The party was well underway, with several more guests arriving. Mothers kissed their girls and hugged their boys and promised to return in two and a half hours to collect them, being it was a school night. Diedra’s mother, Pauline Brown, had purchased streamers and balloons of assorted colors from the nearby Family Dollar just moments earlier before the party begun. She made a delicious chocolate-on-chocolate layer cake, knowing it was Diedra’s favorite. Diedra was unusually giddy, seeing as her mother rarely went so far out of her way to do something for her youngest daughter. She might as well be her only daughter. Pauline had two older daughters, Shamika, twelve, and Marcella, ten, but both stayed with their respective fathers. Lucky for Diedra, her father was still with her mother, so she stayed with them, of course. Or maybe she wasn't so lucky, because Diedra could never grasp why her two older sisters could not stay with her too, even though both fathers adamantly refused it, barely allowing them to pay visits. In fact, Diedra only met Marcella on three occasions and Shamika on two.
Yet, somehow, she could slightly understand why their fathers were so disapproving. Pauline was an alcoholic, in all sense of the word. She drank at all times of the day. Early in the morning, Diedra would watch her take down half a quart-size bottle of Vodka before leaving for the suburbs of Detroit, where she served as a housekeeper to the Smiths,' a wealthy, political family. When her mother would return home in the evening, she would polish off the remaining Vodka and start on a 40-ounce bottle of beer. Like clockwork, when her father, Kevin Johnson, returned home from his factory job, the yelling would begin. Alas, cooking dinner was never completed in between the sips. His yelling always detonated a relentless screaming match that would sometimes result in physical violence, especially if her father decided to partake in the drinking festivities. Without fail, the critical reason behind the legendary battles was always the same: Pauline’s mounting infidelities. Kevin always suspected her of sleeping around, and although they were not married, he still expected some level of respect, he being one of very few men who could put up with her. As days turned into months and her mother became more and more reckless with her indecencies, Kevin grew more volatile and dangerous.
Tonight was no different. Only a half an hour after the party commenced, Kevin spotted Pauline cozying up to one of her suspected affairs in the living room. He had just arrived home, after stopping by the neighborhood bar to have a few drinks with his co-workers. Pauline, who was on her fourth glass of Jack Daniels, didn't notice Kevin glaring at her, threateningly, from the kitchen. She was too busy with Charlie Davis from a few doors down, giggling up a storm on the worn and torn lopsided couch as he poked her side, playfully, along with a few other touchy-feely gestures. Kevin attempted to conceal his simmering fury, but the drinks he had consumed earlier began to cloud his better judgment. He stormed into the living room, accidentally popping a balloon in the process. The house grew silent. Kevin did not.
“What the fuck is this!” he swore, staring angrily at the oblivious, flirty couple.
Charlie moved away quickly, sensing more trouble than he had bargained for was coming his way. Pauline stood to face Kevin.
“What it look like?” she challenged him, placing her left hand to hip.
“Don’t fuck with me, Pauline!” he yelled, pointing a finger at her.
“Or what, Kevin?” Pauline yelled back, with a noticeable slur, raising both arms. “You going to hit me? In front of all these people? Is that what you going to do?”
Kevin glanced around at the sparse audience, some already leaving.
“You like making me look like a fool, don’t you?” he challenged, furiously, his left leg shaking, signaling danger.
“Cut the shit, Kevin!” Pauline roared, too far gone to care. “You already a damn fool!”
“And you already a damn whore! he countered. ``Don’t know why I stayed around!”
“Fuck you, bastard!”
“No. Fuck you!”
Charlie attempted to make an escape amidst the growing drama. Kevin noticed him from the corner of his eye and pushed him back as he started to leave.
“Where the fuck you think you going?!” Kevin bellowed, eyes narrowing.
“Man, I ain’t mean to--” Charlie started.
“To fuck my girl?!”
With one quick swipe, Kevin swung at Charlie, connecting squarely with his jaw. He stumbled back, tripping over an uneven floor board and crashing into the ancient television, sitting on top a rickety stand. As the three fell to the floor, television breaking in the crash, a small girl screamed nearby. Parents and children scurried out the front door, leaving Diedra in the kitchen alone, sitting by her beloved cake and gifts.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Pauline growled, lunging toward Kevin.
Kevin slapped her hard on her pretty face, sending her crumbling downward. Charlie had already gotten up and fled home, leaving Kevin and Pauline in the living room.
“I hate you, motherfucker!” Pauline screamed, lifting herself off the floor.
