking about, Arnaud?” I asked turning away from the table to address him. Their friend was a foster child and I knew that there was no way that two members of that group had a 13 year old son in the world.
In the middle of my next question I stopped breathing. I’m sure that the color drained from my face as I clutched my chest. I felt myself sliding down on the hardwood floor as I strangled on a scream.
That face. The face that I’d last seen in a coffin 14 years ago. In a moment of hysteria I thought I might have been hallucinating but when I reached out his face was warm but those chestnut brown eyes were a little too slanted. His honey colored complexion was the same though as was his rangy frame. The hair was different, showing traces of his mother’s African American ancestry.
Through my tears, I could see the worried looks on the faces of the children and my mother in law. I could hear my father in law’s whispered voice on the phone begging someone, probably my older brother to get to the house ASAP as I reached out and held onto Greggie. I now knew that he was the son of my childhood best friend Gregorio Rodriguez who’d been murdered so many years ago.
Nearly half an hour later, I sat alone on the burgundy leather couch of the sofa clutching the picture of Gregorio that normally sat high on a bookshelf while Noni fussed over me, placing a cable knit throw over my legs and pointing to the hot toddy on the table. She was about to say something when she noticed Greggy at the door.
I’d feared this moment forever, it seemed. I knew what he was going to ask me and it would rip the pain wide open to have to answer his questions but I owed it to him.
He sat on the floor in front of me silently for a moment. Then he exhaled and asked the question, “Do you know who killed my dad?”
I shook my head before saying the word out loud, “No” I told him.