The three women concur in various degrees as they fidget in the chair.
"Since we have never interviewed any of the ladies from the hill , I'll give a short introduction. Through the writings of her memoirs, Phyllis Price employs flashbacks and subtle weaving of conversations with her friends to explain the presence of Sam as the heavy observance of a jealous lover. Tone'ya Knowes is a divorced mother of two daughters and attending college in the hope of starting a nursing career is the group’s know-it-all. Rayne Moore, the youngest member of the group, is mother of a son and is living with an older man. Frankie Duz, home schools her children baby sits on the side and Jenny Needs is a parent of four children and a teacher in the public schools. At four o’clock in the evening on a daily basis the women get together at Phyllis’ house to watch Oprah, eat snacks and discuss the events of their day. They call it their ‘Stress Bashin’ Session’. The ladies are going to share one of the times the consoled Jenny through an impending and potentially emotionally damaging holiday visit with her family.
Phyliss startes the conversation.
"We've all decided I will do the talking. It all started with Tone'ya telling of a horrible visit with Sam. I remember as if it were yesterday. Tone'ya walked into the room and sat dejectedly in a chair and said....
"Well hell, I'm doing my best and what do I get - Damned brushed off. I found me a job, don't cheer, yet.” She waved our adulation down. "You haven't heard everything. The job would have fit in with just what I need. Do you think Sam gives a damn?" She gave me an apologetic wink because she kew I didn't like cursing in my house. “Nooo, he just put me completely off and took everything away. What the hell am I supposed to do? How am I going to take care of the girls? The damned job is part time. I'll have to pay everyday for transportation to and from school and work. I'll barely be making enough money to bring any home. Hell, the only good thing I have going for me so far is my housing. That's if they don't take that away. I really thought that going to school was a good thing. That shrewd little deceptive bastard knows how to keep a woman tied to him, but he is a liar and I'll be damned if I go crawling back.” Tone'ya leaned back in her seat with a defeated look plastered on her face and sighed deeply.
I'd looked around at my friends. Defeat was definitely smothering the joy out of the room. Each one of them sitting and contemplating their own situations. As unobtrusive as possible, Jenny stood and cleared her throat.
"I'm gonna go in the back and check on the kids.” She announced to no one in particular and walked quickly out of the room.
Jenny was the less vocal member of our group. A substitute teacher in the public schools and we respected her immensely. Maybe it was because she was the oldest of us all. Forty years old. Not that her age would make a difference, because it was hard to tell just how old she was. She was a beautiful forty-year-old woman. I felt that she was a little too thin. She looked really young and dressed very nice. Her dark skin was extremely pretty. Smooth, unmarked and unwrinkled and her hair was always neat. Jenny rarely complained of her financial problems and never mentioned the fact, her husband of twelve years, had recently left her for her younger cousin. The sad droop of her shoulders as she walked out of the room made me leave my place on the floor and follow her into the hallway.
Half way down the hall, I could hear the soft sounds of her smothered crying coming through the closed bathroom door. Putting my ear to the wood, I tapped lightly.
"Jenny? Why don't you let me in so we can talk? Things always seem better when you let it out.”
"I'll be all right in a minute.” Sounds of Jenny trying to get control of herself could be clearly heard. "Just give me a couple of minutes to get myself together. I'm a little overwhelmed, that's all. It seems that things are falling apart all around me. I just don't feel like talking about anything right now.”
"Jenny.” I turned at the sound of Tone'ya's voice coming from behind me and saw that all of the other women had gathered at the door. God, I loved these women. No matter what, they always rallied around.
"Jenny," Tone'ya repeated. “You come on out of that bathroom. If you stay in there and try to smother down your feelings they will just fester and the next thing ya know, we'll be visiting you at the hospital because you have either stroked out or gone crazy. Things can't be that bad. Just think of all you've gone through in the past year. You've handled those things. You can handle this. We'll be right behind you.”
“That's right.”Frankie tapped on the door. “If you want, we'll go to that fool's house and burn it down for you.”
"Yeah," agreed Rayne. “We'll even cut up his tires.”
"I'd rather go to my cousin's house and kill her.”Jenny's muffled voice came through the door.
We all laughed.
"Not a problem.” said Frankie.
"Sounds like a plan to me.” Tone'ya agreed.
"Come on, girl.” I twisted the doorknob. “Come on out. The kids are starting to gather in the hallway. Lookin' at us like we're crazy and wondering what we are all doing out here.”
