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20 June, 2008

Chronicles of a Lesser-Known Writer: Part V - A Snippet From A Previously Lost, Recently Discovered Manuscript. Question - Should this guy be angry?

After Tee drove off and she realized Plan A wasn’t going to work out to her advantage, Deena resorted to Plan B. She went back to her car and got her supplies. She’d been knowing Tee long enough to know that Plan A was a long shot in the first place but she had to try. Now that it had blown up in her face, she brought out the heavy artillery and mentally strategized.

She’d been living in St. Louis, Missouri for the past several months, getting herself together and planning her return, and now that she was back in the Chicago area, a little thing like Tee’s rejection wasn’t going to keep her from doing what she’d come back to do. A little thing like Tee’s rejection was nothing compared to the fact that she hadn’t seen or held her son in too long to think about. Her fault, she knew, but Tee wasn’t all that innocent either, regardless of what he needed to tell himself so he could sleep at night.

Things like custody issues and visitation schedules needed to be worked out and she wasn’t leaving until some productive dialogue had begun between them. As a matter of fact, she’d camp out on his doorstep until he got tired of stepping over her and finally talked to her, because ten months without her son in her life was punishment enough for doing what she’d done, particularly since she hadn’t had much of a choice.

Deena dropped her backpack on the floor outside Terry’s apartment and sat down next to it. She dug out a paperback book and a bottle of water and settled in to wait for him to return home. He lived in the same second-floor apartment he was living in when they met and she had lived here with him long enough to feel comfortable rolling out her sleeping bag and nodding off when midnight came and went and he still wasn’t home.

When her eyes got too heavy for reading, she slid her backpack under her head, smiled at the middle-age couple who lived across the hall from Tee as they shuffled past her with concerned looks on their faces, and rested her eyes.

“Deena.”

Terry stooped down and shook Deena’s shoulder to wake her up. He had come around the corner and almost broken his damn neck catching himself from tripping over her lifeless body and holding on to his son at the same time. When he finished cursing her out under his breath, he took TJ inside, laid him on the couch and returned to the hallway to send her packing.

He shook her again. “Deena.” She tried to roll over and keep sleeping but he caught her mid-roll and flipped her back over facing him. “Wake your ass up, Deena. You always did sleep like a vampire. Wake up.”

“I’m awake,” she said as she opened her eyes and fought her way out of the sleeping bag. She looked around absently, found his scowling face and put a matching scowl on hers. “What time is it?”

“After two in the morning. Get up and go home. This is embarrassing.” He picked up her backpack and tossed her book and the empty water bottle inside of it angrily, pushing it toward her when she sat up and reached for it.

“I’m not leaving until I see my son.”

“He’s asleep.” He stood and looked down at her. “But that’s beside the point. You should’ve thought about that before you left.”

Deena hopped to her feet too, and scratched her fingers through her hair. “You can’t do this, Tee. You can’t just keep me from my son like this. I’m his mother.”

Terry stared at her like she was crazy, which she could very well be now that he was thinking about it. She was wearing her hair in some kind of wild and frizzy style, looking like Lauren Hill about the head, and shifting around on her feet like she was on the verge of an anxiety attack. Anybody with eyes could see she wasn’t wearing a bra underneath the screen printed tank top she had on and the frayed denim shorts hugging her hips were riding so high on her thighs he could see the insides of the front pockets below the raggedy hems. Her canvas slides were lined up at the foot of the sleeping bag and her fire engine red toenails had sparkles on them.

She looked like a completely different person. One who was missing about twenty-five pounds and who was beginning to be suspect. He narrowed his gaze on her face and probed her eyes. “Where have you been?”

“I…”

“Are you on drugs?”

She looked hurt. “What? No. Come on, Tee…”

“Are you running from a pimp or something? Planning on hiding out here and getting us all killed while you’re at it?” She started to say something and he sliced a hand through the air. “I mean, you have to be strung out on something, because you cannot seriously believe you can just come strutting back into my life like this.”

“Look…I’m not…I didn’t think…” Deena took a deep breath and let it out slowly, looking everywhere but at Terry. “I wasn’t thinking about you, Tee. I was thinking about my son.”

“I don’t want you back.”

She made herself look at him then. “I don’t want you back, either. I want my son.”

“He doesn’t even know who you are and that’s your fault. Your loss, too. Go home,
Deena.”

“No.”

