Work in Progress- New Fiction

Today I’m sharing a bit of the story that I was working on for NaNoWriMo. It has not been edited or proofread so forgive any errors.

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I guess I had forgotten but there is just something special about being back in Schoolhouse Falls in autumn. There’s a beauty that I had always loved even when I was a student here and it probably helped convince so many alum to move back.

I walked down the street heading back to the end of town where the B&B that I’d been staying in since I’d come back. I had a full panel interview later in the week and had decided to stay through Homecoming. The town had changed a lot with the influx of new shops that had popped up and it would change even more with the STEM charter school that was due to open in the next year or so.

I’d spent the morning at the coffee shop just off campus working on my new book and drinking way too many cups of coffee as I pounded out a chapter based on my outline.

I took a sip of my Americano as I strolled down Baiser Street with my leather messenger bag across my chest. After what happened to the kids, I’d taken this semester off and was happily only booked for a few speaking engagements for the rest of the year. Tonight, a bunch of us were getting together to have dinner at Ian and Corrine’s. I entered the stately

“Hey Mick,” she said leaning over to kiss me on the cheek.

“Hey, Lo,” l said as I reached out to take the package she held out for me. I handed her the bag of four lemon curd muffins that she’d mentioned craving this morning.

“Oh my goodness,” she said. “You are the absolute best, McKay

I shot her a full smile and asked her if I could take my lunch out on the deck. It ran along the back of the porch from the sun room. I opened the box lunch Lola had given me and smiled. There was a container of her working man’s pasta salad, a thick slice of meatloaf on sourdough and a Peppermint patty cupcake. I tucked into my lunch enjoying the way that the leaves blew in the wind. As usual, my mind turned back to Sav.

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Recovery- The Storm

 Today, I’m sharing another excerpt from Recovery. I am still enamored with the story and characters so I’m a bit reluctant to take time away from it to start something else for NaNoWriMo. Decisions, decisions. Hopefully I can start on a connected story so that I still work with some of these characters. 

As always, enjoy!

 

“Despite my failings as a wife, you are the one who cheated. You’re the one who lied. You are still lying to your son. If you don’t want to be bothered say that so that he can stop getting his feelings hurt,” she told him.

“I just need to know why…,” he began before she held up a hand cutting him off.

“Look, that’s the past. We’ve been divorced for nearly five years. All I want from you is for you to be a consistent parent to the child you created,” he said.

“If you wouldn’t have taken him…,” he said.

“Are you serious Max? Are you punishing him because he was created outside of our marriage? Or are you blaming me for taking him? Cause the marriage was dead long before I found out that he was on the way,” she told him.

He ran his hand over his face and told her “I’m going to try to do better Aub, I am. Once Anatra and I get settled, I plan to do better.”

“Are you sitting here telling me that your son has to wait for your life to settle down before he can have a relationship with you? Max, you have to want this. I’m so tired of trying to force you to be a father to your son. Let’s just stop trying,” she said looking him in the eyes. He slumped back in the seat as they stared at each other in silence.

She probably could have said it better but Aubrey was tired of fighting him. Max thought of Lucien as an inconvenience. Unless the press was asking about their relationship.  After she called him upon learning that he’d gotten a young lady pregnant. He denied that the baby was his. He even refused to talk about supporting the mother after he’d stopped paying for the apartment and car that he’d gotten for her. That’s how Aubrey found out. The twenty-one-year-old called Aubrey asking her to please convince Max to continue his support after he’d cut off all contact with her.

After she left the café, she went to her parent’s house for dinner and picked up her son. Once he’d been bathed, said his prayers, heard two bedtime stories and put to bed Aubrey went into her workshop in the basement and blasted her Jill Scott playlist and began to work out her stress. If she won the lottery, her ex-husband could ruin that. He wasn’t satisfied with shaking her self-esteem he had to try to ruin her son’s life too.

The Visit (An Excerpt from Recovery)

Here’s another excerpt from the latest piece of fiction that I’m working on. It is lightly edited.

 

He could only stare when she opened the door. Gone was the glamorous woman he’d gotten to know. In its place was a shadow of that person. Of course, he’d seen her dressed down before but this was different. Even when she was dressed for work she still glowed, looked as if she was walking the runway. That was not the case today.

