Excerpt from The Women of the Hill
Rayne strolled through the door and immediately sat in her favorite spot, on the floor in front of the television and picked up the remote. She put the television's sound on mute and turned to look at us. Holding her hand up to silence Tone'ya before she could utter a word, Rayne swung her gaze to encompass us all before starting to speak.
"Oprah's not on yet," She looked at her watch to check the time. “We have twenty minutes. I wanted to tell you all of this before she does come on. I know we all have been waiting for this particular show, I just have to tell you what happened last night. I need some advice.”
We all shouted in different degrees of anticipation when after a few minutes of quiet, she had added nothing. Rayne sat on the floor looking at us with a barrage of constantly changing emotions fluttering across her face. Struggling through one that looked like she was about to breakdown and one of anger she finally settled with a belligerent glare.
"I know what you all think, so don't yell. I went to see Shamel.”
She covered her face and hid her head from the shower of cookies and candy wrappers that flew her way. Tone'ya was the first to voice her opinion as usual.
"I thought we told you to forget that bastard.”
"I know, I know. He said he had something important to tell me and asked if I could meet him at Shorty's.”
"Did he pay for your food?" I asked.
"Naw. As a matter of fact, we never got around to ordering.”
"That's because he's a cheap bastard."
“That's too good a title for him.” Rayne moved her hand across her still flat stomach and sighed heavily.
"What did he want?" Jenny leaned her elbow on the arm of the couch and rested her chin in her hand.
"What lie did he tell you?"
Frankie glared at Tone'ya, silently mouthing a few obscenities about her consistency in making blunt comments.
"No matter what he said, you think it through before you make any decisions.” Frankie advised Rayne.
Keeping her head down, Rayne traced the pattern of the carpet with her fingernail as she dropped her bombshell.
"Shamel wants me to have an abortion.”
"You have got to be kidding.” Jenny put her drink on the table leaned across it and tapped Rayne on her downcast head.
"I'm not kidding at all," She raised her head and turned to face Jenny.
“I can't believe the sorry bastard would have the nerve to make such a suggestion.”
"I started to kill him on the spot.” Rayne, her anger spurring her on raised both of her hand to silence us when we cheered and applauded at her comment. “Let me tell you how it was. I had just given Shamey his bath and was putting on his bedclothes when the telephone rang. Running across the room, I tripped over a toy and almost fell. Catching myself by grabbing the edge of the table, I managed to hit only my knee.” She pointed to the large bruise right above the kneecap.
"Anyway, when I picked up the receiver to put it to my ear I had just uttered a curse word at the pain in my knee and Shamel thought I was talking to him so he started cursing me before I could get another word out…
"Damn, Shamel watch your mouth. I wasn't even talking to you. I had just hit my leg on the damn table as I answered the phone. I didn't even know it was you on the telephone. If I had, I wouldn't have answered.” She rubbed the offending appendage.
"Right Like you didn't check the ID box.”
"Believe me I have no reason to screen my calls. I know who is supposed to be calling here and any one of them I would gladly talk with. You are the last person I expected to ever call here.”
"You must be talkin about those smart mouthed, dumb-assed Oprah watchin bitches.”
Rayne irritably reached for Shamey's wet, squirming naked body and sat him on her bed.
"What do you want Shamel?"
She snapped into the receiver pushing the child's left arm through the sleeve of his pajama top a little rougher than was necessary, succeeding in making him whimper. Angry with herself for taking her irritation out on the child, she sighed heavily. Hugging Shamey close, Rayne tickled his chubby tummy until he chuckled in glee.
"Is that my boy? Put him on the phone.”
"No, damn it, Shamel. Just tell me what you want. I have more important things I could be doing right now, like cutting my toe nails or picking my nose.”
"Ha, you're so damn funny. I need to talk to you.”
“Uhm, tonight. I'll tell you why when I see you.”
"How are you going to see me? Where's your wife? Are you bringing her along?"
"Don't worry about her. I just need to talk to you about something.”
"Just tell me over the phone. I don't want to be seen with you. My rep as a decent human being will be shot to hell. Anyway, I just gave Shamey a bath.”
"Leave him with one of your friends.”
"Hell no. The boy is my child. I don't drop my responsibilities at a whim. Turn my back. Walk…"
"All right I get the point. Damn. Bring him with you if you want. Meet me at Shorty's. We can sit at one of the outdoor tables.”
"Why would I want Shamey running outside in the dark and the cold? He just had a bath.”Rayne reiterated in slow tones.
"Leave him in the damned car. I don't care.” Rayne bristled at Shamel's uncaring tone of voice.
"I know you don't. You talk as if my child is a bag of trash, worthless.”
"That's not how I meant to sound. I just want to get this arrangement set so I can leave out of here.”
"Fine. Will this be the last time I will ever have to talk to you?" Rayne clamped her lips on the angry words.
"I hope so. Meet me there in thirty minutes.”
Slowly replacing the receiver to cut off the dial tone resounding in her ears, Rayne finished dressing the child and slipped on her shoes. All the time berating herself for the way, she jumped at Shamel's every beck and call. Well, not every beck and call. The truth of the matter was that she had not seen or spoken to Shamel in the month since he had told her of his marriage and she couldn't imagine what he could possibly want. Ten minutes after snapping Shamey into his car seat, Rayne pulled up to Shorty's drive-in burger joint. She found a slot as close as she could to the picnic tables and threw the car into park.