“Don’t make me call the police,” Terry said, kicking at her sleeping bag with the toe of his Nikes. “I don’t give a shit where you go, but you can’t stay here.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“Oh yeah, you are.” They stared at each other as he circled around to his doorway and gripped the doorknob. “I mean it, Deena, get all this shit together and get out of here.”

“Just let me see him, Tee.”

“You saw all you deserved to see earlier. And stop calling me Tee.”

“I have a lawyer.” She watched him step inside his apartment and push the door closed in her face. “I have a lawyer, Tee,” she said again through the crack. His lips twisted in disbelief. “I do.”

“Call him then,” he said and slammed the door in her face.

* * * *

For her sake Terry hoped Deena was joking about having a lawyer. He’d tear her ass up in court if she wanted to take things that far. By the time he got through telling the judge, the jury and anybody else who wanted to listen about how she had crawled out of his bed one morning, told him she was taking TJ to visit her mother and then disappeared, there wouldn’t be a damn thing her lawyer could do except help her hide her face on her way out of the courtroom.

She hadn’t even taken TJ to visit her mother like she said. She had taken him to Terry’s parents' home and left him with Terry’s father. Embarrassing the hell out of him yet again and forcing him to deal with their cross-eyed looks when he showed up on their doorstep at after nine that night to pick up his son and make excuses for his absentee fiancé. No note, no phone call, no nothing. She was there one day and gone the next, and just like that he was a single parent with a two-week-old infant to take care of all by himself.

She’d been gone three days before he found the engagement ring he’d spent two months picking out in her jewelry box and the credit cards he’d given her tucked between the pages of his address book. He hadn’t thought to look for things like that before, because he was too busy worrying about the police finding her disfigured body, too busy sitting up night after night with his nocturnal son and praying that Deena found her way home. She could’ve strolled through the door and told him Martians had abducted her and he would’ve accepted that, as long she was back safe and sound and ready to go ahead with the wedding they were in the middle of planning. It never occurred to him that she simply wanted out.

He found the ring and the credit cards and suddenly her mother’s reluctance to involve the police made sense. Deena hadn’t been snatched by some psycho, she’d walked away willingly. What the hell kind of woman ran off and left her two-week-old son behind, he didn’t know. And what the hell kind of woman showed up out of the blue ten months later, thinking she deserved absolution, he didn’t give a shit. Frankly, he wasn’t in the forgiving frame of mind, not after he had spent the last ten months being a mother and a father to his son and fucking up half the time while he was at it.

Terry was thinking about the time he had accidentally warmed TJ’s formula to the boiling point and practically fried the lining of his son’s throat when he threw the covers back, rolled out of bed and went to see if Deena was still camped out in the hallway. He stuck his head out the door, saw her sitting Indian style on the floor reading and hissed behind his teeth. TJ had cried for an hour straight and she hadn’t been here to hear any of it, while he, on the other hand, had had to explain to the police officers who showed up on his doorstep why his son was crying uncontrollably. All these months later, he was still trying to figure out which one of his punk ass neighbors had called them.

She opened her mouth to speak to him and he slammed the door on whatever she was about to say. Four o’clock in the morning was not the time for her to play with her life.

Just like he’d been doing every night for the past ten months, TJ woke up in the middle of the night to either fill his belly or quench his thirst. Terry heard him moving around in his crib through the baby monitor on the nightstand and threw the covers back once again. He filled a sippy-cup with four good swallows of apple juice and took it with him to TJ’s room. This was another thing that had been a pain in his ass from day one. He was a father, not a waiter slash maid slash workhorse. If Deena had stayed here and pulled her weight, they could’ve taken turns getting up in the middle of the night and maybe, between the two of them, gotten some decent sleep every once in a while. But noooo…

The next time he opened the door and looked out she was still sitting Indian style on the floor, but she had traded reading for sleeping sitting up. He looked down into the midst of her kinky hair and shook his head. “Deena.” She snapped to attention, looking up at him expectantly. “Get up and get the hell out of here, okay? It’s after four o’clock in the morning and your little sit-in isn’t working.”

She stared up at him like she didn’t know who he was. “I told you I’m not leaving until you let me see him.” She stretched her legs out in front of her, bent down and touched her nose to her knees. “I heard him a little while ago. Is he still awake?”