Her face carried the hollows he knew had haunted his months before. She’d lost weight. Aubrey wore a pair of navy blue striped silk pajamas, a white V-neck t-shirt and a gray robe. Her feet we bare and her hair was in a two braids circling her head. “This is not a good time, Ryan,” she said tiredly.

Before I could say anything in response, RJ Brock and Spock were all over her in a symphony of voices and barks. Then he saw Lucky slowly moving towards them in a pair of PJ Masks pajamas. As the crew ran towards him she stepped back and motioned me inside before turning to close the door. She started towards the kids but his hand caught one of hers.

“I brought some stuff that the kids wanted to bring for Lucky. They were sick when they heard about him being in the hospital,” he explained. Ryan still held the bag that the kids insisted was full of stuff Lucky had to have.

She looked back towards the kids who were moving towards the room Lucky had been in when they arrived. She motioned for Ryan to bring the bag and began walking towards the room. Ryan held it close to him and followed her.

“Seriously I don’t have time for whatever this is Ryan. I don’t feel like going through it. I just need to get back to my son. You know how that is, right?” she said.

“Yes, I get all of that but you had to know that I was going to show up as soon as I found out. Why didn’t you call me? Why are you trying to go through all of this alone?” he responded.

She plopped down on the yellow, gray and ivory Ikat sofa “I’m not alone. I have my parents and my crew. I didn’t call because…,” her voice trailed off as RJ jumped into her lap and gave her a hug. She ran her fingers through RJ’s curly ponytails before turning back to face him.

“You know that you can still count on me. Even when you don’t want to,” he told her.  He knew that his apology hadn’t meant much to her but he still wanted her to know that she could rely on him.  “You had to know that I would want to know and would want to check on you and Lucien once I’d heard,” he told her.

She just looked at him. Aubrey didn’t know how to even start the conversation. Or if she wanted to.

“Talk to me,” he said. He looked over at his daughter still curled in Aubrey’s lap and told her to go play. He waited while she glared at him before sliding on the floor to make her way to the boys on the other side of the room near the windows.

“The doctors want to keep testing for donors next week. My attorney and Max’s aunt have both told him but since he might be a carrier they just want to clear him. He hasn’t responded,” Aubrey told him.

The Changeup

This is another sample from the story Recovery that I am currently working on. This is by no means complete so please bear with me if you find any errors.

As always, enjoy!

 

misty blue

 

 

Two days later, she was walking towards the office when the woman approached her.

“Aren’t you Aubrey Samuels?” she asked holding a piece of paper forward.

“Yes?” Aubrey responded looking for a pen. She was used to people approaching her for autographs. The woman simply thrust the paper at her.

“You’ve been served” she said before walking away.

Aubrey looked down at the papers and immediately wanted to smash something. If Max was in front of her at that moment she would have been facing assault charges.

Instead of heading to her office, she went back to the car and headed into Midtown. When she arrived, she stomped through the entrance of her attorney’s office holding the papers away from her like they were some form of excrement.

“Charlese, do you see this” she cried barely able to control herself. After everything that he’d already put her through she couldn’t believe that Max was trying to take her son.

Her family attorney Charlese Powell quickly approached her and reached for the papers. If Aubrey was this upset then she knew it was something major.

After she looked at the papers, Aubrey gave her a breakdown of her lunch with Max.  Charlese promised to get started on a response and sent Aubrey home.

Later that day, Aubrey was at her house with her parents hovering over her. Her mother had been ranting for over twenty minutes.

“Nerva, now you’re working my last nerve!” my dad said.

She glared at him but remained silent.

“What?” I asked when she switched her glare to me.

“Why aren’t you doing something. You’re sitting there like you’re just going to let him take the baby” she said.

“Ain’t nobody taking him Nerva” my dad told her.

“Delroy, I want to hear your daughter say it. She’s sitting over there looking lost, like she already gave up” she said.

“What I’m doing is wondering who put this idea in his head and why. He didn’t say anything about it when we met. We all know that he’s never wanted Lucky so I have to wonder where is this coming from. But, I am not worried”

“You’re not? Great! Then, prove it! Go ahead and call that lawyer and ask her what her plan is. Do something” her mother urged. The caramel curls she’d passed on to her daughter bounced against the headband holding them off her face. The freckles that spattered across her nose and cheeks stood out as she moved her close enough to drop onto the couch and hold her daughter’s hands.

