Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 6

One year later
Around noon on a hot August Saturday, Chasity walked out of the crowded Bennington airport terminal and caught the first taxi she could find enroute to the hotel that she’d reserved a room at. After spending three months in a cast, regularly attending a fracture clinic for the first six of those twelve weeks, enduring multiple x-rays and the inconvenience of not being able to drive herself around, plus several additional months of grueling physical therapy from her fractured tibia (shin bone), she was finally walking normally again, even wearing heels again.

Fortunately for Chasity, she had the type of job that she could do sitting down and was able to return to work within a month after her injury. After wallowing in self-pity for a couple of weeks during the early days of her recovery, she made the decision to take in a roommate and then subsist off of the bare essentials for the rest of the year in order to put back what had been lost from her bank account. Chasity even sold her computer and car in her determination to reenter her daughter’s life not just physically healthy, but financially healthy as well.

Although Chasity wasn’t rich and probably wouldn’t be able to open up her own floral shop for years to come, she could afford to put her child up in a decent apartment and provide for her without government assistance. At least for the next two years, if she continued to manage her money wisely and took odd landscaping and freelance floral jobs as she often did back in Tennessee.

Having done as much research as she could about her daughter’s whereabouts and present situation, Chasity discovered that the child had been placed with a Mrs. Marjorie Ireland. Marjorie was Sheena’s best friend from college and when the Deweys died in a bad car accident while attending a business conference up north, Mrs. Ireland had been left with Sheena’s only child and placed as executor of her friend’s sizable estate.

Chasity could care less about that will and about any assets that had been left. She hadn’t taken any money from the Deweys the first time and she didn’t want any money from them this time. All she wanted was her daughter. Marjorie Ireland could have the money.

After checking into her hotel, Chasity went to shower and change. Her next taxi trip would lead to the residence of one Mrs. Marjorie Ireland.

********

“Uncle Marcos, let’s say it again,” seven-year-old La’Charity said to the man that she’d come to love dearly over the last year. Before her adopted parents died, she’d just seen Marcos on occasion, mostly whenever she visited with the Irelands. Now she saw him almost every day and they have formed a very strong bond. In fact, their bond was quite different from those that Marcos had with all the other kids. Quite different from the bond that La’Charity had even experienced with her adopted father.

Patrick Dewey had been loving, kind, and lots of fun, but Marcos Valdez seemed to understand La’Charity like no one else could. He especially seemed to understand her unceasing search for knowledge that prompted hundreds of questions, which usually drove other people nutty.

Marcos liked answering La’Charity’s questions and seemed to take it as his personal duty to teach her something new every time he saw her. Today they were sitting on the couch in the den going over counting to ten in Spanish while the other kids were in the pool out back, unwilling to have anything to do with school topics just yet. Jaleel was supervising the swimmers while Marjorie was in the kitchen preparing snacks for everyone.

“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez,” Marcos recited, verbally feeding his youngest niece another serving of his heritage and satisfying her need to learn in the process. Marjorie did not share this part of her brother’s heritage. Although they shared the same African-American mother, their fathers were different. His was Hispanic and hers was Native-American which would explain why they’d always carried two different last names, had different textures of hair, and possessed different skin tones. However, they both did have their mother’s ebony-colored eyes and strong aristocratic nose.

Upon her second divorce, Quantia Valdez left both of her kids in their fathers’ custodies so that she could roam the world in her singing career without the encumbrances of children. Unfortunately, this caused Marcos and Marjorie to grow up in two different parts of the country, he in Texas and she in Washington state.

Yet despite the miles that had divided them, the brother and sister continued to stay in touch over the years through phone calls and letters, especially since they never wanted to be separated in the first place. Interestingly enough, that is the main reason Marjorie enrolled in the foster care program. She wanted to give other kids who felt displaced a sense of family, especially since Quantia still failed to keep in touch with her and Marcos on a regular basis. They usually had to call their mother first. Fortunately, Marjorie’s father kept in constant touch with her via phone and even visited her during the holidays.