Getting out of the car, she closed the door softly before crossing in front of the car's hood and walking to where Shamel sat smoking a cigarette. At least what she thought to be a cigarette until she was closer and could smell the nauseating odor of the marijuana.
"God, you stink. When the hell did you start smoking that?"
"You want some?" He stretched the butt out to her.
"Hell, naw" She put her hand on her stomach and turned her back to him.
"Oh, that's right. You're supposed to be pregnant, huh?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Rayne turned and searched Shamel's face. She lifted her shoulders and shook her head in a questioning manner. He eyed her from head to toe and took another drag of the marijuana. Staring at him curiously, she repeated her question. “What are you trying to insinuate? You think I'm lying about being pregnant. I wish I were. Having another child of yours is the last thing in life I would want to talk about unless it was true. I wish I had no earthly ties to you.”
Using the tips of his moistened fingers to snuff out the glow of the butt, Shamel stuck it in his jacket pocket and stood up.
"Where's my boy?" Shamel stood, both arms open wide in a typical 'what's up' attitude.
"In the car asleep.” She answered irritably.
He crossed with two long strides to the car and peeked through the crack in the window at the sleeping child.
"He's out like a light.”
"Same as I wanna be.” She answered irritably. ”I'm tired and I want to be home. What do you want, Shamel? I don't know why you want to act like Shamey means so much to you. You haven't talked to the boy in two months. You don't worry about whether or not he needs anything. Just tell me what the hell you called about.”
Rayne sat down at the table Shamel had vacated, tapping her nails on the wooden surface in annoyance. Shamel quickly strode back over and looked down at her in anger. His quickness in reaching her and the closeness of his angry stance caused her to scoot back in rejection of his nearness.
"Fine, I'll get right at it. I don't want you to have my child.”
"What? What the hell are you saying?"
"You heard me. I don't want you to have the baby you are carrying.”
"And so? What am I suppose to do? Give it away? Kill it just because you are not man enough to own up?"
"Lower your voice.” Shamel pulled the butt from his shirt pocket lit it and watched her through the smoke he blew into her face.
"You're supposed to suck in, not blow out.” Rayne fanned the noxious odor away from her face. Swallowing the nausea, she continued. “If you don't know how to smoke it Shamel, you need to throw it away.”
"Listen Rayne. I just got married. My wife and me want kids of our own. I can explain to her about Shamey because he's not a baby anymore. That's not a problem. What if she finds out you got yourself pregnant again? How am I gonna explain away a new baby? How do you think she will feel?"
"She should feel like a fool if she thinks I got pregnant by myself. Do you think I give a damn about what you tell her? Do you think I care how your wife feels? Did you care about me when you got married? Did you give a shit about my feelings? Hell fucking no. I think you should have told your damn wife that you were screwing another woman before you married her. As a matter of fact, you should have told her that you were living with someone.” She punched his chest. “That you had someone coming to your damned house constantly day and night. Someone you were already making a damned fool of?"
"For what?" He caught her hands when the swings made contact with his face. “So I could lose her? This woman and me could make it. She don't mind working.”
"You mean she doesn't mind taking care of you, supplying all of your needs. Hell, she is probably afraid she won't be able to find anyone else and is just settling on you. She must be some desperate fat cow.”
"Don't talk about my wife. What would I have if I kept you? What would I have? A stupid young welfare bitch?"
Jumping from her sitting position in horror, Rayne stood as if she had been slapped. Her face mirrored the shock, shame, and hurt that she felt at his words.
"So that's what I am, huh? That's what you think of me? You're the son-of-a-bitch that made me into a young welfare bitch. I wouldn't need welfare if you were a man and took care of your child. Don't try to make me shut up.” She shouted louder, slapping at the hands trying to make her sit back down. "Do you think I care that your homeboy's are staring at us? Hell no.” Rayne punched at his chest with her closed fist, not caring that his friends were cheering him on and laughing like idiots. “They care no more for their children than you do. I know that one in the middle.” She pointed her finger at the laughing idiot. “That fat bastard denies all six of his children and still thinks he can boss his woman by slapping her around and everything. Don't think all of your businesses aren't all over town. You all are a sorry bunch of excuses for men.” She fanned her hand to include the snickering men.
"You know you have played me for the last damned time, Shamel. Young, I may be, but I'll be damned if I'm stupid. I’ve learned a lot from dealing with you. I should have listened to my mother and finished school. But no, I let you, the person I thought loved me rule my world. But you know what; you can go straight to hell, Shamel. You think I'm going to end a child's life, so that you can live large. You must be out of your fucking mind.”
Walking quickly towards the car, she stopped just before getting in. Stunned by the words he yelled at her.
"What?" She incredulously asked, moving back around the car to stare at him in disbelief. "What the hell did you say? Who the hell do you think you are? You're playing with the wrong goddamned person, Shamel.” She put her hands on her hips angrily.
"You think so? I said, me and my wife," He stressed the word wife, “Are gonna take that boy from you. You're just a kid. You can't give him what we can.”Rayne threw back her head and laughed harshly. “Boy, I'm not even going to stand here and argue with you as if I care what you think or say. I can promise you this much, Shamel," she pointed across the car's hood at him, “The two of you will die trying, and you will be the first to go. You had better pay attention to what I am saying right now, don't make a mistake and take my words as a threat, take them as a promise, because I will hurt you.”
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