July’s Independence

“July’s Independence” a short-story by Author G D Grace

For much of my life I’ve been labeled strange, stand-offish, and even weird, but I never allowed any of those titles to define me nor keep me tied to the role of victim.  My late-father understood me and always protected me from my mother’s vindictive, retaliatory actions, but once he closed his eyes it was no holds barred and open season on July.

I have never come to any sound conclusion as to why she despises me so.  From what I observed, my father practically worshiped the ground she walked on, and always spoke lovingly about the dime piece he sported around on his arm whenever they painted the town.   All of their friends envied what they had found in one another, but little did they know, our family triangle had breaches in it that both of them hide from the roving eye of the public.

About a month after laying dad to rest, all of that built up animosity inside of her exploded into an onslaught of verbal and physical violence that would forever change the relationship between us.   The event occurred the night I returned home from my senior prom, and if my male companion, Theotis Robinson, hadn’t been in earshot, I might not have come out of it alive.

“July Summers, how dare you!” she screamed, slamming me up against the front door that I had just entered through and closed.

The hatred in her eyes assured me that she had been waiting a long time for that one reason to lash out at me, and her unprovoked ambush caught me off guard — one minute I was receiving a sensual and delicate good-night kiss, and the next I was being mishandled by a deranged woman who had obviously lost her mind.

“Take your hands off of me!” I growled, pushing her back with the force of a one-hundred & forty-seven pound, eighteen year old woman.

Had she made her move a year ago, I might not have had the courage to meet her as aggressively as I had, but my body had matured and I was no longer the timid  young-girl I once was.  No, I was a vibrant, capable, young woman; ready to take on the world and follow a dream.

I saw where I wanted to be in life, who I was going to be in life, and the people who I would inspire in life, so if this mourning, twisted-minded, widow thought for one second that she had any chance of breaking me, she had bitten off more than her ranting “soup-coolers” could chew.

“You little nasty disease, I wish I had a bomb in my kitty that exploded upon delivery!” She snarled, pacing back and forth in front of me like a rabid coyote sizing up its prey.

The disturbing statement she had just made told me everything I needed to know, and it sickened me to the core.  The woman I had reluctantly called mother for the past eighteen years of my life had never loved me.  Why?  I did not know — at least not at that moment, but I decided that I didn’t need to wait around another second to find out.

Without missing a note, I rang back at her with a pitch so perfect until the hairs around that “rank” kitty had to have been paralyzed.

“You warp-minded, poor excuse for a mother!  What sane person would say something so vile and disgusting?  What did I ever do to you that would make you say something so cruel?”

My voice trembled with hurt as I spoke, and my breathing was labored.  The anxiety flowing through my body had overtaken calm, and I started getting light-headed.  I didn’t want to hyperventilate and pass out because, again, I had no idea what the woman was capable of.   I wouldn’t put it past her to slice my throat and bury me in the backyard rose garden.

“I used to be the apple of his eye! Me!” She said, as tears streamed down her face.  “When you got here all he and his family saw was you…cute little, cuddly little, innocent you…July Summers.  They kicked me into the background of their lives and all I was after that was a bitch who had to clean up shitty-diapers and nurse a crying ass little mistake!”

I looked at her puzzled and confused without saying a word, allowing her to finish up her sentence.

“You, not Jasmine Summers! Where did I fit in after you arrived, huh?” She asked, rhetorically.

I leered at her in disbelief, wondering what part of her brain had stopped functioning.  Deep down I felt as though there had always been a sliding door off track in her head.   At times I would catch her gazing at me sharply, curling her upper-lip up like she was about to have a stroke.

My dad told me that I shouldn’t pay her any mind, nor put too much thought into the icy-glares she threw.  He promised me that, once I was old enough to better understand, he would share some things with me about her childhood that would clear things up for me.

Yeah, right.  I couldn’t fathom what he’d say that would help me understand anything about the shit that she was putting me through.  It was like I was living with a woman who had an extreme multi-personality disorder.

Well, with his death I had no clue how I would ever learn more about her troubled past, however, I refused to allow what she had gone through to affect my mental stability and future.  Part of me wanted to run over to her, wrap my arms around her, and tell her how much I loved her, but the cold rift that had developed over the years between us was an impenetrable fortress that would probably never be infiltrated.   Nope, too much damage had already been done.

