“STOP THIS FOOLISHNESS RIGHT NOW!” Our father’s voice boomed above the madness. I hadn’t noticed he’d entered the room since I was in the process of breaking a lamp over my eldest sister’s head. Lisa and I always had a love hate relationship, but I never – ever – would’ve suspected she’d hurt my child; or be so cold about it. She spoke as if Timaya had merely fallen off a bike and scraped her knee.
“WHY?! WHYYY WOULD YOU DO THIS!?” I half-screamed, half-cried as my father snatched my arm back to prevent me bashing her again.
“Don’t TOUCH ME!” I screamed and pushed my father back with unusual force.
The lamp fell from my hand and Catina took the opportunity to grab it while I struggled with my father. Lisa groaned on the floor nearby, blood sputtered from her head, but enough to cause concern. That pissed me off.
“What in the devil’s world has gotten into you Mya!” My father shook me by the shoulders with wide and concerned eyes.
I wasted no time, “DEACON TOMPKINS HAS BEEN RAAAAPING MY BABY!” I turned and pointed to the pitiful lump of shit on the floor. “AND THAT BITCH HELPED!”
“WHAT YOU SAY?” My father’s normally elegant speech faded away as the surprise gripped his heart.
“YOU HEARD ME. YOU HEARD ME!” I yelled pacing back and forth, arms folded across my chest. “ASK HER DAD, ASK HER ABOUT IT ALL!”
My father stood in a stupor, mouth gaped, slightly shaking his head from side-to-side. He looked down to Lisa who’d managed to struggle over to a wall and sit herself up.
“What kind of blasphemy is this?”
Lisa hung her head and let out a sarcastic “ha”. It enraged me again.
“Dad…I’m just gonna…I’m gonna go because if I stay in here…” I inched around my father as if going towards the door, “…imma be forced to kill her ass and I don’t want you to have to witness that.”
My father squinted his eyes looking for a sign of truth in my face, it wasn’t there. Still, he realized the signs of deceit a second too late; by the time he reached out to restrain me, I’d already grabbed a handful of tightly weaved head.
“It’s funny? RAPING MY DAUGHTER IS FUNNY? We’ll see what’s funny!” I shrieked as I smashed her head into the side of the marble dresser. My father shouted for me to stop and yanked me back again, this time restraining me in a bear hug. Despite my struggle, he refused to let go.
“It doesn’t matter what she did, Amya! You will not let the devil use you in this way!”
“I’M NOT LETTING THE DEVIL USE ME! BEATING HER ASS IS DOING THE LORD’S WORK!” I growled into my father’s chest.
“HUSH CHILD!” He squeezed me tight to keep me restrained, but kept concerned eyes on Lisa who lay, unfortunately conscious, a few steps away. Catina stood near the doorway with a look that told me she was afraid to move. Her eyes were locked on me and her grandfather.
“I’m sorry! I got here as soon as I could!” Derrick Michael – who I’d swore I’d heard walk in earlier – appeared in the room looking a disheveled mess. He noticed my father bearhugging me from behind and Lisa laid out not far from our feet.
“OMIGODLISA!” He ran past me to my sister. “AMYA WHAT DID YOU DO!”
My father pressed his hand over my mouth preventing me from going off again. “Can you just check on Lisa, get her up. Make sure she’s okay. Please.”
Derrick Michael obliged as I knew he would. Never mind the fact that his wife was literally fuming in her father’s arms an arm’s reach away. Nope. No need to ask me how I was doing. No need to check if I was okay. His first question is ‘Amya, what did you do!” – and that was more like a statement than a question. This dude has never had my back.
My father forced me down the hall into my own bedroom while Derrick Michael took care of Lisa’s – prayerfully dying– ass. As we walked, he went on and on about the foolishness of my actions and how they affect the entire family. Then had the nerve to comment on how stupid I was for reacting like an animal to what is clearly an attack from the devil thanks to my ‘crazy mind’.