Tone'ya ushered the children back to the den and refilled their snacks and bottles while we continued to coax Jenny from herself imposed prison. By the time Tone'ya returned, we had accomplished our feat and returned to the living room. Oprah was on, and since it wasn't a show we were particularly interested in, we were staring at the muted screen. Everyone involved in her own thoughts.
Sitting in her favorite spot, Tone'ya swung her shoe and looked from one of us to the other.
"Well?" She asked after a few minutes. “What the hell is the problem? Jenny? Anyone?"
"It's nothing, really. I was just being silly. I guess all of the emotion that was flowing in this room just got to me.”
"Yeah, right" Tone'ya snickered. “You're not the type to run out crying. In the famous words that I heard uttered earlier, fess up, girl.”
"You all will probably think that I am just being stupid.”
"Why in the world would we think something like that?" Rayne asked.
I stretched my legs under the coffee table that sat in front of the couch.”I think you are one of the smartest people in this room. Who else can take care of four little children, two of them still babies and then hold down a job?"
"And to top all of that, you are always in such shining spirits. It's just not like you to be so down. Just tell us the problem and maybe we can help out. I'll even baby sit for you so you can take a night out, if a break is what you need.”
"Sure, I could use a break, but that's not the problem. Easter is coming up this weekend, you know.”
"And?" We questioned in unison.
“Well, I can't stand the idea of spending another holiday with my family.”She lowered her head as if stating the fact made her the worst person in the world.
"Is that all?"
"I don't want to see my mom, either.”Rayne stated emphatically.”All I ever hear is something sarcastic or derogatory about Shamel. The only thing my parents want to know is the date Shamel is going to make an honest woman of me. Or the day he moves out. They keep on telling me I can do better and that Shamey needs a real father. Ugh, now I feel like crying.”Rayne gave a very dramatic presentation of crying and we all laughed.
"I wish it was that easy.” Jenny continued. "When I say family, I mean my entire family. That includes my cousin the little skank. She and my husband were at my Granny's house for Christmas. My own flesh and blood. How in hell they were invited I don't even know. It doesn't seem fair. I'm the one that has been screwed and yet I get treated like the outcast. We're not even divorced, for God's sake. My husband sat in my Granny's house like he and my slutty cousin were doing nothing wrong. They blatantly walked around acting all lovey-dovey. Hugging and kissing all over each other like no one else was in the house. I was miserable, my girls were confused and the entire family was divided. It was the sorriest thing I have ever had to live through. The family didn't know how to react. I'm not going to go through that again. I couldn't believe they had the balls to show up there. Especially not him, not after all he had been telling me.”
"Girl, you know he was probably just trying to get him some draws. You know how men are.” Rayne smirked knowingly.
Jenny: "I should have known, but I guess I just wanted to believe what he was telling me. I had loved him for such a long time. You know how hard it is to let them go. Women were just made to be fools. That bastard had spent the previous week trying to talk me into taking him back. He was always telling me how much he loved and missed being with the children and me. Telling me that we have to be together before the New Year arrived and then he goes and shows up at my Granny's house with my cousin. I started to grab Granny's biggest knife and cut them up like a Christmas ham and feed them to the damned dogs. In the end, I left with my tail between my legs. Took my children's gifts and damn near had to fight him to get out of the house. Men are ignorant. He thought we could all play like one, big happy family and pretend like nothing was wrong. He thought he could screw my cousin one minute and then run to me the next. Freakin' bastard, I still can't believe that my Granny even allowed them in her house. Then I had to remember that the little slut is Granny's favorite and could do no wrong. My granny even took the little cow's side. She said, 'Baby, maybe the two of you weren't right for each other. I think he has the woman that's best suited for him. You just need to just face facts and get on with your life.' Granny even had the nerve to stand over me and pat me on the head like I was a cowering dog when she saw me crying in a corner of the kitchen. That made me so angry. That old lady just doesn't know how lucky she is that I have control over myself. I started to beat that old woman with her own cane.”
We all looked at each other with astonishment plastered on our faces. Frankie burst into a roar of loud laughter, which caused a domino effect and had us all falling over ourselves in merriment.
"Whew, remind me not to ever get you angry.”I gave an expressive shudder.
"Girl, I didn't know you had it in you. You had me sitting here picturing nasty ham on the table and old ladies walking around with cane lumps on their heads.”
"You're so stupid.”Jenny threw a small pillow from the couch at me.”It's not really funny. This is a tragedy."
"Well, I have a plan that will eliminate the stress from all of us, at least for one night..."
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