“So, let me get this straight, your own child made you feel unwanted and less loved by your husband and his family?   Sistah, you need a few “Hail Mary’s” and are large dose of Jesus!” I said, peeling my back from off of the door she had slammed me into.

“What the hell would you know about Jesus or Mary, July?  The only person you have ever cared about is your damn self, and judging by the satisfied look on your face, it looks like you’re soiled.  I’d say you parted your legs like Moses parted The Red Sea for that thug that dropped you off tonight, you little tramp!” She scoffed.

Her accusation caused me to chuckle.  I knew that she was only digging for dirt, but nothing in what she said was true, and I wasn’t about to allow her to lure me into an intense standoff.  Instead of responding I attempted to walk past her, but she grabbed my arm, jerking me to a stop.

“Did you forget something, spawn of my fucking egg?” She asked, getting into my face like an anxious “hood-rat” ready to brawl.

That’s when I knew that my residency there would be over.   Graduation was just two weeks away, but with her current mindset being the way it was, there was no way that I would feel comfortable staying with her another night, or any other night thereafter.

I snatched my arm away from her grasp which prompted her to shove me to the side causing me to lose my balance.   When I regained my footing, I turned to face her head-on, and peered into her eyes with an I-dare-you-to-touch-me-again look that I hoped sent her the message that I was beyond playing.

“This is my fucking house!  I will not be disrespected in it by another bitch!” She spat, sizing me up for a possible sucker punch.

Before I could catch myself I bumped my chest against her and got “titty-to-titty” — a move that caused her to retract backwards in shock.  I just knew she wasn’t prepared for that move coming from me, and I felt slightly liberated by her actions.

“Oh, so you’re bringing your A-Game to this event, huh, July? ” She asked, chortling  like a wild bird in the Amazon.

I shook my head in pity.

“Well, at least now you are now calling yourself by your real name,” I shot back, taking advantage of that open-ended put down she had left open.

“What was that?” She asked, moving towards me, cupping and holding her hand to her ear.

“Whoever hurt you dear mother, fucked you up real bad.   Instead of trying to take your painful childhood out on me, you need to utilize the healthcare that is available and get your self some damn help,” I said, wishing I would’ve have said something more witty to really knock her fucking panties off.

When she raced towards me, I stood my ground prepared to lock horns with her.  I could literally hear her snarling like a wild beast as she charged at me.

“Bring it, Bitch!” I said, bracing myself for maternal-impact.

As soon as she reached me, she began clawing at me like a cat with rabies, and for every punch she threw, I threw one back.  We were going at it like two lionesses out on an African plain when all of a sudden we bumped into a small table that sat by the front door and sent the lamp sitting on it crashing to the floor.

Seconds later I heard frantic knocking at the door.   To my surprise it was, Theotis Robinson, the guy who had just dropped me off.   There must be a God in heaven because his voice was relief in a basket.

“July! July!” he shouted out in a panic, calling me repeatedly, trying to get me to open the door.

I was too busy dodging hits to respond to his frantic request.   My mother was pummeling me with fists that felt like those of a registered boxer.  I had no idea until right then, just how strong she was.

“You got to bring ass to kick ass, July…   Bring ass to kick ass!” she said, followed by a sinister snicker that curdled the blood in my veins.

“Mother!  Quit!” I squealed as I slowly started buckling from the intense beating.  As I slid down the door, I realized that I was succumbing to a grown-woman-ass whipping.

Right about the time I had given up hope, I heard the large pane window in the living room shatter and when I looked up, I saw my earth-savior standing in the archway of the hall….

That’s when I blacked out.

_______________________________________________________

When I finally opened my eyes, I felt every sore inch of my body and it caused me to cringe in subtle agony.   It took me a minute to adjust my focus, but once I did I could tell that I was not in my own room.  I finally heard the soft southern drawl of Theotis’ mother’s voice, and that’s when it came to me where I was.

The door to the dark room I was in was slightly opened and light from the hallway seeped quietly in.   Even though the volume of their conversation was at the hush-level, I could hear everything that the two of them were saying.