“YOU HAVE GOT TO LEARN TO CONTROL THIS DEMON THAT ATTACKS YOUR MIND AND MAKES THESE THINGS UP!” He tossed out angrily, referring to my Bipolar Disorder.
I shot him a wide-eyed look and rolled my eyes. “I AM NOT MAKING THINGS UP! ASK YOUR DAUGHTER! ASK HER! NO, MATTER FACT! TIMAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I called Timaya into the room.
“You leave her out of this!”
“Tuh, we’re about three years too late on that and you’re talking to the wrong damn daughter! TIMAYA! HERE! NOW!”
Timaya slowly turned the corner into my room with a tear streaked face. Her hands cradled her swollen belly, she hung her head like a forlorn slave.
“Tell your grandfather, everything you told me.”
Timaya tearfully explained to my father all she’d imparted to me about my sister’s perverted acts. She explained how she was groomed, raped, and impregnated under the watchful eye of a “god-fearing” aunt she thought she could trust. She explained how she’d slept with the boys at the church at the behest of Lisa, after Deacon Tompkins realized he couldn’t find anyone to get rid of the child.
“I don’t need to hear anymore!” My father stopped Timaya as she went on about the things she’d endured. The infuriated expression on his face told me he couldn’t take anymore. I expected him to join me in my rage and assist me in my attack against Lisa and his “friend” of a “deacon”; instead, he turned to me with judgement in his eyes.
“How could you let this happen?”
“How could I LET THIS HAPPEN? WHAT?”
“How was this child able to sneak around this house, as small as she is, and you not notice she was pregnant?”
“Why does that even matter –”
“Oh, it matters. When a child comes up six months pregnant right under her mother’s nose and her mother knows nothing – oh there’s definitely something going on!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My child – his grandchild- was holding her belly filled with the spawn of a man who was supposed to be his best friend and a respected member of the church; yet, he had the audacity to blame me?!
“HOW IS THIS MY FAULT!?”
“Is everything alright in here?” Derrick Michael entered the room looking concerned.
“Derrick, how did this happen?” My father turned his attention away from me as if I were incapable of speaking for myself. “How did she let this happen right under her nose?”
Derrick and my father began to play the blame game as they suggested the various reasons and ways this was my fault. I wasn’t attentive enough, wasn’t available enough, and I apparently only cared about myself. You’d think Derrick Michael would step in to defend me, but nope. He opted to confirm every word my father said.
“Timaya call your grandmother and ask her how long….”
“Yes, sir.” Timaya exited the room to dial her grandmother on the phone.
“This is not my fault!” I reinforced my innocence. I wasn’t the one who’d served up my own family for the pleasures of a perverted old man’s flesh!
“Why isn’t someone calling the police? Why aren’t you all going off on Lisa’s slimy ass?! Why is everyone blaming me!?”
“Because Lisa didn’t damn near kill anyone!”
I blew air out of my mouth in like a horse, “You’ve got to be shittin me ….’I chortled, looking around for an ally. I quickly realized I had none, not that it deterred me from standing my ground.
“You damn right I nearly killed her – and the nearly is only because of the grace of God.” I poked out my chest and raised my chin.
“You cannot take the justice of God into our own hands. This is an insult to God’s sovereignty and not the way things go…”
“…and grooming and raping children isn’t? Why aren’t we talking about that? Aren’t you taking the justice of God into your own hands when you hide a crime against one of his children?!”
I heard Merline’s voice calling up the hallway, “Emmanuellll!” She called my father’s name in that annoying singsong tone she loved to use. “EMMANUEL!” She shouted again when he didn’t immediately appear in the hall to direct her to the room like a helpless little lamb.
“In here, Merly” He called out affectionately, as nothing important were going on.
“Oh!” She appeared around the corner with an exaggerated look, “…there you are. I thought I’d never find y’all.” She rested her wrist on the back of her hip and looked around. “…and why is everyone crowded in this room anyway, since when do we hold social gatherings in bedrooms?”