“She’s not worried cause she a damn genius. Remember when we got the test results? On her worst day, she could still outsmart that fool in her sleep” her father said from his seat in the armchair.

“Daddy!” Aubrey said.

“What? Didn’t I tell you that boy was dumb the first day I met him Nerva? As soon as they left, I told you that boy is too dumb for my baby girl” he said. Aubrey’s mom nodded her head in agreement. I knew that she never liked Max and if my dad did then that left the moment he cheated.

Aubrey exhaled harshly and shook her head. Her parents, if they were really her parents, she’d always had suspicions that she’d been switched at birth were so frustrating at times like this. She guessed she should be lucky that her father hadn’t called his brothers and her godfather yet.

“I’m going to handle it!” she told them.

“You know what, I’m gone call somebody to make sure you do. Talkin’ bout you gonna handle something sitting your ass on the couch. You think that Malcolm X died for this?” she asked as she jumped up and walked out of the room.

She looked at her dad and shook her head. This was going to be something else that I would never forgive Max for. He knew how Nerva was; I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t try to get a couple of her nephews to take him out.

“You should have just let me, Dwight, Troy, and Jay handle this when I wanted to. Then we wouldn’t be having these problems. He wouldn’t even be breathing oxygen right now” he told her before tapping her on the knee and leaving the room.

Aubrey was still sitting on the couch hours later when she realized that her mother had really called in the big guns. She looked up into the face of one of her best friends, Sincere Owens Clay. At 5’11, Sin was the tallest of the friends. Her honey colored skin still held some of the bronze hints left from the trip to Fiji that she and her husband had recently returned from. Her hair was in five large golden cornrows that hit the small of her back and she was dressed like they were about to fight. Aubrey scrunched up her face to match the glower that Sin’s almond shaped eyes were already in as they engaged in an epic stare down.

“Let’s go heifer” Sin said from her space at the end of my sofa.

“Sin, I do not feel like…” she said.

“Did I ask you about all that? Let’s go. Or do I have to go all Lydia Grant in here? Cause you know I will” as I watched she looked around for something to use as a prop.

“Fine!” I said before going upstairs to my room to change. After throwing my hair into a sloppy top bun I pulled on a sports bra, a long tank and distressed leggings. She was waiting for me in the hallway so I grabbed my bag from the closet and followed her out to the sweet Range Rover HSE that Sin’s husband Damon gave her when she got pregnant. Before that Sin drove a five-year-old Chevy Tahoe, that she mainly used for work stuff. Damon insisted that she upgrade since she’d be driving his baby around.

We pulled into the parking lot behind Dancing Machine and entered through the back door. Sin nodded to Manny who smirked at me and pointed to an open studio. The three of us had been dancing together since we were four. Manny’s aunt owned the dance studio where we started taking classes, we even taught classes there as we got older. Before modeling pulled me and then Sin away. When Ms. Jackie decided to cut back, Manny took over running the place and upgraded the schedule of offered classes there and eventually expanded the number of studios in the area.

We went in put our things down, I stretched while waiting for the music to que. When the opening notes of Janet Jackson’s “I Get So Lonely” began I smiled and looked over at Sin. My body smoothly went through the routine we’d choreographed to the song. The song segued to Musiq’s “So Beautiful” and we continued to dance. Sin was right, this was exactly what she needed. Dance had been a comfort to all of them for a long time; Aubrey couldn’t believe that she didn’t realize how much it would set her at ease.

“Heifer tried to tell me what she needed. Can you believe that Manny?” Sin asked after we’d cooled down.

“Yeah, you know how she gets” he pretended to whisper. His brown skin glistened from dancing to an old routine to Gang Starr and Nice & Smooth’s DWYCK we lay around the studio chests heaving as we sought to recover from nearly two hours of dancing.

Aubrey shot them both the bird and took another drink of cucumber water. Sin and Manny broke into laughter.

Recovery

Finally, new fiction from yours truly. This is a bit from a story that I am currently working on. The story is an offshoot from one that I’ve shared a bit of before. This one is about a single mother who is building a new career and life with her son who suffers from sickle cell anemia. Her name is Aubrey Samuels and she is a former supermodel and the ex-wife of retired basketball player. There are going to be some threats to her carefully ordered world but you meet her before any of that starts. *This is unedited and may contain some errors.

I hope you enjoy and please feel free to share any comments!