“It’s a damn shame what that crazy ass Jasmine did to that girl lying in there, Randolf.   It just doesn’t make any sense.   Sean Summer’s, her husband, was one of the kindest men I’ve known, after you baby.  How he wound up marrying that lunatic is beyond me.  What did he see in her?” Audry Robinson asked her husband.

“Baby, you know why.   Jasmine has always been a beautiful woman — even when she was a little girl she was a gorgeous young thing.   Matters of the heart are complex, so whatever it was she has, he liked while he was living,” He said, in a matter-of-fact-you-should-know-that tone.

“Thing is right!  She has been a Thing for as long as I’ve known her.  I heard tales of how bad that heffa treated that girl lying in there, and I tell you it ain’t right… it just ain’t right,” she said, as her voice grew more distant the further she descended down the hallway.

Listening to the two of them conversing and talking about my parents sparked an idea in my mind.   Since my father was no longer around to fill me in on what the deal was with her, I decided to make like a reporter and get the scoop from everyone who knew them.  I was certain to get to the bottom of what made her so treacherous and evil.

Much to my dismay, their conversation became inaudible once they left the hallway and entered the confines of their bedroom.  All was not lost though, because I felt that I knew a tad bit more about, my mother, the witch, than I had known prior to that ass-beating.

Once I was certain that they were retiring for the night, I pulled my aching body up from its resting position, stood up, and eased the door of my room open wide enough to slip through it.   Since I had visited Theotis’ home more than once, I knew exactly where his bedroom was.

With a cat-line swiftness, I quietly crept up the hallway towards his room, and once I reached his door, I tapped lightly on it, trying my best to be as discreet as possible — the last thing I wanted was to get caught lurking around the Robinson home like a common street walker looking for a trick — after all, it was the wee hours of the morning, and what good decent young lady would be up at that hour?

Uh, huh… you know what I’m talking about.

After three taps, the door opened and a yawning, sleepy-eyed Theotis stood before me, wearing a snug-fitting pair of cotton pajamas and a black “wife-beater”.   When he realized it was me, he smiled, put his right index finger up to his lips, and motioned for me to enter.

“I know, I’ll be quiet,” I softly said, giggling as I entered his room.

Once we were inside, he gently took my hand and guided me over to his unmade full-sized bed.   Nothing in his manner indicated that he was going to be anything more than a gentleman, and I appreciated that.   The last thing I needed was some horny ass teenage boy pawing at me — I had been through enough already.

Sitting in silence the first few minutes, I could hear the humming coming from his computer’s modem, as well as, the leaves rustling in the wind outside the window of his room.   The peace I felt being in his company was something I had not felt since prior to my father’s passing, and the blanket of relief warmed my aching body’s extremities nicely.

“So, have you decided which college you want to go to after the summer’s over, July?” He asked, lightly stroking my clasp hands that were sitting in my lap.

The concern in his voice, along with his affectionate actions tugged at my heart.   Theotis and I had known each other since kindergarten, so I knew I could relax and be myself with him.   Out of all the teenage boys in the neighborhood he was, by far, the one whose presence always melted my heart.   I was like liquid detergent when I was around him.

Lowering my head, I told him my two choices — embarrassed, somewhat, by the earlier event that he had just rescued me from.   Had it been anyone else I knew, I would have been ashamed, but he had never been judgemental — to me or anyone we knew.  He was the sweetest man, after my father, that I knew.

“U. C. Berkeley, or Sacramento State…. I still haven’t decided.  What about you, Theo?” I asked, sighing at the thought of possibly not seeing him every day.

Theotis Robinson was one of the last true teenage gentlemen.  He never wore his pants sagging off of his ass like most of the guys at school.   His athletic prowess was skillfully smooth and exact.   His academic resume was impressively stellar, and his charming demeanor was captivating and genuine.  Girls swooned in his presence.

Unlike his fellow male counterparts, he wasn’t sniffing around every “big-bootied” female on campus trying to hit it and quit it — no, he had more respect for women than that.  In addition to all of those enduring qualities, his physique was tall, thick, and toned.

