Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hump Day - Prologue

Prologue
Lieutenant Tabitha Montebello was restless and frustrated on that wet, chilly February morning. Oh, how she longed to be out on the beat, scouring the city for criminal elements like most of her other peers. Who cares that it was raining outside? Tabitha sure didn’t.

But where was she today? Where she was every work day – at her oak desk, typing endless police reports. On top of that, it was Wednesday, otherwise known as ‘Hump Day’. Surely that hump had to be the highest mountain on the face of the earth. A mountain that people everywhere had to tread up with weighted boots on their feet and hundred pound sacks on their backs.

“I hate Wednesdays,” Tabitha muttered under her breath, hitting the computer keys extra hard in frustration.

Wednesdays had to be the longest day of the week. Mondays went faster because they were filled with so much new activity. Tuesdays were fast, too, but not as fast as the previous day and it contained a lot of rollover tasks.

Thursdays were filled with excitement since they were so close to the weekend. And everybody knows that Fridays are the beginning of leisure. But Wednesdays, they were the worst. That day had no new assignments, no excitement, and no overall spark. In short, it was the most boring day of the week.

Wednesdays were extra boring for Tabitha since she was no longer on street patrol and seemed destined to rot behind a desk. In her opinion, the only good thing Wednesday had going for itself was Bible studies at various local churches.

Just then, Tabitha’s boss entered the room, interrupting her mental litany of all the reasons to hate this particular day of the week. As usual, Captain Irwin Meacham was dressed in a crisp, newly dry-cleaned black and white uniform. No hair on his head was out of place.

“Lieutenant Montebello, I need to see you in my office please,” Captain Meacham said. Then he turned around and walked back the way he came.

Tabitha stopped typing, got up and immediately followed her superior. She was not put off at all by her boss’ abrupt appearance and departure. Capt. Meacham had never been a man to mince words. That fact was further proven as soon as Tabitha stepped inside of his office.

* * *

“Congratulations. You got that promotion you wanted,” Capt. Meacham said as he retrieved a colorful brochure from his neat desk. “With this promotion comes a lot of training. In fact, expect to be in training every Wednesday for the next six weeks at the address on the back of this,” he continued, handing the pamphlet off to her.

“Affirmative, sir. Thank you,” Tabitha replied, never breaking her professional persona as she received the brochure. Her eyes only briefly perused the item in her right hand.

Irwin stared intently at Tabitha for a long silent while, expecting to see some type of emotional reaction from her. Especially since this was something that she’d wanted for a very long time. But once again, he only found strict professionalism. Once again, Irwin was amazed by Tabitha’s inner strength as she held her head high, stood with her back straight, her feet wide and looked him straight in the eye.

Tabitha was behaving cool, calm, and completely in control regardless of whether she felt that way or not. This was command presence at its finest - which every officer was taught from day one at the police academy - and Capt. Meacham had never been more proud of her.

“You’re dismissed, Detective Lieutenant Montebello,” Capt. Meacham finally concluded, releasing her to return to her post. He’d put respectful emphasis upon Tabitha’s new title in order to let her know that he was proud of her without actually saying it.

This woman is going to go far in her career. Shoot, she should have been farther along by now anyway, Irwin mused as he returned to his swivel desk chair.

Even now he could recall how often Tabitha had gotten passed over for promotions and special projects over the years based on either her gender or her race. Sometimes both.

Unable to sit back and watch her get passed over again, Capt. Meacham had used every connection he had, both professional and private, to push for this latest promotion. He’d finally gotten it when he reminded the powers that be that Tabitha was one of the best in their line of work and had a spotless record on the field and off the field. That another oversight of a fine officer like her would no doubt bring speculation into the fairness of their hiring practices. That last thing had been the zinger.

Capt. Meacham had been relieved when the promotion finally went through. Yet he was not pleased that it had taken so much effort and that the budget for Tabitha’s training had been compromised. It was as if they’d deliberately held back just enough to boast that they still hadn’t given her exactly what she wanted, exactly what she deserved.

I don’t know why Tabitha hasn’t left this backwards city by now, Irwin mused. Why she seems so committed to seeing it change for the better.

Capt. Meacham would have been long gone by now if the same odds had been stacked against him time and time again. Especially if he’d seen some of the same people he’d started out with advance ahead of him. Not because they were better, but strictly because they were of different genders and of different cultural backgrounds.

I would’ve skedaddled just like her old partner did, Irwin thought, reminded of Sebastian Armstrong.

Sebastian had been another fine officer who’d been unappreciated and unwanted by this town. Although he’d certainly been the right sex, he hadn’t been the right color. As the only offspring of an Indonesian born woman and an African-American man who were not married at the time of his birth, Sebastian’s dark complexion had hindered him from advancing up the ranks as quickly as he should have in Leeward, a semi-rural city near Attapulgus, Georgia.

Even though Tabitha was as light as they come with her olive skin and those tiny freckles along the bridge of her small nose which had been inherited from her Caucasian father, she still had an African-American mother. And that’s what the higher ups in Leeward deemed unacceptable. Unfortunately, none of that could be proven since the higher ranks kept certain things tightly under wraps and publicly appeared to tolerate everyone.

Hopefully, Pavilion City will give her a taste of the kind of future she can have, Irwin mused. I know it will definitely show the higher ups that they ain’t the only ones with a few tricks up their sleeves, he thought with a secret smile.

Capt. Meacham had multiple reasons for sending Tabitha to a training facility in Pavilion City, Florida, even though there was another good facility less than seventy-five miles away. As a visionary, he knew that change was inevitable for Leeward. As a man who usually followed his gut feelings, Capt. Meacham sensed that Leeward’s change was going to come through none other than Detective Montebello.

Lastly, as a secret romantic, Capt. Meacham wanted Tabitha to experience something else that the city of Leeward wouldn’t allow her to have - a second chance at love.

* * *

Tabitha returned to her desk with thoughts of awe dancing through her mind. Being promoted to detective was just another step in her ultimate goal to change the current way of doing things in their town. Not just for women, but for all Leeward minorities as a whole. As of today, Tabitha was not only the first female detective in the history of the Leeward police department; she was also the first black one.

It’s finally happening, God. It’s finally happening! Tabitha shouted on the inside as she calmly sat down in her chair.

It had been a long, hard struggle to reach this point over the last ten years, but she’d finally made it. Tabitha had made it despite her race, despite her gender, and despite the slow moving, good ol’ boy hierarchal system of the rustic city that her heart couldn’t help but reach out to.

Though Tabitha didn’t feel called to the nations like the son of Hilkiah was in Jeremiah 1:10, she did feel called to stir up and take down a few things in one particular city. That passage in Jeremiah was the same one that she’d been led to after a near-death experience ten years ago. Since then Tabitha continued to hold that scripture dear because it finally gave voice to what her heart had known for years – she was destined to usher in the season of change in Leeward.

Finally, I’ll be able to wear my own clothes to work, Tabitha mused, grateful for that small blessing as well concerning her promotion.

Though she loved being seen in her black and white uniform with its cloth insignias worn between each shoulder and elbow that indicated her length of service, there was nothing like fulfilling one’s destiny in more comfortable clothes.

Reaching for the phone on her desk, Tabitha dialed her parents’ number. Whether she’d be able to maintain her composure while relaying her good news to them was left to be seen.

© 2006 by Suprina Frazier

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