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10 August, 2012
Read to Tell About It: "Running from Solace" by Nakia R. Laushaul
An Excerpt from Running from Solace...
Chapter 1: Naomi
Once, she flung a heavy ashtray at my head. Blood spewed onto my new pink dress like red polka dots all because I didn’t respond to her calling me, “Naomi! Naomi!” I was trying frantically to reach her special ashtray from underneath the bed. I didn’t hear her the first time. By the second call, I could tell she was getting mad, but I almost had the gold colored ashtray in my hand when I heard her say, “If I call you one more time!” That did it for me; I knew I was getting a whooping. I took my time walking back to the living room.
“Don’t make me call you again, Naomi,” Mama said again as I approached her. I left a small distance between us as I presented her with what she was impatiently waiting for. She went crazy. Mama hit me right on the top of my head over and over again with the glass ashtray.
“You ungrateful little bitch!” she yelled repeatedly in my face. I tried to cover my head with my arms until they grew tired, and I gave up. Fury danced in her eyes and spit sprinkled over me like morning mist. My eyes burned from the tiny flecks of ashes that fell from the ashtray. I tried closing them tightly. Warm blood trickled slowly down my forehead and penetrated my eyelids and cooled the burning sensation.
“Yeah, you must like gettin’ hit,” Mama screamed so loud I wanted my ears to close. I preferred the deafening sound of peace when she whooped me and she was silent. Out of sheer luck at some point during the beating, I passed out. I usually did. Thank God.
When I woke up, I was lying on my bed, which almost never had any sheets on it. I was still wearing what was left of my tattered dress. It was covered in dried blood, more red than pink now. I didn’t have the desire to go look in the mirror. I knew already, since this was not the first time. My eyes would be really fat, and this time, only one was opened partially. I was able to peek out of it. Raised, sweltering, purplish bruises would cover my arms, back and face—the usual damage. My head throbbed. I couldn’t lift my arms. I was afraid to move, afraid to even breathe. I lay there as still as I could. I followed the dingy, white, laced hem of what was once my pretty dress, from my knee to my ankle and across the dirty mattress as it fell off the bed onto the floor where I could see it no more. I wanted to cry, but no tears came. I must have run out of tears, I thought as I managed a painful smile that made my head ache from the inside out even more.
“Nobody likes cry baby, bad-assed kids! Shut. The. Fuck Up!”
Mama hated it when I cried; she always said I only wanted people to feel sorry for me. So, if I had run out of tears, that would’ve made my Mama very happy. I would never have to hear her call me a cry baby anymore, and maybe she would smile at me like she did when I lit her cigarettes on the stove. Well, not like the time when I lit the skinny white one on both ends. I shivered a little when I thought of the whooping I got for doing that. How was I supposed to know when it didn’t have the brown paper on one end of it? She’d always taught me to light the white end only.
Ever since that time, I would always ask first, “Which end, Mommy?” I didn’t want to disappoint her again or make her mad.
I had an urge to go pee. I was comfortable and warm. I didn’t want to move, plus that’s when the pain reverberated through me. Of course my head hurt and I had some aches all over my body, but as long as I kept really still it wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse, like some of the other times before. Moving was painfully impossible and I knew it, so I didn’t.
More than the pain, more than anything else, I didn’t want Mama to wake up. She was lying right behind me. Her arm was gently positioned around my waist. Her hand rest on my stomach. I was balled in a knot with my back against her stomach. I knew she was still asleep. I felt her breath blowing softly on the back of my neck. It felt nice. Every few minutes or so, I could hear her teeth grind against each other or her jaw making a popping sound. The noises terrified me. Still, that was when I loved her the most and felt the safest—when Mama was lying next to me, asleep. I didn’t have the nerve to wake her up just to go. So, I just lay there quietly and watched the torn lace through one eye as I listened to her breathe peacefully until I fell asleep again.
Mama nudged me awake with kisses. Her juicy lips left wet marks on my cheeks. I opened my eye slowly. The day had allowed dusk to run its course and only a small amount of natural light filtered through the window.
Mama gasped as I turned toward her. Then she smiled. “Hey, Mama’s baby,” she cooed.