“No,” Terry lied. She folded her legs against her chest and laid her head on her knees, and he rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Look…I don’t know if you think I’m playing with you or what, but I’m two seconds away from calling the police and filing a restraining order against you.”

“You would actually do that to me, Tee?”

He looked away from her face and sucked in a deep breath. “I need you to leave.”

“And I need to stay. I need to see my son, so I’m not leaving until I do.” She waved a hand in his direction. “Call the damn police, I don’t care.”

“Okay then, I will,” he said and slammed the door. Two seconds later he opened it again and glared at her. “Sit right there and wait on them, with your crazy ass.”

“You could at least let me see my son while I’m waiting.”

“Kiss my ass,” he snapped.

“Never again,” she snapped right back.

He passed by the kitchen phone on his way back to his bedroom. There was a cordless phone on the nightstand next to the bed and his cell was on the armoire charging. Instead of picking either of them up, he went to stand over the toilet. After he washed his hands, he climbed back in bed and stared at the ceiling until he nodded off.

The phone rang at seven o’clock in the morning. He was in the middle of dreaming that he was strangling the shit out of Deena and just when she’d finally stopped screaming and starting dying, the ringing started, snatching him out of what was quickly turning out to be the best dream he’d ever had. He groped for the receiver and pressed the talk button. “Hello?”

“Tee?” Deena.

He groaned at the top of his lungs. “What?”

“C-could you come to the door?” she whispered. He didn’t respond so she added, “Please?”

He opened the door and came face to face with two of Chicago’s finest. He shot a look at Deena and pursed his lips, thinking. “Can I help you?”

“Do you know this woman, sir?”

“I used to know her, but I don’t know who the hell she is now.”

“Tee!” Deena gasped, shocked. Her hands shook as she gathered up her stuff and slung her backpack over her shoulder.

“What?” He spread his arms and looked at her incredulously. “I told you to get the hell out of here hours ago, but did you listen? Hell, no. Now you’ve got the police at my door and my neighbors eavesdropping.” He leaned sideways to see around one of the officers and raised his eyebrows as he looked across the hallway at his neighbor’s door. It was slightly cracked. “How are you doing, Mrs. Tucker?” He shook his head sadly and had to chuckle under his breath when the door quickly closed. “You see what I’m saying, Deena?”

“Tee, you can’t…”

“Okay, you know what?” one of the officers butted in. He looked from Terry to Deena with a frown on his face. It figured that something like this would interrupt his breakfast break. “Somebody better start figuring something out here.” He caught Terry’s eyes and pointed at Deena. “Is she harassing you, sir? Because if she is, I’m locking her ass up. I don’t have time for this.”

“Good.” Terry stepped back from the doorway and gestured to Deena. “Lock her ass up.”

Deena saw the handcuffs coming her way and cringed, tears filling her eyes. “This is
how you’re going to play me, Tee? You’re having me locked up because I want to see my son?”

“I’m having you locked up because you’re sitting outside my door like a homeless person and you refuse to leave.” His nostrils flared as he watched Deena drop her stuff and extend her wrists. He took his eyes to the wall and left them there.

“Ma’am, you’re under arrest for Trespassing, Peace Disturbance and Street Demonstration,” the officer told Deena. “Do you have anything on your person that I should know about?” He twirled a finger, signaling Deena to turn around and face the wall. “If you do, you better tell me now.”

“No. And what street was I demonstrating in?” The cuffs clicked open near her wrists and she winced. She gasped when the pat-down search began at her ankles. “Oh my god. I hate you, Tee. I hate your guts even more now than I did then. This is just like you, you know that?”

“Whatever, Deena.”

“Yeah, whatever,” she said. The second officer was busy rifling through her sleeping bag. “Can I at least have my shoes?” He stopped rifling long enough to set them on the floor in front of her feet and she stepped into them. “You always were a coward.”

“You left me,” Terry reminded her quietly.

“I’d do it all over again, too. You sorry motherfu…”

He was in her face before he could think straight. “You left me!” he shouted, voice bouncing off the walls. “You left our son!”

“Hold up,” the second officer stepped between them and laid a hand on Terry’s chest. “I’m about to issue you a ticket for Peace Disturbance, too. You want the lady gone and we’re about to make that happen, but we need to save the Jerry Springer shit for the show.”

* * * *

6 comments:

Evelyn said...

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Terra Little said...

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CaroleMcDonnell said...

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Terra Little said...

Thanks, C!

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