It’d been a week since the funeral and I still hadn’t returned to work. Instead, I saw the girls off to school, Derrick Michael off to work, and I climbed back in bed with the goal of remaining undisturbed. Except my mother, God bless her overbearing soul, had other ideas.
“…now I’m sorry your friend is dead, but that’s no excuse for you to mope around like it’s the end of the world. People die. It’s the one thing in life you can expect. I don’t know why everyone makes a big deal out of it when it happens.” Unlike Monica, my mother didn’t have the couth to cut her words off.
“If you treated people with the love of the good Lord while they’re alive, and they live right, then you should be a peace when they die.” She continued her insensitive rant. “Now, in Carmen’s case…I can see how you’d be worried; but there’s nothing you can do about that. If anything, let her death serve as a warning.”
I really wished she’d give it a rest. She always said Carmen was “unnatural” and that it “clung to her like stench on trash” but I was too old for her to dictate my friends. While it was true, Carmen liked women, she didn’t act on it. I’d spent countless hours counseling her on overcoming those kinds of desires with prayer and study…and hell…self-discipline…and she’d done well. She’d even given up those boyish clothes and learned how to carry herself like a woman should. I just couldn’t get her to commit to the church…and my mom swore it was because she was insincere…she always stressed the “sin”.
I suppose it was one of the reasons Carmen stopped going to church with me about two years ago. She attended a dinner at my parent’s home where she and my mom had a little talk, and Carmen refused to set foot in a church again. She said she couldn’t find God among the hypocrites…and no matter how hard I pressed, she’d refuse to say anything further.
“Mom, no disrespect.” I said, pulling the covers over my head as she rudely snatched apart the curtains, allowing the light to come pouring in. “…but I wasn’t in the mood for any company today.”
“Good thing I’m not company.” She quickly responded, snatching the duvet from the bed. I sat up, rolled my eyes, and sighed. I needed to get the locks changed; and make sure Derrick Michael keeps the keys to himself this time.
“Hurry up and get dressed. I need your help at the church.”
“I’m not going anywhere. I told you that as soon as you walked in.”
“I’ll grab your clothes.” She ignored my decline and began rifling through my closet pulling out clothes she thought I’d like to wear.
“MOM!” I shouted startling even myself. “I SAID NO, DAMMIT!!” I screamed across the room, nearly startling myself.
“Who, exactly, are you speaking with in that tone?” She threw a homely dress on the bed and pulled a slip from the drawer. “Get up and let’s go! And you better have your ass outside in five minutes.” She gritted her teeth as she spoke the final sentence.
“Excuse me?!?” She stopped and stared as if she’d seen a ghost.
“I SAID NO…MOM” I stood next to my bed with my chest out and chin up. I didn’t want a fight, but if she insisted, I had a little anger to burn.
My mother cocked her head and slightly raised her row. She folded arms across her heavy chest and began to move towards me, slowly. I stood my ground.
“Little girl…” She inched within an arm’s reach, “I understand you call yourself “grieving” so I’m going to let your little outburst slide. But you will get a hold of yourself and you will NOT, speak to me that way again.” She shot me an eye that dared me to defy her, and went back to the matter at hand. “Now, I’ll be out in the car. Five minutes! And hurry up, you know I don’t like to wait.” She tossed the dress closer my way and began towards the bedroom door.
“MOM! I’m NOT going. Lock the door behind you. I’m getting back in the bed.”
She stopped in her tracks and let out a breath. A scowl invaded her face – this was the response I’d expected.
“YOU ARE GOING TO DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD, AMYA TIBIDEAUX PEARSON! OR I’LL SEE TO IT YOU—”
“…or you’ll what?” In interrupted her rant, “Tell my father about me and Carmen’s affair from thirteen years ago? Go ahead! Tell him! She’s dead now and I’ve married to a HOLYYYYY MAN with perfect little factory-made kids. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“What I wanted? You’re lucky Derrick Michael even looked at you after your little stunt with Carmen and Barnard. Not only did you soil yourself by sleeping with Barnard before you were married, but you also participated in…lesbianism…” she cringed as she said the word, “…then had the audacity to get caught up in a three-way relationship…and get pregnant! Your father would die!”