His facial characteristics were a cross between pretty-boy and ruggedly handsome.   His large, oval shaped-eyes were dark brown in color, and the lashes surrounding them were lush and thick — his perfectly arched eye-brows were a birth trait, and his masculine aura pulled you into his subtle masculinity.   He was a twin-dimpled, mahogany-hued hunk of handsomeness with two of the fullest kissable lips in town.

And there I was, alone with him.

Sigh.

“I was thinking, perhaps, Morehouse, Dillard, or one of the other black colleges back south,” he said, licking his lips like L. L.

My heart literally sank upon hearing his choice to move out of California and attend school back south.  It never dawned on me that his aspirations would differ from mine, so when the harsh reality of life after High School struck that chord, I heard it loudly.

“So, I guess this means that July Summer’s is really going to be on her own, huh?” I asked, rhetorically, not really expecting an answer.

Sadness swept across me as if it knew I was at an extremely vulnerable point in my life.  My father’s passing and now this, yet another loss.  At eighteen years old I had never felt more alone in the world.  I wondered what God’s plan was for me.

“July, just because we’ll be in different states doesn’t mean our bond will be broken — we’re like sea and sand, we’ll always meet regardless of the tide being high or low.  The only thing it really means is that we’re going to grow as individuals, and with all of the communication and transportation options available, we’ll be able to talk to or see each other whenever we need to.

The warm assured confidence in his  tone did not erase the doubt and melancholy mood I was in all the way, but it seemed to ease some of the uncertain tension that had built up within the outer realms of my spirit.  I was lighter mentally, knowing I did actually have somebody on my side as I faced the future.

“Theo, before another second slips by, I need you to know that…”

He cut me off mid-sentance.

“Come on now, there’s no need to get all serious, July.   We’re young, intelligent, and ambitious — the world outside this window is our amusement park and it’s time for us to climb aboard as many rides as we can, baby,” he said, leaning into me playfully.

I looked over at him with a broad, severe-grin, captivated by his optimistic glow.  For the first time ever, I saw him as a man and not a teenage boy.

Without giving him time to object, I leaned over and brushed my lips across his.

He pulled back.

“July…” he said, startled.

I was somewhat taken aback by his reaction and wondered why he was rejecting me — Especially since his arms always manged to find their way to my waist whenever we walked around campus, or sat and watched a movie together.

Hell, what was wrong?

Was I reading more into things than he was?

Maybe he was Gay… hell, I don’t know.

Umm, scratch that Gay part -lol-  I’m just hurt.

“What’s wrong, Theo?” I asked, studying his facial expressions like I studied that last term paper I had to write.

“Nothing…it’s just that…well…I’ve never done anything beyond holding a girls hand, July, and I’m not sure I want to at this point in my life,” He said, turning away from me.

Well, damn.

I suppose I wasn’t the only one inexperienced in matters related to intimacy, but there was something about his admission that further intrigued me with my childhood friend.

Instead of pursuing that train, I shifted tracks.

“Say, handsome, I never thanked you for saving my life earlier.  Thank you so much, and thank you for making tonight special for me,” I told him, as I traced the outer-part of his ear with the tip of my index-finger.

He bashfully shrugged his shoulders.

“You’re worth saving, and I need you to know that,” He whispered, leaning over and rubbing his nose against mine.

“College is such a humungeous institution.   How am I going to lean on your shoulder when you’re going to be thousands of miles away, man?” I asked him, chuckling with a tinge of sadness in my tone.

“You’ll just need to close your eyes, little holiday, and I’ll be right…” He pointed to my heart, “there.”

“Holiday?” I giggled.

“Yeah, you’re my 4th of July, girl — you light up my skies, baby,” he cooed in a low, sexy, vibrato.

“You’re silly,” I told him.

“And you’re lovely,” he said.

“July, look out there,” he said, pulling the window curtain back, pointing towards the sky.

“Okay, I’m looking.  What am I looking at?” I asked, wondering where the hell he was going with this one.

“Whatever it is you want in life can be yours as long as you can strong as a woman without the crutch of any illicit drug, a parent’s approval, and definitely not a man — all you need to do is believe in yourself, have faith in God, and know that I’ll be right there in your corner, always.”

“But, I’m so young,” was my response, and I hated myself for saying it too, because it sounded weak.