“I had to restrain your daughter, she nearly killed her sister.”
Merline rolled her eyes in my direction and dropped her purse from her shoulder onto the dresser nearby. “What happened now.” She pursed her lips assuming the conflict trivial. It wasn’t.
“Before you even climb up on that high horse let me bust your bubble: Deacon Tompkins is having a baby with your granddaughter – and your precious Lisa helped.” I dropped the bomb without hesitation and folded my arms waiting for the explosion; but nothing happened. She merely blinked, liked I’d just told her the time of day.
“So, what’s really going on?” She ignored my statement like she was deaf.
“Have I proven myself to be so untrustworthy that I’d lie about something as disgusting as this?”
“Well…” She shrugged unapologetically.
My father, his wife, and my “husband” began to talk amongst themselves; They provided her a watered-down version of the events leading up to Timaya’s pregnancy. I sat on the bed opposite them, fuming and thinking up a way to escape the room. They’d positioned themselves to keep me from running out the door, but there wasn’t a sole blocking the balcony. I wasn’t above throwing myself over the rails to get help for my child.
“What does Lisa have to say about all this? Where is she anyway?” Merline inquired when they’d finished the update.
“I’m surprised she is talking given the way Amya beat her up, but she admitted it.”
“Yes, she said it was all true.”
“Mmm…” A repulsed scowl engulfed the face of the only mother I knew, “…have you called the police?” She inquired. I perked up, eyes wide, maybe I finally had someone on my side!
“No…of course not.” Derrick Michael replied as if we were a gang of thugs and calling the police would ruin his ‘street cred’. “Dad said we’d handle this in-house. He’s already set up a meeting with Deacon.”
I let out a loud gasp trying to recover from what I’d just heard. “Excuse me?”
“What?” Derrick replied genuinely confused. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? WHAT’S WRONG? Are you kidding me, Derrick?! What’s WRONG?!? DO YOU HAVE TO ASK! I’ll SHOW YOU WHAT’S WRONG! TIMAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I blew up.
“You NEED to calm down before upset things further.” Derrick patronized me.
“CALM DOWN? CALM DOWN?” I stormed over to the man I married, hands placed firmly on my hips, and cocked to the side. My face, menacing; and my tone, violent.
“YOU NEED TO TURN THE FUCK UP! YOU SHOULD BE RIPPING THIS PLACE APART! YOU SHOULD BE RIPPING DEACON TOMPKINS APART! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!”
“Amya you will NOT use that kind of language in my presence.” Merline proclaimed.
“I will use whatever FUCKING LANGUAGE I want when you want to sweep a mortal crime under the rug to protect your…your …” I threw my hands in the air and twisted my face. “WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU PROTECTING THAT WE CAN’T CALL THE POLICE?” My eyes darted between my father and the woman formerly known as my mother. An uncomfortable silence filled the room.
“You should go check on your daughter. I’ll handle this.” Merline touched my father gently on the shoulder; he cut his eyes in response and snatched away from her grasp. That was new.
“YOU go check on Lisa. I’ll handle this.” Merline opened her mouth to say something, but stopped short, before turning and exiting the room. Derrick Michael followed behind her like a loyal subject.
“You told her this needs to be discreet – off the books – right?” I heard Merline ask as they walked out the door.
“Oh yes, she’s aware.” Derrick Michael reported.
“She’s fine. She’s in the bathroom cleaning herself up.” Catina’s voice greeted them in the distance. My father called Timaya, who was lingering in the hallway, into the room and closed the door.
“Both of you, have a seat.” Timaya did as she was told, me on the other hand…
“Dad, you know this isn’t right! Hiding this isn’t right! This is only going to make things worse—”
“I SAID SIT DOWN!” He raised his voice as the stress filled his face. I did as he commanded.
He paced for a few moments, moving his mouth without releasing the words. Likely in prayer. A little late for that, I thought.
“Don’t make a mockery of God in your anger…” My father spoke to me as if to read my mind.
