Tuesday, December 20, 2005

first day of reckoning pt.4

nonononononononono! the word was a crying chant in my head. i twisted my body around, quickly sizing up the girls surrounding me. i was still the tallest in the group, but i doubted it would mean much because i had never been in a real fight before, and it was obvious there was gonna be a fight taking place right there and then. i straightened my spine, hoping they would be fooled by the false bravado i tried to convey.

renee started laughing, a note of self-satisfaction turning the sound from her mouth into a cackle. it reminded me of that wicked witch of the west from the wizard of oz.

"girl, you ain't foolin' nobody." she said as she stepped and dug her finger into a point in the middle of my chest, "i can see you're scared."

i inhaled deeply, trying to get a grip on my breathing that was turning into short pants as anxiety clawed at my throat. i couldn't even speak, so i kept silent.

the girls all stepped forward in unison, the circle around me becoming dangerously smaller. i stopped breathing all together, my body flinching as i awaiting what was certainly to occur next. renee sized me up, a sneer curling her lip as she started from the brand new penny loafers i wore and made her way up past my new and neatly pressed blue jeans, the plaid blouse with puffy sleeves hanging tidily from my shoulders, to the brown horn rimmed glasses with lenses that made my brown eyes as big as an owls. from the smirk pressing itself onto her lips, it was obvious i was immediately deduced as no threat to her.

and she was right. despite our difference in height and weight (with me being at a distinct advantage), renee had the one thing i'd never been able to grasp: courage.

that is, until that day. until i had stepped outside of my fear and asked keith to be my boyfriend. however, asking a boy to go steady was a whole lot different than fighting a girl who i was beginning to recognize as the neighborhood bully. i began invisioning just how badly i could get hurt and despite my best efforts to put forth a brave face, my sight grew blurry as my eyes started filling with tears.

and then i remembered a moment i'd had with my mommy a couple of weeks earlier. we had been in the neighborhood for about a week. i had been called into the kitchen to help her put away groceries she had purchased that afternoon. while silently going about the task, i felt her watching me. i glanced up from the refrigerator where i had just put the milk, an inquiring look on my face. she straightened from the counter where she'd been leaning and came across to stand before me. leaning over, she gently cradled my face with her hands and stared into my eyes, her brows furrowed as she made me feel as though she were looking right into me. a moment went by before she spoke.

"i love you, baby girl." she said quietly, then placed a kiss on my nose.

i was surprised and suddenly anxious, as that had come out of nowhere. not that mom wasn't affectionate with me, but usually i could see it coming, like after i'd done something miraculous like keeping my room clean for an entire week or actually not teasing my younger brother unmercifully. this was different, though. i saw sadness in her eyes and i began to panic. ever since my father was killed when i was three, i'd had an intense fear of losing my mommy. my eyes widened as i stared up at her.

"what's wrong, mommy??" i asked, already sensing she was gonna give me some bad news like she had cancer or some other life-threatening disease. her smile was small as she replied.

"nothing, baby. just worried about you, that's all."

"why are you worried mommy?" i whispered the question, cuz now i was beginning to think she was gonna tell me i had cancer or some other life-threatening disease. her smile remained as she continued holding my face in her hands.

"i just want to keep you safe, that's all."

there was an entire library of words hovering in the air between us. i knew what she was thinking about, even though she remained silent. she was thinking of what had happened two years prior. she was thinking of when i had been molested. she was still suffering because she'd been unable to protect me. i was still suffering, too. it was why i had yet to explore our new neighborhood despite the fact we'd been living there for a week. i placed my hands over hers, trying to reassure her as much as a child could reassure an adult, especially when that adult is a single mom who has enough worries without having to wonder constantly if her daughter is being attacked somewhere and she can't get to her.

"mommy, i'm okay." i squeezed her hands to emphasize this. she continued staring down at me, tears glittering in her eyes. then she pulled me close, hugging me so tightly i couldn't breathe, as my face had suddenly been thrusted right into her ample chest. i turned my head to the side and inhaled, my arms coming around to squeeze her just as tightly. tears were gathering in my eyes and falling from my cheeks.

she smelled so good. she smelled like mommy. i kept inhaling deeply, trying to breathe in her strength, trying to capture a little piece of her to hoard for myself.

we stood there for a while, holding each other and saying nothing. then she kissed my head before stepping back. she wiped her eyes and took a steadying breath. then she gazed at me, her face suddenly serious.

"don't ever think you can't talk to me about anything. anything, you hear?"

i nodded vehemently, knowing i had to do everything to relieve her mind of the angst i saw in her eyes. she gave me another quick hug and then walked back to the counter where she grabbed some cans to place in the cupboard. i wasn't sure how long we'd been standing there, but i felt as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. i felt as though i could conquer anything, vanquish any enemy. a smile stole itself onto my lips as i stood there and felt my mom's love flowing through me, giving me the foundation i needed to step foward with a sure stride.

after putting the groceries away, i looked over at my mom, the smile still sitting there on my face like it had taken up permanent residence.

"mommy, i'm gonna go outside." she glanced over, a look of worry fleeting across her features before disappearing behind her determination.

"okay baby. remember to stay close, though. we don't know the neighborhood all that well yet."

i nodded, then turned quickly to run out of the house, the screen door slamming behind me as i kept running, stopping once i was outside immersed in the grass on the front lawn. turning my face to the sky, i closed my eyes and stood there, listening to the leaves whisper secrets to each other. then i plopped to the ground and lay down, my eyes still closed.

for the first time in two years, the numbness shelled on surface of my soul was beginning to crumble.

i could feel again the breeze tickling my skin playfully.
i could feel again the blades of grass bending softly to cushion me against the ground.
i could feel again the sun's warmth sinking into me.
i could feel again.