“July, I’ve known you for a long time, and I know what you’re capable of.  Your resilient spirit is why I fell for you,” he said — another admission that rang beautifully inside of my ears.

“My mother hates me for being born, Theo.  How am I supposed to overcome that insane revelation?” I asked, knowing very well that it wasn’t a question for him to answer, because that responsibility belonged to me, but he did a good job trying to.

“Walking away from it now is the best thing you can do, baby.  Your mother’s issues belong solely to her and not you. Right now we need to start mapping out our own courses to take in this life.  You need to just thank God you are getting that diploma — use it as your ticket to a higher education and to that next phase in your life,” he told me with a seriousness in his eyes that indicated to me that he wanted me to start believing that I could stand on my own.

______________________________________________

Two weeks flew by like a high-speed rail train, and the afternoon of our 12th Grade Graduation had arrived.   Hundreds turned out to observe Sequoia High School’s graduating class make the transition from supervised teenagers to unsupervised young adults.

In attendance were relatives from my father’s side of the family who had flown in from Gulfport, Mississippi to witness the event.   Noticeably absent was my mother, and I was relieved.   We had not spoken a word to each other since that night, so had she shown up it would have been a miracle.

My dad’s older sister, Augustine Summer’s (she had never been married), was on a mission that started after she heard what had happened, but their younger brother, Milton, persuaded her to leave my mother alone.   After several heated-discussions between them, Augustine promised him that she wouldn’t “rope-a-dope” my mother for beating me up.

“Darling, your father was so proud of you,” Aunt Augustine said, wiping the excess oil from off of my forehead with one of her trademark, embroidered, handkerchiefs.

The striking resemblance between she and dad was uncanny.   Both had caramel-colored skin, slanted-eyes, and short stocky builds, but my aunt had the hour-glass figure of a woman who watched what she ate.   Dad, on the other hand, had broad shoulders and a thick waistline — compliments of his fried-food diet and love of beer.

“Aunt Auggie (my nickname for her), I can’t stop crying at night.   I miss him so much it hurts, and with him gone my heart feel so empty,” I blurted out, as a steaming trail of tears rolled down my cheeks.

I could tell by her deep sigh that I wasn’t the only one trying to cope with Dad’s untimely departure, and in some peculiar way it consoled me.   Perhaps it had something to do with the bloodline we shared, because the bond of family is that underlying root that runs deep.   Whatever it was I felt grateful for it.

“Now look, child, this is a day to rejoice in achievement and it’s also a moment in time that only comes around once in a lifetime.  If you loved him, you’ll honor his memory by embracing this landmark in your life, accepting that diploma they’re about to give you, and by walking across that stage with pride, basking in the rewards that your hard-work has yielded,” she said, firmly, while positioning and securing my purple cap to my head.

Listening to her words of wisdom, I took in the love I found in her eyes, allowing the words she spoke to invade my soul, and I could feel my father’s spirit cloaking my heart with love and warmth.   It let me know that he really was with me, and it strengthened me as if he were there, physically, wrapping his arms around me.

I had no sooner finished that thought when Theo and his parents walked up to where we were standing.  When I saw his smiling face, a large grin spread across mine and Aunt Auggie noticed it immediately.  I cringed because I knew she would say something to embarrass me.

“Aww Sookie-Sookie Now, “she shrilled.

“What?” I nervously asked, knowing full-well that she was going to meddle.

“So, who is this handsome hunk of delight here,” she asked, winking at Theo.

I couldn’t help but giggle like I had been tickled.

“This is my friend, Theotis Robinson and his parents, Audry and Randolf,” I said, introducing everyone.

“It’s nice to meet you,” they all said in unison.

“Anybody that can put a smile on my nieces face like this has to be special, “Aunt Auggie said, bursting into a husky-laugh that infected everyone present.

After conversing for about fifteen minutes, the principle’s articulate, authoritative voice announced to everyone that the ceremony was about to begin.   Everyone gave Theo and I one last tight hug before making their way through the crowded auditorium to their seats.

The stage was set for an unforgettable afternoon.

