It was a hot Texas day. Only Houston summers have temperatures reaching 104 degrees daily. Kirby sat on a bench, under a big oak tree, at the neighborhood lake and watched the ducks swim. It was a typical Texas day and it was too hot to do anything that involved moving around. It was June and Kirby was already thinking about all the fun she would have on the Fourth of July. The Fourth meant barbecue and brothas. They would always come to the local park wearing their muscle shirts and shorts, eager to show off the bodies they had worked on all summer. With a smile on her face, Kirby sat back and remembered last year's Fourth; she saw fine brothas all day. They played football without shirts; they swam with very little clothes on, danced, played dominoes and cards. Last year, Kirby and her friends went to the park as usual and had a fabulous time sightseeing. But also last year Kirby did not have enough confidence in herself to approach any of the brothas so she spent the day just looking at all the eye candy in the park. This year I plan on approaching all the guys I want. If they say they are not interested then so be it; but this year it's on. Kirby proclaimed to herself as she sat under the big tree. Kirby's family would usually go on a family vacation for two weeks in June. Family vacations were wonderful for Kirby, they had gone on cruises, and had gone to the Bahamas, Jamaica, California, Florida and many other places. Vacations were great and Kirby love telling her friends all about my travels. After vacation she would take dance lessons and gymnastic classes for the rest of the summer.
Kirby did not like being at home these days. Her dad, Diondre, lost his job after twenty-one years. He was a petroleum engineer with one of the local oil refineries. Her dad was very successful at what he did and he made good money. Her mother worked as a secretary for an accounting firm. Dad was the bread winner and paid all the bills, while Mom's check went towards household items and weekend activities. It was a great system that had worked her entire life. Now that dad was home all day, all Kirby hears is "Turn off the lights when you leave the room". "You didn't finish all your food; do you know how much that cost?" and "Do you think we have a money tree in the backyard?" Her favorite was "When I was your age I had a job". What are you going to do all summer? He would eventually catch himself and say; you are Daddy's princess and I will always take care of you. At those times he would sit Kirby down and explain, that she was his princess and that he wanted to give her everything he never had while growing up. He would say, but right now money is tight. So it's all of our jobs to cut expenses, by turning off lights when we leave a room. "Just work with Daddy, Princess it won't be long". He would say. He always ended the conversation with I love you. You are my everything.
Kirby's family was a middle class family that lived in Missouri City, Texas; a suburb of Houston Texas. Kirby's mother, Kim grew up in Missouri City and wanted to raise her family there. Missouri City had everything you needed without the feel of the big city. Down the street from Kirby's house were the movies, skating ring, arcades, mall, library, ice cream parlor and many restaurants that housed the best cooks in Texas.
Kirby's dad was from Little Rock, Arkansas. He was a certified country man. He grew up with chickens in the backyard and a huge garden on the side of the chicken coop. Diondre knew how to kill a chicken with his bare hands. His household had chicken almost every day with home grown collard greens, peas and hot water cornbread. That was their meal almost every day. Like most country men, my dad was a barbecue master, and he would barbecue any type of meat — rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, deer no meat was safe from my dad's barbecue pit!
Kirby spent a lot of time this summer with her out-of-work dad. Her day was always moving around. If he wasn't hunting for a job, then he was bonding with Kirby. Most days they went to the movies and other days they stayed at home and played dominoes. Her dad was a self-proclaimed domin-knowledgist. She loved her daddy/ daughter time. Diondre always seemed to light up when Kirby was around. Kirby's mother, Kim, did not feel the same, and she tensed up the moment Diondre walked in the room. There were daily arguments in the house.
Mom told Dad "You have three months to find a job. I will not take care of you after that." That was March, but it was now June and Dad still did not have a job. Diondre was too proud to take just any job he said he had too much experience and knowledge to settle for less than he thought he deserved. Diondre had a master's in engineering from MIT. He didn't understand Kim's frustration; Diondre had always taken care of his family, and if he wanted to be picky and wait for the best job then what's the problem? They had plenty in savings to survive until he got another job. Kim was raised in a household that taught if you don't work, you don't eat; and that it's the man's job to provide for the household. Kim didn't care how much was in savings. If she got up every day and went to work; then he needed to get up and go to work. Kim was really getting upset when she called home and Diondre was asleep. Your job is getting a job, she would say. You don't have the luxury of sleeping during the day.
Kim came home one Thursday, just like any other Thursday; but this time she had boxes in her hand. She gave them to Dad and said "Get out". "What the hell do you want me to do Kim? Diondre shouted. "Where do you want me to go?" Diondre shouted. "I don't give a damn Diondre! Whatever you do, just do it away from here," she fired back. Diondre was ready to spit fire. He began throwing his things into the boxes Mom provided. I have never seen my dad that upset. He never spoke a word but the way he was throwing things into those boxes spoke volumes. "My sister told me about your ass — why I didn't listen is beyond me." Kim screamed.
