The long concrete driveway, lined with cracks generated by determined weeds, was already crowded with Cadillacs and Ford trucks by the time Deidre pulled up to Mama’s house. So she turned the wheel and drove a little past it and parked at the top of the cul-de-sac in front of Lola Jemmison’s, Mama’s second cousin’s, house. Deidre flipped the visor down, pulled her make-up bag out of her navy Michael Kors purse that was sitting on passenger seat and began to try to camouflage the traces of last night’s events.
“Your eyes hide emotions as well as a drunk hides the truth, her Mama used to say,” so Deidre paid extra attention to trying to conceal the dark circles rainbowed under her eyes. She didn’t need her family up in her business just yet; at least not until she could talk about it without crying. She also wasn’t ready to hear the predictable things that would be said: “Girl, a man is just going to be a man. Shoot, if I were to tell you all the times your Papa stepped out . . . God rest his soul…”
But, Deidre sure as hell wasn’t Mama. Maybe because it was a different time, or that Deidre had different options, or Mama was made of some different stuff. Whatever the case, Deidre knew when Chris carefully slipped into their bed at 6:23 this morning, as if she wouldn’t notice—as if she had spent the evening in a deep slumber, instead of running to the bathroom every 30 minutes because her stomach as so upset and checking her phone every 15 minutes—that she was done. She didn’t know what she would do or how she would end up but she knew that she never again wanted to feel like she did last night — no better than the $25 filet mignon she scraped into the trash at 9:00 when it was obvious that Chris wasn’t coming home for dinner.
She took one more glance in the mirror, was satisfied that her night of crying wasn’t on display, and started making her way to Mama’s house.
“Looking good dere, Lil Lady,” Walt Jones called from his porch.
“Hiyadoin,” Deidre hollered back, while throwing up her hand and waving. She wasn’t going to stop. Having Walt (who she used to call Uncle Walt since he’d been Mama’s neighbor since she was born) look at her like a hungry man looks at a burger was more than she could handle today.
Deidre opened the screen door to the porch and found her two great uncles, in their long, wool Sunday coats quietly playing chess and drinking some brown liquor from Mama’s “good crystal” glasses.
“Hey Uncle Pete—Uncle D. What’chall doin out here? It’s freezing.”
Both men looked up and smiled. Deidre knew they would rather freeze than to be around all the chatter that was sure to be taking place in the house. Uncle D opened his arms to encourage a hug. Deidre smilled, hugged both uncles and walked into the house where she was greeted by the distinct smell of collard greens, fat back, smoked turkey and black-eyed peas cooking — and the distinct sound of her Aunt Cassie holding court.
“She’s goin tell me she don’t eat no pork or chitlins. Talkin’ bout my generation need to start eating like we love ourselves. We can’t just be putting everything in our bodies and expect to be healthy. Well I told her — right in front of her new so-called fiancé — that considering you gots 3 kids by 3 different mens, you done put a few things in yo body too that didn’t have no business being dere.”
“Lord, tell me you didn’t say that,” Aunt Denise laughed along with the 7 other women in the kitchen. Deidre cracked up too. Aunt Cassie was never one to harness her tongue.
“You lookin mighty purdy today Ms. Deidre. Always told yo momma you look mo like me. Come give you Aunt Naomi a hug,”.
Deidre did as she was told. It was funny to her that although she was 48 and the producer of the morning news, she immediately became a child when she was at Mama’s house.
“Where’s that handsome husband of yours,” Cassie questioned.
“He couldn’t make it today,” Deidre replied too tired from the truth to even make-up a coordinating lie. She wasn’t too tired, however, to miss the quick, knowing looks passed between her mom and aunts.
“Well, get choo on an apron and help us out in here. We still got all them nuts to crack for my famous pecan pie,” momma ordered motioning to the small table in the back corner of the kitchen with box of nuts from one of the trees out back.
The monotony of cracking the pecans and the familiar sounds of the family’s matriarchs cackling and conversing released the tension Deidre had been feeling since last night. It also allowed her to think. For a long time it felt that she was married in name only. And if she were honest, for a long time that worked for her. Chris travelled extensively, so it allowed Deidre to focus on her career, family and friends; but she maneuvered through life much more easily simply by being Mrs. Chris Harrison. Being married, particularly to the Black man who owned the largest business in the state, was a comfortable social status in her world and she liked the benefits.
But what good is it if everybody respects you because of who your husband is, if your husband has no respect for you at all?
Deidre knew that she was partly to blame for Chris’ lack of respect. She didn’t demand it. When he started staying out late, got a second phone and texting at odd hours, Deidre didn’t confront him because she didn’t want to lose him. Her family always acted like she was so lucky to be married to Chris Harrison. And she didn’t want to gamble – not with everything she had, everything she was. If she wasn’t Mrs. Chris Harrison who and what was she?
Part 2 https://wp.me/p6pOhn-3kxY