About forty-five minutes into the program someone entered the auditorium late, causing several heads to turn in irritation.   When I adjusted my eyes I saw that the late arrival was none other than, Jasmine Summers, my reluctant maternal host.  I couldn’t believe that she had the audacity to show her face on my special day.

Knowing how Aunt Auggie felt about the entire distorted event that had taken place, I quickly scanned and located her in the crowd, wondering how she was going to react to my mother’s disruptive arrival.   I watched as their eyes locked and, judging by Aunt Auggie’s disgusted expression, I knew without a doubt that things were going to get two degrees darker than ugly.

There was nothing I could do or say to avoid the inevitable.  In my aunt’s eyes, you mess were her brother’s child, you messed with her.   For some reason I felt sorry for my mother, because I knew that Aunt Auggie had the strength of a cotton picker from the southern fields. My dad used to tell me that she was stronger than most men back where they grew up, and that’s probably why she’s not married to this day — no grown ass man wants his woman whipping his ass.

LOL — I had to laugh at that one.

Now, I’d be a hypocrite if I said that I didn’t want Aunt Auggie to polish the floor up with my mother’s shoulder-lengthy, auburn colored locks, so I’ll save the wholesome shit for the P. T. L. Network.   I so wanted to taste the sweetness of revenge, but deep inside I knew better.

Dad used to tell me all of the time that “the easiest thing to do is throw a fist,” and those words bounced right off of heaven’s gate like the divine light reflecting from off of an angel’s harp.

Uh, huh, Dad’s spirit was in the house.

During the rest of the ceremony my senses were on heightened alert, and I found it hard to stay focused on the motivating words being express by sentimental faculty members, but once our class valedictorian’s name was called, I shut out all of the looming drama polluting my mind to give my undivided attention to the guy that saw me through one of the most horrific night’s of my life.

I followed his suave-stride up to the podium quietly with my eyes — never once taking them off him.   The white-collar of his starched-white shirt seemed to sparkle against the shiny-purple colored robe he was wearing.   Once he reached his destination, he cleared his throat, paused before speaking, and smiled as he took in the energy from the crowd whom were waiting patiently for him to begin his speech.

“That’s my baby!” His mother shouted, causing the entire auditorium to erupt into simultaneous laughter.

All Theo could do was blush.

Damn, he looked so handsome and confident standing up there.

Once the laughter trickled down, he acknowledged both his parents, thanking them for always being supportive in his life, and then he hurled a curve-ball that I never saw coming.

“Of all the months that I know, July has always been my favorite.   There is some profound significance in that 7th month of the 12.   Perhaps it’s the 4th day that symbolizes Independence & Freedom, but then it just might be the joy I feel inside because the weather is so warm, the days are longer, the BBQ’s are scenting the air, and families and friends are all pulled together for the theme of enjoyment,” he stated, grasping both sides of the podium, stalling to catch up with his next slew of thoughts.

Whether anyone knew where he was going with his speech remained to be seen, but in my heart I knew that, though it was being delivered to all graduates, he was directing it solely at me.  Outside of my father, no one had ever taken such an interest in me and it made me feel so special.

“Ladies & gentlemen, respected faculty members, and fellow classmates, one of my proudest accomplishments outside of my scholastic ones has been being the rock for others in need, and it’s not something I promote, because I don’t do it for the accolades, nor press.  I do it out of pure compassion for those whom feel alone and unnecessary in the world.  Lifting spirits has come to be a fulfilling task that brings me insurmountable joy,” he said, pausing again, allowing everyone to digest his words of nourishment and encouragement.

As I sat there, taking in every word of his commencement testimony, my thoughts drifted backwards to unpleasant memories created from the tumultuous periods in my life that always included my mother’s cross-glares, belittling words, and painful criticisms.

Whenever I made something in Arts & Crafts that I was proud of, I’d carefully carry it from the classroom, then on to the bus, and I always made sure that no one bumped up against it on the ride home.  When I finally burst through the door at home, I’d present it to my mother hoping that it would put a smile on her face.

By fifth grade I realized that all of those efforts to please her were futile.

“Get this tacky shit out of my living room,” she said, when I brought home the paper-mache’ basket filled with colorful balls of yarn.