"You're going to miss me — I promise you that." Diondre said and he left the house. Mom went to her room and cried. I didn't understand why she would cry since she was the one who told him to get out.
Later on that night Mom came out of her room; "We have to talk" she said, and she sat me down to explain that we would have to tighten our belts. She said I would have to go live with my aunt Jennifer for the remainder of the summer. It was at that point, that I knew our finances were really in jeopardy, because my mom and my aunt did not get along.
Aunt Jennifer is my dad's baby sister. All book sense and no street sense, my mom would say. She had potential but no drive. Aunt Jennifer had a full academic four year scholarship to Texas A&M University. But two days before she was going to go to school, she decided college was not for her, instead she was moving in with her boyfriend because she was in love. Mom said Texas A&M University was the university to go to. Its name spoke volumes. My mom thought Aunt Jennifer was a fool for not attending, especially since Texas A&M University declined my mom's application. Aunt Jennifer was always in love with some man. My mother often criticized her because she jumped from man to man. Mom called that a "jump off". Mom said Aunt Jennifer was too "friendly" when it came to men.
Aunt Jennifer thought my mother was lucky to have found my dad. She thought my dad could do much better than my mom. She's just a secretary Diondre, with a community college degree; you can do better. Aunt Jennifer often told my dad. My mother was a beautiful dark sista with thick kinky hair. She has a nice petite body and my dad called her a brick-house. My dad was very light and had wavy jet black hair. Dad was six four with a basketball player's frame and he had a size sixteen shoe. Mom often referred to his shoe size when she and her girlfriends were playing cards and drinking mimosas.
Aunt Jennifer lived in the third ward, a poor neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Mom never visited Aunt Jennifer except for the two times my dad put his foot down and said we were going. "Okay, Diondre, but we must leave before dark I don't want anyone to steal our car; or try to kills us." Mom would say. Even then Mom was very cautious; she would say things like, "Make sure your doors are locked. Don't sit too close to the window in the house and don't let down your car window." Once we would actually arrive at Aunt Jennifer's Mom would never let me outside to play with my cousins. I had to sit next to her. She would always blame my allergies. Now she was sending me to live with my aunt for the summer. Things must be bad.
Aunt Jennifer had two daughters Teri and Jasmine. Teri was a year older than me and Jasmine was only ten.
Mom instructed me that I would not take dance this summer or any other activity. I loved dance and every summer I was on an award winning dance team that traveled all over. We usually went to Florida, New York, Los Angeles and Vegas before returning to Texas. I was really good at dance, usually raking in the top three spots and many universities were already looking at me. Typically after dance competition is over our school can begin. This summer no dance, no vacation, I'm staying in third ward. What else is going to happen? What am I going to do?
I called up my two best friends Simone and Meagan to tell them that I will be staying in third ward for the summer. We all cried together.CHAPTER 2
Simone, Meagan and I have been best friends since six grade. We met in math class. Simone was a math guru always eager to raise her hand and answer the teacher's question. Meagan and I were happy just cheating off her paper. Most times other kids called Simone "Teacher's pet or Brown nose". Meagan would quickly jump to Simone's defense ready to fight anyone who was willing to mess with her good grades. I would always stand behind Meagan. I was too afraid to fight, but because I benefited from coping Simone's answers I felt I had to do something. We became good friends. We were the three amigos.
Simone was your typical bookworm very homely looking. She wore glasses and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail every day. Simone wore a big sweater that covered up her designer outfits and didn't match anything. This girl had everything she could image however she did not know how to create a fashion forward outfit each day. Simone would wear Nike tops and Adidas pants with Reebok shoes. It would drive Meagan crazy. Girl stop brand crossing. If you wear Nike, wear Nike. Stop mix matching the brands. Meagan was the fashion police and thank goodness she would not allow Simone to be a fashion criminal. Meagan would give her beauty tips. Meagan loved picking out outfits from Simone's closet. Meagan said "It was like shopping at Saks."
Simone comes from a well to do family. She was born and raised in Sugar Land, Texas; one of the nicer suburbs of Houston; next door to Missouri City. Her step dad is a plastic surgeon and was well known all over the country. Hollywood actors and the rich stay at home moms visited her dad's office daily. Botox tummy tucks and fake boobs are big money in Texas. Hollywood actress would come to Texas; get a tummy tuck and later I would see them on Entertainment Tonight saying things like "I worked out really hard after the baby to get back in shape." They would tell all about their workout regiments of how they get up at 4am and work out for two hours. Then have pizza for lunch. Cause they still love their junk food. Simone's mother is a stay at home mom.