“Lucky him.” I snapped back, glaring my eyes.
She always brought this up. She promised I’d never hear of it again if I agreed to marry Derrick Michael and lead a “straight” life; yet, every time I tried to assert myself, she threw it right back in my face. She’d even threatened to tell my father and Derrick Michael, or both! Derrick was aware I’d “dated” Barnard a few times, but he had no idea the extent of our relationship, and he certainly had no idea about me and Carmen…or my battle with my desire for women.
Barnard was one of those people who “loved everybody” but still found the time to condemn gay people whenever the opportunity presented itself. Meanwhile, he coveted my father’s pulpit and idolized the church, even above God. Still, as far as he knew I agreed with his analysis. He’d be morally appalled if he knew the truth; and I had no doubt he’d try to use it against me to take custody of the girls, with my parents would rallying behind him. They were a bunch of hypocrites, all of them. Sometimes I wondered why I bothered jumping through the hoops I did.
“You know what,” I grew tired of her threats, “I don’t care. Tell him. Tell them all. Tell them EVERYTHING. I’m sick of this shit anyway….”
“Don’t test me, Amya.”
“I’m not testing you…go ahead…spill the secrets since you insist on throwing it up every chance you get. Maybe I’ll finally get some fucking freedom in my life!” I screamed and threw my hands in the air.
My mother’s eyes widened in offense at my use of the word “fucking” and she responded by storming over and slapping me across my face. But I didn’t budge. The pain of Carmen’s death…and possible betrayal…gripped me harder than any strike she could lay. She raised her arm to strike me again, but I’d had enough. I grabbed her hand and twisted it behind her back.
“AMYA!!” She screamed in surprise and pain. Thanks to Carmen, I was well versed in the art of self-defense and restraint. If my mother couldn’t speak like a civilized human, I’d restrain her like the animal she was.
“You’re going to learn to stop hitting me, mom. I’m a grown ass woman and I’m sick of your damn disrespect. For once, be a got damned mom and support me like you support everyone else!” She struggled to get free, which only served to tighten my grip.
“Are you going to keep your hands to yourself?” I asked, her arm still locked behind her back.
“LET ME GO!”
“I WILL…JUST KEEP YOUR DAMN HANDS TO YOURSELF, MOM…I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO HURT YOU…” I warned before letting her go. She begrudgingly agreed so I let her go. This time, she put a little distance between us before she spoke.
“If you EVER! Put your hands on me again, Amya. I swear I’ll kill you. I promise I will.” A voice creeped from her throat.
“You put your hands on me first, mom. I only stopped you from —” While I was speaking, she marched over to my dresser and grabbed a glass angel figurine the girls bought me for Christmas last year. Without thinking, she sent it tumbling through the air towards my head. I ducked and ran to the other side of the room.
“Amya, I’m not playing! You put your damn hands on me again and see if you don’t come up a life short.” She fumed as if she were the one struck in the face. She continued to rant and rave around the room. Throwing stuff in the process, which annoyed me even more.
I didn’t want to hurt my mom, so I slid past her and locked myself in the meditation room connected to my bedroom.
She was in her feelings, and I could see why. If one of my girls ever thought to restrain me I’d probably still be trying to pry a foot out of their asses, but I also don’t strike my girls in the face, or attempt to manipulate and control their lives.
I closed my eyes and inhaled, attempting to practice the calming techniques Dr. Sanchez taught me a few months back, but it was hard. By this time, my mother was banging on the meditation room door demanding I let her inside. I declined.
“Amya, open this door or bring your ass out here, right now!”
“Mom…I’m not trying to do this with you, why not just go? Please?! I just want to be alone!” I begged behind the door. She didn’t seem to care.
“Ugh!” BAM! I felt something pound against the door that wasn’t her fist. I hoped she hadn’t thrown anything else. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but you better fix it…and you better fix it quick, Amya. Or I promise I will tell your father about EVERYTHING, and we will cut you off…all of it. DEAD.”