Kevin yanked her angrily, pulling her close to his face.
“Don’t you know I will kill you?” he whispered with contempt, his jaw quivering with unbridled fury.
Pauline began to sober quickly, her angry eyes dissolving to fear. Kevin had never said that to her before. Diedra ran to her room. Closing the door and turning the lock, tears clouded her eyes and threatened to escape onto her sullen face. She climbed into her bed, lying face up, finally letting the tears tumble freely. Could they not let it rest? Was it not enough that today was her birthday? She thought it was going to be a good day. Her mother actually took the time to bake a cake. She took the time, something she always claimed to never have before for Diedra. Sobbing uncontrollably, she could still hear through the bedroom wall the battle continue for another thirty minutes. So many swears and ‘I hate you’s’ were uttered that Diedra lost count. Then the cacophony ceased. Eerie silence. Diedra lied still, waiting for it to begin again. Suddenly, someone began banging insanely on Diedra’s door. She sat straight up in the bed, clutching her pillow, tears still flowing down her face.
“Diedra, open the door!” Kevin yelled angrily from the other side.
Diedra was terribly frightened. If she opened the door, it could be dangerous. If she did not, it could be more of the same. Maybe if she remained quiet, she thought, he would go away.
Before she could decide what to do, the door was being forced ajar, pieces of wood flying in the process as it flung open. Kevin stood in the doorway, with bloodshot eyes and a crazed demeanor stamped on his face. He had kicked open the door. Diedra had never witnessed her father in such an uncontrollable state and she feared for her life.
“Didn’t I tell your ass to open the door?” he asked, venomously.
Diedra nodded her head rapidly, tightening her grip on her pillow, wanting to close her eyes, yet powerless to move.
“I can’t hear you!” Kevin roared, walking quickly toward the bed.
“Yes, sir! Yes, sir!” Diedra responded through loud sobs, shaking feverishly.
He stopped in front of her and knelt down until they were face to face. He came in closer, with only centimeters between them. She smelled the stench of alcohol on his breath and it burned her watery eyes. She could not mask her palpable fear.
“You listen to me,” Kevin started, looking at his eight-year-old daughter as if it was the first time their eyes had met. “Your mother ain’t nothing but a lying slut and you’ll be nothing but one either. All women are backstabbing whores, not to be trusted. You Brown women are only good for one thing, you will soon enough find out. Don’t you forget that. You hear me, you little slut? Huh?”
“Yes…sir.” Diedra cried quietly, wishing it were all a bad nightmare.
“Good,” he responded calmly, standing unsteadily. He walked to the door, beginning to close it, then looked back.
“Nothing but a slut. Nothing but a slut.”
Kevin Johnson, her biological father, a man whom she loved and thought loved her, walked out her bedroom. Somehow, she knew he was leaving and it would probably be the last time she would ever see him. The downpour of tears increased and her pillow became drenched, yet she could not move. She heard the front door slam moments later and she knew her dad was gone. He had said some very mean and hurtful things to her and she could not understand why. Was she a slut? Was her mother? Diedra couldn't comprehend how he could be so vicious, all of a sudden. What had she done to her father for him to call her such names? Had she not loved him enough? Were she not good enough? Her inability to understand the current events caused her to sob inconsolably. She cried listlessly, until her broken bedroom door crept open. Her mother stumbled in, head low, slowly making her way to her daughter’s bed. Gradually, she raised her head and Diedra shuddered in fear. Blood ran from Pauline’s left nostril, around the corner of her mouth, circling under her chin. Her right eye was dark and swollen, halfway shut. Her hair was wild and brazen.
“What did you say to him?” she asked dangerously, standing over Diedra.
Diedra shook her head, puzzled as to what was happening. Pauline raised her hand and slapped her young daughter across the face, causing her to cry out. Diedra held her face to soothe the pain and edged away slowly.
“What did you say to your damn daddy to make him leave?” Pauline screamed crazily at her frightened daughter.
Diedra was paralyzed with fear and opened her mouth, yet nothing emitted.
Pauline lowered her head, muttering angrily to herself. She began towards the door.
“You made your daddy go away,” she said as she left the room. “Don’t you ever forget that.”
As she slammed the door, Diedra buried her head in her pillow and cried even harder. She cried so deeply, her stomach ached. She cried deeper than any eight-year-old ever should. Diedra cried herself to sleep.
Excerpted from "Concrete Rose" by Jusbleave. Copyright © 0 by Jusbleave. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.