With a sentimental streak just as strong as his sister’s, as soon as Marcos completed his undergrad degree and all of the subsequent architect-related training, he established his new company in Bennington, Georgia in order to close the miles between him and Marjorie. That decision allowed him to be a part of his sister’s life full-time. Fortunately, that was one less decision that Marcos would have to regret in his life.

When La’Charity repeated those Spanish numerals behind him as fluently as if she’d been reared in a Spanish-speaking home, Marcos nodded with approval and gave one of her thick ponytails an affectionate tug. “Very good, Bonita,” he said, smiling down into the distinct, honey-colored eyes of the little girl in the pink and white summer short-set.

La’Charity smiled, too, with a sense of accomplishment and with the understanding that he’d called her pretty again. Uncle Marcos often called the girls in the house pretty, but when he said it to her, his eyes always took on this faraway look as if he was remembering something or rather someone.

“Do I get ice cream today?” La’Charity asked, waiting for the customary reward for a job well done. Uncle Marcos always rewarded the kids when they accomplished a challenging task. He’d brought all of them new bicycles each time one of them successfully learned sign language in order to better communicate with Lee, the very first foster child that Marjorie and Jaleel adopted, who was unfortunately born deaf. Fortunately, Lee could effectively read lips and that helped him a lot at home, in school, and at play.

Interestingly enough, La’Charity learned how to sign faster than all the other kids, as well as many of the adult family members, even Jaleel. Only Marjorie and Marcos had beaten the little girl’s two-month record, perfecting their signing abilities in a four-week period of time.

“Sure, tell Aunt Margie that I’ll be right back with ice cream for everyone,” Marcos said, getting up to leave. Even though La’Charity had earned the treat, he would extend the blessing to all the children, which cut down on jealousy and competition among her peers who ranged in age from fourteen to nine. Marcos was especially mindful of the nine-year-old/second foster child that Marjorie and Jaleel adopted right before La’Charity was bequeathed to them. Nakiya had a jealous streak out of this world and it had landed her in trouble too many times to count.

********

Scanning the block for the right address, Chasity noticed a silver Chevy Tahoe coming out of the driveway of a two-story, red brick house and realized that that was the residence she’d been looking for. God, please don’t let that be Mrs. Ireland leaving, she prayed as the yellow taxi slowed down and prepared to stop in front of the house.

After paying the cab driver and leaving him a tip, Chasity got out of the vehicle and made her way across the large front lawn to the main door. Pressing the lighted doorbell, she forced herself to wait patiently for someone to answer. In the distance, she could hear sounds of children playing happily in the even larger backyard. A camel brown Astro van was in the driveway to her right.

I will not cry. I will not cry, Chasity rehearsed, wishing that her emotions didn’t always spill out of her eyes so easily.

Suddenly the large black door swung open and a tall, shapely woman with deep chocolate skin, friendly ebony eyes and a pleasant smile appeared. “Yes, may I help you?” Marjorie asked, looking down into the bronze-skinned woman’s eyes.

Oh my goodness! If I didn’t know any better I’d say I was staring into La’Charity’s face in twenty years, Marjorie thought, immediately noticing the familiar features of the stranger in the coral-colored outfit. Suddenly a wallet-sized photo from her best friend’s private files appeared in her mind and Marjorie realized that she was looking directly into the face of La’Charity’s birth mother.

“Yes, I’m Chasity Bradshaw,” the nervous young woman replied in a hoarse voice, thick with emotion. Chasity paused and cleared her throat before continuing. “I’m La’Charity’s biological mother,” she added, feeling her eyes well up with tears, despite her earlier resolution not to cry.

Marjorie nodded her acknowledgment and opened the door wider. “Come on in, Ms. Bradshaw. I think we have a lot to talk about.”