“Hi, Mama,” I said drowsily.
I felt dampness easing up my back. I wondered how long Mama had been up. Did she know? Did I pee on her? So many thoughts raced through my mind. I didn’t know what to do, so I pretended to be terribly exhausted as she kissed me and explained what I needed to do so she wouldn’t have to whoop me anymore. I needed to be a good girl and do exactly as she said so she wouldn’t have to ever get angry.
“It’s not good for little girls to not listen to their mothers,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“Yes, Mama,” was all I answered over and over again after every statement she made. I wanted her to go away. It hurt too much to nod my head or move my lips, for that matter. “I promise. I will be a good girl, from now on.” I only hoped that I looked as sorry as I felt for making Mama angry again. That’s what she was waiting for anyway—for me to forgive her so she would be okay—until the next time. I agreed that I was wrong for not hurrying or answering when she called my name.
“I love you, baby,” she said as she reached toward me.
I closed my eye and grimaced in anticipation thinking maybe she saw it, felt it. She saw me flinch and then snatched back her hand. I closed my eye quickly in preparation of her smack across my face. Mama hated it when I flinched. The hit took too long to come, so I peeked through my eye again. She was already walking out the door closing it softly behind her.
“I love you, too, Mama,” I said to the empty room.
I had to get up and get changed before she came back. I remember willing my aching little body to move. I was tired, but Mama hated when I peed in the little bed we shared. I couldn’t let her find out. There were already so many old stains on the smelly mattress and just as many spankings for creating them. No sooner than I raised myself up off of the bed, I heard the door open. I didn’t turn around. I stared at the dust around the window sill over the bed. The tattered lace from my dress dangled and tickled my knee as I stood there imagining myself invisible.
“Naomi. Baby, did you pee on yourself?”
She didn’t sound mad. I didn’t say anything, taking a moment to decide whether I should tell the truth or not.
“MiMi?” she waited.
Okay, she wasn’t mad or maybe she was trying to trick me. The only time she ever called me MiMi was when she was in a good mood.
“I…I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I peed when I was…when I was sleep.” I didn’t turn around. I lowered my head and looked for the wet spot on the mattress with my one open eye. My wet underwear suddenly felt colder. The air hitting my damp dress sent a chill over me and I shivered, or maybe it was the impending beating that I knew was coming. I still didn’t move, not even when I heard her sigh loudly. The pain all over my body began to come alive and my aches began to scream. I continued to stare at the window sill; the dust seemed so interesting. If I stared really hard I could see shapes. There’s an N, like the N in Naomi. She started walking toward me. She put her hand on my shoulder.
“MiMi, you have to learn to wake up,” she said. “Big girls don’t pee on themselves while they sleep. You are almost six years old.”
Just like I thought, no more tears; there were no more to cry. I waited, silently. She moved her hand and my shoulder tingled warm from her touch. I knew this was it; she was going to hit me. I heard her pull the zipper down on the back of my dress. The air brushed against my naked back and made it sting. I felt her hands tugging the dress off my shoulders and down my waist. It fell into a heap at my ankles. We stood like that for a moment. I felt her eyes piercing through me from behind.
“Take those wet panties off,” Mama ordered as her heavy footsteps made their way out of the room.
I wasn’t sure what was happening. Was she going to whoop me naked? I took my time removing my underwear. It hurt my stomach to bend down and I cringed as I pushed my panties down on top of the dress. My panties were so stretched that I was able to step out of them along with my dress at the same time.
I heard bath water running from in the next room. Mama came back in and started shuffling through the laundry hampers where we kept all of our clothes, both clean and dirty. She sniffed a pair of panties, and then pulled out one of her shirts. Finally she turned toward me. She was acting very strangely.
“MiMi, what are you just standing there for?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face. “Go get in the tub, baby.”
I walked out of the room, confused. Mama almost never ran my bath. Maybe she was going to whoop me in the tub. I stood on my tiptoes and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror as I passed it. I wasn’t surprised at what I saw, same damage as usual. My legs didn’t hurt that bad, so I lifted them easily over the side of the tub and sat in the really hot water without complaining. It was up to my waist. Mama came in and turned the water off. She sprinkled a white powder in the tub.