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Aubrey

 

The morning started like so many others, with her curled up in bed with her favorite men. Her four-year-old son Lucien lay beside her and their one year old Bernese Mountain dog lay by Lucien’s legs. She enjoyed these moments the most.

“Good morning, what are you two doing in here” she asked.

“I’m hungry and Bear needs to go potty” he replied flashing her his huge brown eyes. She laughed and got up to slip her feet into her slippers.

“Well, let’s get all of this taken care of” she told him and walked out of her room with the boys following her.

In the sunny kitchen downstairs, she quickly let the puppy out and got started making Lucien a spinach and cheese scramble along with a multi grain muffin with almond butter and honey.

“Thanks Ma” he said before saying grace and digging in.

She laughed as she watched him eat with gusto. She was glad that he had an appetite after last week’s crisis. They’d spent two days in the hospital with him being lethargic and in pain but luckily, he’d quickly bounced back. She dropped a kiss on his head before letting Bear back in.

“All done” he said. She watched as he put his dishes in the dishwasher and bounced out of the kitchen to go get ready for school. Aubrey said a quick prayer of thanks for him and a good day before going upstairs too.

After she dropped Lucien off at school, she made her way to work. The building that she’d purchased housed a mini showroom of pieces that were for sale and an office where she met with clients but her favorite place was the second-floor workshop where she spent most of her time when she was at work.

Good morning” she said entering the building with her hands stuffed with breakfast for the crew and the extra-large tote that she normally took with her every day. She put the food and drinks on the reception desk and took off her coat while speaking to her receptionist and assistant. She handed out the breakfast sandwiches and smoothies before heading upstairs to get to work.

A while later, Aubrey stood in her workshop admiring the prototype of her new design, a gilded looking chandelier with six jeweled globes. This was a special order for a sixteen year old and Aubrey wanted to make sure that the piece walked the fine line between girly and grown up; there was a finesse that the age dictated. Her client was planning to make the gift part of a big renovation for her stepdaughter’s room. She was scheduled to arrive in an hour and Aubrey couldn’t wait to see what she thought. As she ripped off her gloves, Aubrey couldn’t help but wonder how things were going for Ryan and the kids. She had been recalling what happened last week at Ryan’s house for the past few days. His wife was a piece of work but Aubrey certainly didn’t blame her for being shocked at seeing another woman at her home so early in the morning. She just worried about how the kids were faring. Last week’s scene had an effect on them that lingered throughout the day.

She crossed the room to her makeshift eating area which housed a mini refrigerator, microwave, an electric kettle, a Keurig, and a farmhouse sink and started making her favorite drink.  She grabbed her tablet to look at notes on what else she needed to take care of that day.

“Aub, there’s someone here to see you” her assistant Nola said from the door. Aubrey spun around to look at her before glancing at her watch. On mornings like this she kept a strict schedule which they usually went over as soon as Aubrey entered the office. Nola made sure to update her throughout the day if anything changed. So, she was shocked that something popped up so soon.

“Did I have an appointment?” she asked. They tried to stay on top of everything but once the creative forces started then Aubrey could forget almost anything.

“No, but she claims that it’s important” Nola said as Bart’s girlfriend walked up behind her. Aubrey stood there in shock but nodded her head at Nola who stood aside to allow her access to the door.

“Nola, I’m going to take this. Give me a twenty-minute warning before my appointment” Aubrey said as Anatra stepped into the room. She was a pretty girl but she believed everything that fell from Maxwell Lewis’ lips and that was dangerous for any woman. Even Max’s mother knew that he was a pathological liar.

Aubrey watched as Anatra’s eyes took in the workspaces including the two chevron sawhorse tables, built in bookcases and drafting table that took up the back of the room as well as the armchairs, custom cocktail table and rugs that comprised the sitting area. Aubrey motioned for Anatra to sit in one of the toile armchairs as she sipped her white chocolate mocha latte.

“Look, I apologize for showing up unannounced and I won’t take up much of your time” she said. Anatra looked chic and put together in her electric blue blouse with a bow at the neck and print pencil skirt and nude pumps. She had her cashmere overcoat on her arm. Her dark hair fell into a sleek chin level bob.  The overall appeal was gorgeous even with minimal jewelry. Aubrey couldn’t resist looking down at herself wearing distressed jeans, a black baby t bearing her logo and the Timbs that she often wore while working. Her hair was in two braids and she felt anything but chic.