Then after telling her husband to keep the children outside for a while so that she could talk undisturbed with their unexpected visitor, Marjorie returned to the contemporarily decorated living room where Chasity awaited. The faint sound of an upbeat 80’s tune could be heard playing a short distance away where Mrs. Ireland had forgotten to turn the radio off in the kitchen while preparing snacks for her family a few minutes earlier.

As soon as her hostess was seated in the Isabella floral-patterned chair opposite her, a now dry-eyed Chasity began to briefly discuss the situation surrounding La’Charity’s birth. “To keep a long story short, Mrs. Ireland, I was deeply in love with my daughter’s father when I conceived. Unfortunately, I found out too late that he was only deeply in lust with me which is why I put on the birth certificate that he was unknown since I obviously never knew the real him at all. Anyway, there were three opinions on how to deal with the matter. The child’s father wanted me to have an abortion because he wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility, my preacher of a father wanted me to give her up for adoption because he was ashamed of me, and I wanted to keep La’Charity because she was mine and I’d always wanted to be a mother.”

Chasity blinked away her bitterness and shrugged. “I guess you know who got their wish.” She’d tried to get rid of all the bitterness she felt towards her father and Marcos, but every time this subject came up, she found tiny, sharp pieces of it still pricking at her heart.

Marjorie nodded in understanding. “Sheena told me how hard it was for you to give La’Charity up. How she couldn’t sleep for that whole forty-eight-hour waiting period because she so afraid you would change your mind, even though you handpicked them out of all the other adopted parents on the list as the right match for your child.”

Marjorie left out the fact that Sheena had also said that she wouldn’t be surprised if the birth mother came looking for her daughter one day because of how reluctant it was for Chasity to give the child up all those years ago. How Sheena disclosed that she was ready for that possibility by telling her daughter the truth as soon as she could understand the concept of adoption and by keeping a private file on La’Charity’s birth mother when the child became old enough to request more information. According to Sheena’s records, the father of the child was reported to be unknown and now Marjorie understood why Chasity had decreed it that way on the birth certificate.

Chasity smiled. “I had changed my mind.” Then she frowned and leaned forward on the comfortable floral print sofa she sat on. She suddenly felt uncomfortable in her body and most certainly uncomfortable about what she was going to say next.

“But my father and aunt pressured me to go through with it, reminding me that I had nothing to offer the child without an education and financial stability.” Chasity’s eyes misted over once again. “I had love, but unfortunately, love doesn’t pay the bills. Fortunately for La’Charity, Sheena and Patrick could give her both love and financial stability.”

Marjorie nodded again and then got right to the point of the matter. “Why are you here now, Ms. Bradshaw? Are you here to develop a relationship with your daughter? Or are you here to try to get your daughter?” Marjorie wanted to know if Chasity was as sincere as she seemed. Or was she more like Sheena’s brother who only wanted La’Charity because of the sizable inheritance that came with her.

Chasity sat up straighter and met the other woman’s intense ebony-colored eyes, almost wavering for a moment because they suddenly looked so familiar to her. Then she cleared her throat and prepared to answer the patiently waiting, white skort and orange blouse wearing Mrs. Ireland.

“Truthfully, I want both. I want to develop a relationship with my daughter first, then obtain legal custody at a later date. I’ll even take a job and apartment in town to insure that La’Charity will still be in your lives,” Chasity replied, being the peacemaker as usual by offering a gradual removal of the child instead of an abrupt abstraction like the territorial part of her wanted to do. However, the wiser part of Chasity knew that that could be detrimental to her daughter’s emotional wellbeing. After all, La’Charity had already lost one set of parents. To abruptly lose another might be devastating. It also might create resentment towards her birth mother and Chasity definitely didn’t want that.