Simone is 5'4 and 110 pounds soak and wet. She is a beautiful girl, with her mahogany skin tone and silky hair she looks like a native Indian. Often time's people would inquire about her heritage. She would simply smile and say "I'm black" It didn't take much to dress her up. A little lip gloss and the right outfit and Simone was good to go. Simone is the most down to earth pampered princess I've ever known. For her sixteen birthday, her parents gave her a BMW with her name imprinted in each head-rest. Simone did not have a driver's license yet. Simone saw the car, thanked her parents and said "we" now have wheels. That's the way Simone was, whatever she had it was Meagan's and mines also. It didn't matter if it cost two dollars or two million dollars. If Simone wanted something she had a black visa with an unlimited balance.
Meagan lived with her mother. She and her mother moved to Missouri City after her parents' divorce, when Meagan was in the fifth grade. Meagan is the jock of the group. She is an All-American girl playing on the volleyball, track and basketball teams. She made the varsity teams in all three sports and she is only a freshmen. Meagan stands five foot nine inches, she is taller than most of the guys our age. She is a honey brown tone with weave hair down her back. She has an athletic body made up mostly of legs. She has two deep dimples that make her smile shine. Meagan doesn't have much money and do not receive an allowance. Often times Meagan would flirt with guys to get us free food or entry to the movies. Meagan's flirting ways always bugged Simone. "I can pay for us to get in the movies Meagan," Simone would say. Truth was Simone paid for Meagan all the time. Most times Meagan felt like a charity case; she thought if she could get us in free it would be like her treating Simone.
At 5'1 and barely 102 pounds, I was the peace maker of the group. I was often called the black Angelina Jolie because I could bring the two sides together. Many people thought I was creole due to my hazel brown eyes and sandy brown hair. I was the middle; I can always see both sides. I don't have Simone's level of money but we are a middle class family and I don't want for anything. If I wanted new clothes or shoes my mom made sure I had them. I received an allowance of $25 per week and after I bought my weekly lunch at school the rest was mine. Simone received a weekly allowance of $100 per week which she never used because her dad pre-paid her lunch. We were best-friends, we were sisters.CHAPTER 3
I was feeling down. I called Simone and she conference Meagan in. I tried to pull myself together in order to be strong for my girls. I have something to tell yah, I said trying to hold back my tears. My mother put my dad out of the house. She said she could not take care of three people on her salary. My dad has to leave until he gets on his feet. Right now my mom is counting her pennies while working overtime. She even got a part-time job at Macy's. Both phone lines was quiet, no one said a word. I continued; she will be away from the house a lot and don't want me home alone. I have to stay with my aunt in third ward for the entire summer. I tried to say everything I needed to say because if I stopped for a minute I would surely cry. I did not want Simone and Meagan to freak out so I have to be strong so they can be strong.
Finally Simone broke the silence. I will ask my parents if you can stay with us for the summer. My dad will say yes. We have plenty of room, and I always wanted a live in sister, she said. And you are my sister.
Thanks anyway but my mom would never go for that. You know she don't like for me to tell the house business to anyone. I just don't know what I'm going to do.
Simone cautiously asked "How will you survive over there? You know what they say about the wards? I was watching the news the other day and a rapist is terrorizing that neighborhood. Not to mention the crime rate. " Simone went on and on. Kirby I'm really terrified for you.
Stop it Simone, I snapped. It's not that bad. People survive every day, why can't I? I was getting very nervous just thinking about what can happen and I don't need to hear more from Simone. I was beginning to panic again. Simone went on. Kirby what do you know about surviving in the ward? I mean really. I hear. ... STOP please; tears welled up in my eyes. Simone felt it and stopped with the third degree.
It was quite on the phone, no one wanted to make things any worse. "My brother can teach you how to fight. When are you leaving?" Meagan chimed in Friday after my mom get off of work; my voice began to crack.
"Friday, why so soon? Why are you moving so quick are you going into a witness protection plan? What are you going to do?" Simone cried. Simone has so many questions I don't know which one to answer first. The phone was silent again.
Meagan see if your brother has time tomorrow, I need all the lessons I can get. Ok I'll ask him when he gets in tonight. Heck we all can take lessons together. That's a good idea, said Simone. The phone was quiet again. I could feel my friends tearing up, and so was I. Finally I said; I don't know what's going to happen, but I will call you guys every day. If you don't call Meagan and I will roll through and check on you. So they can slash your tires and key your BMW? Meagan said. It was the pick me up that we all needed and we laughed together. For real sis, I gotcha; just ask. Simone said. We love you Kirby.