“Wha…what?” I stuttered. Concerned that he’d actually read my thoughts.
“You’re using your anger as an excuse to sin. Not only does that spit in the face of God, it makes a mockery of the faith!”
“Huh?” I dropped my mouth in confusion. Looking at my father. “HOW…HOWWW does this keep being about ME? DO YOU NOT SEE HER SITTING HERE?”
“I do…I see…what happened that YOU didn’t see her?”
“What are you talking about?”
“What happened that you were so out of tune with someone who was once a part of you that you had no idea she was in trouble. How could you, as a mother, allow that connection to dissolve between you and your child?”
“ME!?” I was insulted. “ME! SO, THIS IS MY FAULT!?”
“Clearly your discernment is off…if you didn’t see this and it’s been going on for years—”
“What about Derrick Michael? MMMM? Isn’t he supposed to be a ‘man of God’ the ‘head of the household’? If anyone should’ve discerned wouldn’t it be him? What about YOUR discernment, PASTOR?!?”
“Child-rearing is women’s things…especially that of young girls.”
I hung my head in frustration and literally bit my tongue to out of respect for this man who’d raised me. On most things, me and my father got along, but when it came to women’s place in the church, in society – we did not agree. My father was old-school, he believed God placed man (males) over all things, including women. He also believes women are more naïve, more susceptible to sin (because…Eve), and inherently evil, except when they redeem themselves through the attachment (via marriage) to a god-fearing man.
In fact, one of the reasons I’m not as involved in church as I once was, is thanks to my father’s rebuke. I had a dream that my mouth was sewn shut, then God touched it and said, “I have put my words in your mouth. You will speak for those whom they cannot speak and speak to those whom they will not.” Then my mouth was opened.
At first, I believed with this dream was a call from the Lord. Then my father called me foolish and convinced me the dream was “clearly” a trick of the devil.
“Just like the devil deceived naïve Eve with a savvy tongue, so has he come to deceive you. Thank God you have a head, unlike Eve, who is able to see the enemy coming from afar!” That’s what how he responded when I confessed I felt God’s call to teach; and that was the moment I stopped listening for a word from God.
“Dad. Listen. Please. Take the spiritual out of this…”
“We cannot take God out of anything…”
“Well PUT GOD IN IT! What would God tell you to do!”
“Not what you did!”
“How can you say that?!”
“Do you remember when Tamar was raped by her brother in the Old Testament?”
Oh, I know he was not about to go there….
“….and the one brother killed the other to get revenge? What happened? Was God pleased with the brothers who murdered the rapist?”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m SAYING that it is not your place!”
“…and what of the rapist?” I stood, facing him. “Mmmhh? Does God love a rapist more than a child?”
“God will deal with that in His own time. In His own way.”
“Exactly, by calling the damn police!”
“We can’t do that.”
“WHY!” I urged.
My father shot me a “SHUT UP” look and went over to sit next to his grandchild. He leaned in close and grabbed her tiny hands from her belly, holding on tight. For a moment, he stared at her with a pained expression, as if thinking of what to say.
“Well?” I insisted.
“Timaya…” He started, gently. “You know that we love you…and we would do everything in our power to protect you. Yes?”
Timaya nodded her head.
“…and every decision we make is for the ultimate good, even when it doesn’t seem that way.”
Timaya nodded again and wiped snot from her nose with the sleeve of her shirt.
“…well you know how God works all things to the good of those who love the Lord? Even the bad things…”
I screwed my lips to the side, it’s a damn shame the way preachers twist the words of the bible like they do. This is not the appropriate context for that scripture and he knows it.
“…. that’s what we are going to do here. We are going to take a terrible, terrible thing and use it for the good of the Lord.”
I folded my arms and dressed my face in a sarcastic expression. “And how exactly are you gonna do that, dad?”