Derrick Michael didn’t make much money serving in ministry; and ever since he’d concluded God had “called him” to the pulpit, he’d given up working to pursue ministry full time. Except, ministry didn’t pay much – unless you were the likes of a mega-pastor, which he wasn’t. I made a lucrative living as a marketing executive, but the strain of maintaining an upper middle-class lifestyle on one income was a burden that I sometimes fought to bear. My parents helped us out – A LOT: the girl’s schooling, mortgage, several car notes.
Once, things got so bad that I had to borrow money for groceries – at which point my father decided to give me a monthly stipend to spare me the embarrassment of having to ask. It was supposed to be a temporary thing, three years later dad was still depositing that check into my account every month. Not that I needed it as much anymore. During those three years, I’ve received a promotion that included a hefty raise, but I’d become so accustomed to the extra cash that I each time my father brought up cutting it off, I made up financial problems to keep it going. It was my “luxury money” – it basically allowed me to do all the things my money alone couldn’t afford.
If she cut us off, my lifestyle would change – drastically. I refused to accept that. I suppose that’s what drove me to respond the way I did. Well, that and my grief.
“Okay, mom.” I nodded behind the door as if she could see me. “…or can should I even call you that?” I quizzed, then paused. “Oh…did we forget I have a few secrets of my own?”
“Amya…” She hesitated on the other side of the door, her tone was much softer now. Why was I not surprised?
“Look…let’s just talk about this before you start talking about things you don’t know.”
“No…see that’s the point. I DON’T want to talk to you. I want you to go away.”
I began to pace back and forth, my hands resting on above my hips.
“Amya, please just come out so we can work this ou—”
“You know what…on second thought,” I stopped in my tracks. “I think I do want to talk.”
I opened the door and walked outside to face her. She was a lot less cocky since I’d reminded her she wasn’t the only one holding cards; and I realized, even though I didn’t which cards I was playing with, I knew I had enough to call her bluff. Which meant there Ameya must’ve been telling some truth, if not all of it.
Since my mom insisted on invading my space and drudging up old memories, I thought I’d ask a few questions of my own.
“Since you insist on talking, mother.” I pushed past her and headed for the stairs in the hall. I needed a drink.
I mixed myself a drink and took a seat on one of the bar stools.
“I ask, you answer.” I took a gulp of my cocktail and awarded my mom a blank expression.
“I don’t have time for your games, Amya. I only came to—”
“You can answer my questions, or you can leave, mom. Those are your options.” I took another swig straight to the head. “Now, what are you gonna do. Merline?” I said her name with disdain in my voice and I could tell she wanted to respond, but she held her tongue.
“Mmph.” I chaffed. “…and exactly how long do you expect to put this off?”
“Why does it matter? I told you she was a cousin and she needed to leave. I don’t even know why this is still an issue.”
“She’s not my cousin and we both know it. If she was, you’d have told dad and moved on…. what’s the big secret. Is what she saying true? Is she my sister?”
“Why would I need to lie to you Amya? She’s your cousin, I told you that.”
“Well, why do we have to keep it from dad?”
She rolled her eyes and folded her arms, then stood and began to walk around the room.
“Why does this even matter? You’re my daughter. He’s your father. You’ve wanted for nothing. What does it matter what some stranger shows up to say?”
“Because the stranger has my face!”
“Alright! Dammit! If you must know!” She waved her hands in surrender and took a
seat at the small table nearby.
“Yes, she is your sister… your identical twin sister.” Finally, some truth!
“Well that’s a big surprise.” I couldn’t help the sarcasm.
“Do you want the damn truth or do you want to gloat?”
I wanted the truth so I closed my mouth and let her speak. She sighed with drama and shook her head in an exaggerated manner. Everything was a performance with this woman.
“Shortly after your older sister was born, your father and I separated. We were talking divorce. This was before we knew the Lord as we do today. We both had dalliances with other people whenever we were separated, which I’m not proud of, him more so than me.”
