The Past

Brooklyn, New York

4:12pm

"Wait," Cassandra panted.

Ebony fought to hold her mother upright without Cassandra's help. The small staircase of their project building was narrow and small. Her mother slumped against the steps lifelessly and Ebony held tighter. Cassandra adjusted her backpack over her bubble coat. She chewed her gum feverishly.

She reached out for Janet again.

They were able to carry her up two flights of steps and to their apartment door. The girls practically threw her on the mattress with a huge huff. Her mother whimpered and groaned but staid in a state of unconsciousness.

Ebony took off her own coat and backpack and placed it on a worn chair in the corner.

"Hurry up and get home before your mom gets off work." Ebony shooed Cassandra out the room all the way to the front door. Her cousin had to take an hours' worth of trains and busses to get back to the Bronx from Brooklyn.

Her mother hadn't come home for three days. Ebony knew that meant she was somewhere stuck in the deepest pits of her addiction. Ebony skipped her last few classes and took a train out to Cassandra's school to wait for her dismissal. Together, they went to find her mother.

Cassandra was her strong force. She banged on doors with closed fists and checked anyone who got too close or too aggressive with a hand tight around the blade in her pink coat. Ebony would ask homeless people in the area if they had seen her by showing a photo and giving a name. Soon, Ebony had started to learn her mother's favorite drug houses and the people she associated with. They learned Ebony by name and face, too. She hated and appreciated the growing familiarity; she found her mother faster but it made the reality of her sobriety too normal.

Before Ebony was able to get her through the threshold, Cassandra whirled around. Her long box braids were splayed about on her shoulders. Her chocolate skin was creased with concern.

"You gonna be okay by yourself?" They both knew how her mother could be after a long stretch of being high. Her withdrawal symptoms would be some of the worse she'd seen. Ebony had an entire weekend to keep her mother locked away from the outside world. She would try her best to do it but her mother would put up a hard and probably physical fight.

"Yeah, I'll be alright." Ebony nodded assuredly. "Thank you so much." Ebony pulled her cousin in for a tight hug. They embraced deeply. They pulled away and Cassandra flashed a mouth full of braces. Ebony never knew how she managed to chew gum incessantly.

"I can think of a couple pre-calculus homework ways to thank me." She smiled mischievously. Ebony rolled her eyes.

"Ebony?" Her mother whined. They both looked toward the back of the apartment where the sound came from.

"I'll come check on you this weekend!" Cassandra called as she walked down the hall. Ebony waved and closed the door behind her. She went back to check on her mother.

"Ebony?" Janet called again. Ebony took off her shoes and socks.

"I'm here." She said gently. Ebony climbed into bed with her mother. Ebony bypassed the pungent smell of a world she didn't know that clung to her mother's body. Still, she wrapped her arms around her sweaty body and held her close.

"My Angel..." Ebony woke up to her mother's hallucinogenic chanting. The room was pitched black but her mother was still in bed. That was all the affirmation she needed in the darkness. She squirmed in Ebony's arms but Ebony didn't let go. "Why would you do this to me?" Her mother cried.

Ebony listened intently. She knew all the bits and pieces off her family from what her mother lamented while she was high. Ebony always hoped the fragments of information would someday lead into a bigger picture that she could one day see. Maybe about her father or her mother's life before her. But everything she said only made Ebony more confused. Sober, she wouldn't utter a word.

"Daddy, I'm so sorry." She held her mother tighter. "Please forgive me."

"It's okay, mama." Ebony comforted. She hated to hear all the pain her mother held in her heart. Her hopeless pleading always turned her stomach. Ebony wished she could bear the burden her mother harbored in hopes of giving her peace. Maybe she wouldn't need drugs to give it to her instead.

***

Willadeene's

Harper, Texas

7:00pm

"What is this?" Ebony asked. She was in the front of a shrunken Daniel in a suit that draped off his hunched, old body. He held roses and a card. At first, Ebony thought it was a joke when she saw him at the foot of the steps. Now, it was turning into a weirdly odd scene.

Behind him stood a tall, brooding man.

Ebony looked back to Willadeene and her expression was narrowed in on Daniel.

"He's here for dinner." Willadeene announced. Ebony snorted.

"I'm not having dinner with him."

"Miss," The huge man behind him asked. His soft tone was stark against his physical appearance. "Please." Ebony folded her arms against her chest.

Dinner was silent. No one spoke a word.

Ebony was going to skip eating tonight but once she was in front of Willadeene's chili, she was somewhat glad she didn't. She was starving after being locked away in her room most of the day. She finished her food and backed away from the table. She rinsed her bowl and put it in the dishwasher.

"Goodnight." She announced.

"Ms. Brown," Daniel reached his hand out to stop her. She looked down on his bandaged wrist. It wasn't bandaged the day before.

"What happened to your hand?" Ebony asked. Everyone stopped eating. Gerardo and Willadeene looked to Daniel to watch him answer.

"I hurt it workin' on the field after you left." Daniel gave a weak smile. She saw through the lie.

"Silas did that to you." She stated. Gerardo went back to his meal. Daniel shook his head vehemently.

"No—" He started to protest.

"Have a good night." She turned on her heel and headed back to her room. She closed and locked the door behind herself.

The evening moon beckoned her back onto the balcony. She opened the French doors and basked in the beauty of the grasses at night.

Silas had caused someone else physical harm on her behalf. She told him she didn't care enough about the situation for him to even bring it up let alone hurt the man for it. He only did it for himself and his own ego. Nothing about Daniel's humiliation brought her peace with what he'd done. She had already forgiven him.

What Silas should have been concerned with was his disappearance. If he had cared half as much about his rude departure as he did Daniel's choices, they would all be better off. The only apology she wanted was from him, not Daniel.

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