“I just wanted to let you know that we wouldn’t be able to take Lucien this weekend” she said.
Aubrey remained silent and continued to sip her latter until Anatra squirmed in her chair and held out her left hand to show off the engagement ring that looked remarkably like the one that Aubrey had thrown at him before he left for China.

She smothered a laugh and said, “Congratulations.”

“We’re going to Punta Cana for the weekend to celebrate so it wouldn’t be a good time for Lucien to come with us” she stated in a matter of fact tone.

“Let me get this straight. Max’s son was just in the hospital for two days and neither of you visited or called but instead of his father keeping his scheduled visit you both think that going out of the country to celebrate is more important?” Aubrey asked. This was another example of how freaking clueless of how Max and this broad are. It’s not as if she would let him leave the country with Maxwell especially so soon after a crisis but he never put Lucien first. He didn’t have to because he isn’t a full-time parent. Aubrey just shook her head.

She leaned forward, placed her cup on the table and said, “Thanks for stopping by Anatra. I’ll be sure to let my son know that he will not be spending the weekend with his father, again.”

“Max said that you were going to be pissy about this.  It’s not like we’re telling you at the last minute. I just didn’t want this to be a problem” she said.

“Sweetheart, you don’t have to worry about that. My son being with me is not now nor will it ever be a problem. Now you can go tell your boyfriend that you did what he sent you over her here to do. Bye-bye” Aubrey said all while walking towards the door.

Anatra sat there looking confused for a second before getting up and walking out.

Nola entered the office just as Aubrey was about to call Darby to vent

She held up her hand and pulled a fat slice of lemon cake. Aubrey burst into laughter and reached for her favorite comfort dessert. After her first bite, she moaned deeply.

“Okay, now hit me with it” Nola said. Aubrey quickly gave her the rundown.

“Max is a complete idiot. You knew that when you married him and now we all have to pay the price for it” Nola said. “He never wants to spend time with Lucien anyway because of his health issues and the fact that he had missed two visits with his son and didn’t even bother to call to check on him after his latest hospital stay says everything.

“Girl, you know my expectations low but he didn’t even bother to at least send him a gift. But now he wants to miss another visit to go celebrate his engagement. He probably couldn’t even tell anyone Lucien’s blood type or what were his favorite toys because he has never really expressed an extended interest in his child” Aubrey said putting down the plate.

“Forget him, you know that Isiah’s party is this weekend so we will have a good time and he won’t even think about the missed visit” she said.

“This is why I never wanted to force him to be a part of Lucien’s life. I knew that he wasn’t going to be consistent” Aubrey told her as she went back to her notes for her next appointment.

As she left the office, Nola told Aubrey that she had already called Darby and that she would be there with lunch at 1:30. Aubrey laughed. That’s why she loved Nola, she always had her back. Tonight, she would have to tell her son that he wouldn’t be seeing his father again. She hoped that the idea of Isiah’s party would keep his spirits high.

Falling in Love Again

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So tonight I am revisiting an old project, my thesis which was a novella entitled Tasting Salt. It has already messed with my emotions and I’m only on the eighth page. While reading it, I was reminded of why I love it so much, how much of myself I poured into it, and why I want to make it novel length. Writing that project let me know that I was capable of finishing a fiction project. At the time, it was the longest piece I’d ever written and although some of the story resided in my head it was sometimes hell to get it onto paper.

The story is a coming of age tale even though the protagonist is already an adult. She’s trying to deal with the loss of her grandfather who was the only father she’d ever known, a mangled love life, damaged relationship with her older brother along with the emotional upheaval and family craziness that typically ensues after a loss. Equally important is the rural Northeastern North Carolina setting which is where my father’s family is from and where my mother’s family has lived for over 40 years. The house above is a real home outside of the town and inspired the estate that is at the center of the story.

Tasting Salt had a few other incarnations but this final version was inspired by the loss of my own maternal grandfather, who is reflected in the character, but it is so much richer for me now that I have endured other losses. Those losses are of people who also inspired characters in the story. The novella also means so much to me because my mother read it, she loved it even though I obsessively assured her that the mother in the story wasn’t her and she was proud of it.

Already on my list for next year is some tweaking and revising of the story and hopefully I’ll be able to shop it or self-publish.

The Bomb- New Fiction

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.

the bomb

“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.