“This will make you feel better,” she said softly. She sat on the toilet while she bathed me. I ignored the stinging sensation of my bruises as she washed me gently. She hummed the only Christian song I knew, “This Little Light of Mine.”
“Lean back.” She pushed me down in the water. It almost covered my entire head, but not quite. The warm soapy water stung as she poured it over my matted hair from a red, 7-Eleven cup that she kept on the side of the tub. She never attempted to wash my face. She hummed softly the entire time.
“Are you hungry?” Mama asked as she dried me off and rubbed oil all over my body.
“Yes, Mommy.” I felt so much love as she helped me into her shirt. It was big enough to be a dress on me. But, it was hers and I was happy to wear it. I put the beating from that morning out of my head and fell into her arms as she hugged me and told me how much she loved me.
“What do you want to eat?”
“Umm, umm. Cereal,” I exclaimed happily. “Captain Crunch Berries!”
Mama brushed my hair gently. “MiMi, you know cereal is for breakfast. Plus, you don’t need all that sugar.”
My heart sank with disappointment. Maybe I was asking for too much. “But, you can have it for dinner, just this one time,” she said as she smiled at me, showing all of her teeth.
Everybody always said I had a pretty Mama and that I looked just like her, only darker. When she smiled, I thought she was pretty, too. Mama showed all of her teeth when she smiled. I didn’t. Her teeth were all even and much whiter than mine. Mama said when I grew up I would probably have her pretty teeth, and that pretty teeth ran in her daddy’s family. She said that my chipped front tooth would fall out and come back in perfect like hers one day. That’s why we didn’t get it fixed when she pushed me down the front porch steps and it broke.
Mama finished brushing my damp hair up in a ponytail and I followed her into the kitchen. I sat on the empty milk crate next to the stove and waited patiently as she prepared my cereal. She placed the big, plastic, margarine bowl carefully on my lap and told me to be careful and not to drop it because there was no more left. I held onto the bowl tightly and savored every sweet bite. I kicked my feet with glee because cereal for dinner was a special treat.
The phone rang, and I listened to Mama talk as I ate. She laughed and twisted the telephone cord around her finger. I knew it was a man on the phone. Mama had mostly men friends. I had to call them all uncle so I wouldn’t forget their names and get her in trouble.
“Yeah, I’ll see you later tonight,” I heard her say as she hung up the phone smiling her big smile again.
I already knew what that meant. I was going to bed and Mama was having company. Mama told me that she was putting me to bed early because I needed my rest as though I didn’t hear her making plans. She sprinkled the mattress with baby powder and laid a sheet over it from the hamper. She covered me with a thin, ripped blanket and gave me some medicine to help me sleep because I’d had a long day, she had said. I heard a knock on the front door just as she kissed me goodnight.
“Say your prayers. And don’t forget to pray for Mama,” she told me as she walked out the room. She turned off the light and shut the door behind her.
After a few minutes, I heard my Mama laugh. I could hear the two of them talking and wrangling with each other, causing the raggedy sofa to creak. “Come on, baby. You always teasing me,” he said. Then I heard smacking, wet kissing sounds. Not too long after, Mama opened the door to the room we usually shared and whispered my name. I knew not to say anything because she thought I was already asleep.
“Baby, get back in here,” he barked at her. He sounded irritated. “Before I give both of y’all some.”
“What you was about to say again?” She slammed the door shut and went back to confront him.
“Oh, pretty girl, I was just playing,” he said, laughing, trying to lighten the tone of his voice.
I wondered what he had for me. What is some and why was Mama upset when he said he wanted to give me something, too? She never got mad at any of the uncles.
I fell asleep listening to him moan loudly, telling my Mama, “That’s it. Suck it real good, and Daddy’ll give you some of dis.”
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Now that you've treated yourself to an excerpt from Running from Solace, pick up yourself a copy and finish getting your read on! Available in both print and ebook, Running from Solace is Nakia Laushaul's sophomore literary effort and it is sure to leave you wanting more! Also, do yourself a favor and visit Nakia's official website to learn more about what else she has in store for book lovers everywhere.
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Until next time...