“And to show you how sincere I am, I’ll even sign documents stating that I forfeit any financial resources that might be attached to my daughter’s custody,” Chasity added, still trying to be diplomatic and accommodating. Although she was unaware of the custody battle raging between Sheena’s brother and the Irelands, she was aware that the Deweys had been very prosperous people at one time and probably had left La’Charity a nice nest egg for her future.

As further proof of her sincerity, Chasity pulled out an envelope from the coral-colored purse in her lap and handed it to Marjorie. Mrs. Ireland opened the white envelope and scanned the legal documents that were inside. The documents were dated seven years ago and were signed by all principal parties pertaining to the adoption of La’Charity Dewey. They detailed who received monetary payments and when.

“As you can see, the Deweys’ adoption settlement was signed over to my aunt and not me. I took no money from them then and I’ll take no money from them now. All I want is La’Charity.” As Chasity spoke, she paid no mind to the sound of a car pulling up outside. It was a busy residential street. Cars came and went all the time.

Marjorie remained silent for a moment. Biological mother trumps adopted uncle ‘and’ custodial guardianship, she mused, thinking that if Chasity was really sincere, then this could mean an end to Lemuel’s harassment. If La’Charity went with her birth mother, Sheena’s scheming brother would not be able to get any more of his sister’s hard-earned money. With a greedy brother like that, it was a true blessing that Sheena had thought to change her will a week before the accident and left her daughter and her money to a more trustworthy person like Marjorie.

With her mind firmly made up, Marjorie smiled warmly at the eagerly waiting woman across from her. “Your plan certainly sounds reasonable, Ms. Bradshaw, but blood tests will need to be done to verify your parentage. And I’ll need to run these documents by my lawyer…” Before she could finish her statements, Marjorie heard her brother walk through the side entrance of the house where the den was located. He entered with his usual enthusiasm. It also sounded like he had two hands filled with white plastic grocery bags for all the swishing noises coming from the other room.

“Margie, I got ice cream and enough fixings to make better sundaes than Dairy Queen,” the tall man announced from the other room as he put his packages on the sturdy round oak kitchen table and came closer to the living room area.

Margie? Chasity gasped, remembering where she’d heard that voice and that name mentioned before. She also recalled where she’d seen ebony-colored eyes like Marjorie’s before. And that nose, Chasity mused, now seeing another family resemblance. Oh my God! Marjorie Ireland can’t be Marcos’ sister!

Chasity shot to her feet with a panicked look on her face. Lord, why do You keep allowing my life to go in all these twists and turns, she prayed, looking for the nearest exit. Her bronze complexion looked pale all of a sudden.

Marjorie stood up, too. Concern for her guest was written all over her face. Lord, please don’t let this woman have some kind of mental problems, she prayed, knowing that La’Charity definitely didn’t need to be around an unstable person.

“Are you okay?” Marjorie asked, with both of her expressive hands poised in the air in front of her, ready to reiterate her spoken question in sign language as she often did with her third son, Lee. Sometimes Marjorie forgot that she was talking to a hearing person when riddled with concern and right now she was very concerned about Chasity.

“Of course, I’m okay,” Marcos answered from the other room. He assumed that his sister was talking to him. Soon he came walking into the living room and stood in the entranceway where he was just as tall as the oak wall unit and entertainment armoire nearby.

As soon as Marcos’ eyes lit upon Chasity’s warm honey pools, he felt slammed by intense emotions that refused to lie dormant any longer. Emotions that refused to be ignored or pushed aside. After all these years, Marcos Valdez found himself still overwhelmingly, overpoweringly in love with a preacher’s daughter. And suddenly that vulnerable feeling returned. And just like the prophet Jonah who’d fled from the presence of the Lord only to find himself trapped in the belly of a whale and later deposited right where he was destined to be, Marcos found himself smack-dab in Chasity’s life again. And also like Jonah, there would be no more running. This man would finally surrender to his destiny.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

2 comments:

kris said...

i can't wait for tommarrow!!!

Suprina said...

Tee-hee.