“Now what the hell matches this ugly ass shit here, July?  I see God must have  given me all of the good taste in this damn family,” she creaked, as she threw the emerald-green vase that I had made in pottery class into the kitchen trash can.

She even balked after I stopped bringing my Arts & Crafts home.  “Well, damn, you finally got the hint and stopped bringing all that extra garbage into the house.  It’s about time you started listening, girl!”

I hated her.

I can recall the few times when her words crossed over from verbal into physical, but that’s when my father would step in and ask that she keep her hands off of his child.  When he said “His” child, that riled her up and erupted into a full-scale argument –she’d stomp, rant, rave, hurl and break up anything she got her hands on.

“She came outta me, Sean, not you, so don’t ever disregard the pain I went through getting our daughter here, because the law is always, and I repeat, always on the mother’s side, baby, so don’t get the shit twisted!” She’d tell him.

Whenever he thwarted her efforts to harm me, she always threatened him with legal action, promising to take him for everything he made or thought about making.  “I’ll get the courts on that check and you’ll swear that I was the “got-dayum” I. R. S.!”

Unfortunately, he’d always back down.  Sometimes I hated him for that too.

“Uh, huh, I thought so,” she’d say, rubbing salt into the open wound she had just created.

The night he died she acted like a complete fool — phony as a swap-meet Gucci-Bag.

“Baby, don’t leave me, I cannot make it without you,” she sobbed, crying over his body causing eyes to roll and necks snap left and right in disbelief’

Her mourning period pretty much ended when that $500,000 life insure check was deposited into her account.

That’s when she really started getting fowl.

That’s when she just knew her shit didn’t stink.

That’s when she’d tell off anyone who looked at her the wrong way.

That’s when hell for me kicked into over drive.

“Eighteen cometh, and every bitch in this house who ain’t the owner has to get up and get the fuck out,” she’d say, talking to herself while stirring her witch’s brew on the stove.

Even though she didn’t say it directly to me, I knew she was directing it at me.  I wanted to say to her so bad that I had no intention on living under the same roof with a psych ward patient, but I kept my mouth closed and counted down the days until that day that I would be rid of her once and for all.

When the principle called my name, it jolted me out of my flash-back.   I stood up, smoothed my gown out, and then made my way over towards the corner end of the stage where he was standing, smiling with my diploma in his hand.

That’s when I heard my Aunt Auzzie scream in delight.

“That’s my brother’s baby! You go July Summers… you go girl!” she shrieked with delight.

The whole auditorium erupted into thunderous laughter again and it removed, temporarily, all of those previous thoughts I had prior to my name being called.

When I reached for my diploma and shook his hand, the principle mouthed something to me that I still carry around to this day, he said…

“You have been a joy, July”.

Joy.

My whole life had come full circle with those beautiful words I had just heard.   They captured my inner-self and sent it soaring to a plain of possibility, shooting my confidence into orbit.   I didn’t second-guess what he said, instead I embraced it and held it as tightly as I used to hold my favorite hand-made doll named, Oracle.

When I made it back to my seat, I was beaming with pride, because after so many years of searching for self-worth, I had found that it was something that I always possessed.  Never before had I known joy on this level that I was experiencing, and it felt invigorating.

The proverbial icing on the cake came when I heard the closing words from our principal.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present to you the class of 2011.  May God bless them with courage and lead them through the next phase of their lives safely and successfully.  Yes, may all of their dreams come true,” He said, ending his closing speech.

With that, we all moved our tassels over in unison, and then threw our caps up into the sky victoriously.  As they rained down, the booming applause and loud cheering electrified the walls of the auditorium.   I just knew that nothing could steal the joy I had found.

I knew without a doubt, that I could stand on my own and be successful in life.

Looking up into the sky, I whispered to myself, “Daddy, I’m going to make you proud.”

(Psalms 30:5)

(Originally published in Tiffany Lewis’ July 2011 edition of Thematic Magazine)

                                                             AUTHOR G D GRACE

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(Psalms 30:5)

Author G. D. Grace reserves all rights and reproduction without written permission is not permitted.  If found, legal action will be taken against the person(s) or company(s) that have cut or pasted (Plagiarized) any portion of this written document.  Author, G. D. Grace; Published © 2011 July