She clenched her jaw and waiting for me to speak, but I said nothing. She continued.
“Your father had a mistress who became pregnant with twins. One of them was you. I could only handle one.”
“Are you telling me…”
“Yes…Amya.” She lowered her eyes in shame. “You’re not my biological child. Is that what you wanted?”
It wasn’t. She was the only mother I knew — but even that, was a lie. She wasn’t my mother at all, just the bitter wife of my father.
“Wha….how?” was all I could muster up. “…but Ameya said, her dad…”
“Ameya doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She can’t tell you a truth she doesn’t know.” She peered around the room, then leaned in and lowered her voice. “I’d suffered a miscarriage a few weeks before we learned his mistress was pregnant. She was married, it was too late to get an abortion, and her husband had just come home from a lengthy deployment. There was no way she could pass off the pregnancy as his.”
“So, they confessed; and I agreed to raise the child because she didn’t want kids nor did her husband. I’d wear a fake belly and go into hibernation claiming I was a high-risk pregnancy, and return with a new baby once she gave birth. Only immediate family would know the truth. I only had two stipulations: your dad could have nothing to do with her and once the child was born, we’d ceased contact.”
“They agreed. We didn’t find out there were two of you in there until she was mid-way through the pregnancy.” She paused and narrowed her eyes, “Daryl was your birth mother’s husband. When we learned she was having twins, they wanted us to take you both, but I knew I could only handle one of you. It was hard enough agreeing to allow one reminder of your father’s weakness living in my home, I certainly didn’t need two.”
“If this is true,” I said between shaky breaths, “…why are we hiding it from dad?”
“Because…” She averted her eyes, “your father doesn’t know about your sister. I told you He only knows what I told him. Which is, she gave birth to one beautiful baby girl – YOU. Had he known about Ameya, he’d have demanded I accept her too…or give him up. And I couldn’t take that risk.
“WHAT?” Was my mother seriously confessing to keeping a daughter and father apart their entire lives because SHE couldn’t deal with it? How could she lie to me day in and day out, especially regarding something as magnificent as this! I knew my mom was cold, but I had no idea she was capable of this level of heartlessness. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. I was so taken appalled by the grandness of their deceit, that I couldn’t even think of anything to say. She sensed my judgement.
She reached for my hands, but I cringed and stood up from the bar. In a matter of minutes, she’d told me she wasn’t my mother, confessed to lying to my father, and ripping a father and daughter apart to protect herself.
“Amya, I had to make a choice. I could save my marriage and give one of you the life you deserved or walk away and start over. I made my choice, and I chose you and me…over her. I chose you, Amya. I chose us!”
I frowned at the site of her. Everything she’d groomed me to be…honest, compassionate, selfless, pure…she wasn’t! In fact, I didn’t know anything about this woman except that she wasn’t who she claimed herself to be…my mother. I wanted nothing to do with her…in fact, I wanted – no, needed, her out of my space, stat.
“No….no you didn’t choose me. You chose yourself. You chose yourself over me, over Ameya, over dad…everyone…and then you lied! And you carried those lies year after year, decade after decade…to me…and to dad? What kind of woman does that?” She reached forward trying to hug me, but I continued to back away.
“Amya, please understand.”
“Don’t!” I put my hand up and pointed towards the door.
“You insisted on knowing this…this is why I didn’t want to tell you…”
“Get out…” I pointed my finger and looked over her head.
“You’re just overreacting, this really isn’t that big a deal…” she carried on, each word making me more upset.
“Get out!” I jabbed my finger into the air. How dare she try to minimize my feelings after decades of lies. I needed her gone and needed her gone, now!
“Amya, if you would just listen to me….”
“GET OUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!’ I yelled and shoved my mom outside almost causing her to lose her balance.
I slammed the door and locked it, then ran upstairs to find my phone. After a few minutes of digging, I found my phone and the number I was looking for. I dialed in a rush, she answered on the third ring:
“Hello?” Her voice was groggy, like I’d interrupted a nap…or something more.
“Yes…may I speak to Ameya?”
“It’s your sister….we need to talk.”