“We’ve arranged for you and Timaya to take a hiatus and go up to a cabin in Tennessee where we’ve arranged for her to receive childcare and give birth in a discreet location. As soon as she gives birth, the child will be given to a couple at the church who cannot conceive. Timaya will be able to continue her life and studies without interruption, the child can grow up in a good Christian home, we get to bless a family and fulfill a prayer and a voice, and no one is tainted by the scandal of it all.”
“Oh….” It finally dawned on me. “I see. We’re just going to repeat time and pull another Lisa and Na–”
“Amaya!” My father snapped, reminding me to hold my tongue. I sucked it up and swallowed my thoughts. “Do you have a better idea?”
“Uhhh…yeaaaa…he can go to JAIL! WHO KNOWS HOW MANY GIRLS HE’S DONE THIS TO! He’s probably worse than that nasty ass uncle on the Leaf!” I referred to the OWN Network’s television drama, “Greenleaf”, in which a Deacon at a prominent church used his privilege as a ‘man of God’ to rape teenage girls.
“Going to jail won’t do a damn thing for anybody. He’ll go and sit in jail, but will that bring back her purity? Will it make her any less soiled? Will it remove the child from her belly and take her back to the place innocence? It won’t! Just leave it be!”
“It could stop him from doing this to someone else!”
“God will take care of that.”
“Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord! Oh, ye of little faith!”
It was like talking to a brick wall, a religious brick wall, that I wanted to beat my head against.
“DAD! WE WILL NOT—” I was still going back and forth with Emmanuel when Timaya hunched over and began to groan in pain.
“MOOOOMMM…MOOOMMM!!!! Something’s wrong….it hurtsss…it hurtsssss!!” I ran to Timaya’s side praying this child hadn’t gone into early labor.
“PLEASE…” She cried and threw her head back like she was in intense pain. “I need to go to the bathroom!”
My father reacted quickly, scooping her up and running into the master bath. “Come on!” He rushed me into the bathroom behind him, “Help her!” He ordered sitting her down on the toilet, a look of panic spread across his face. I joined him in the bathroom, standing over my agonizing child, unsure of what to do.
“Papa, get out!! Mom, close the door!” Timaya commanded while pulling off her leggings. I quickly shoved my father out the bathroom, slammed the door, and ran back to Timaya’s side. Except, when I turned back around, Timaya was fine.
“Timaya, what is going on?” I spoke loudly enough for my father to hear.
She put her finger over her lips then reached over and turned on the faucet. She followed this up with a fake cry. “OOOOOOOO…mooooom it hurts!!”
She widened her eyes to encouraging me to join in.
“What the hell are you doing?” I whispered close to her ear.
She pulled her phone from her pocket.
“OH! THANK GOD!” I exclaimed loudly, again.
“Is everything okay in there?” A knock, followed by my dad’s voice came through the door.
“Ahhh…yea….” I shouted back. “She’s just…uhh…. spotting… a bit. It’s probably just stress.” I lied, without hesitation.
My father dawdled for a moment. He knocked two more times to ask if we were okay, so I lied and told him she was going to soak in a bath. I heard his footsteps exit the room and let out a quick sigh of relief. Hopefully, we had a few moments.
“Okay, give me the phone.”
Timaya hesitated to hand it to me. “Are you going to call the police?”
“Of course, I’m going to call the police Timaya, what do you expect?”
“I just….I…I don’t want everyone to…I like grandfather’s idea.”
“What?!” Was every-damn-body in this house insane?
“No…I know he did something wrong and needs to be in trouble for it, but I don’t want to be ‘that girl’ mom. I don’t want to be known around the church as the twelve-year-old-who-had-a-baby-for-deacon-Tompkins. I will never live this down and neither will you and dad. Papa is right.”
“Timaya! I don’t care what people will think or say. All I care about is you!”
“Well if you care about me. You won’t call the police. Instead, you’ll call Deacon and tell him to send us away to his Cabin in Tennessee until I’ve had the baby.”
“What the hell do you know about his cabin in Tennessee?” Deacon Tompkins often boasted about his little cabin up in Tennessee. He called it his ‘love shack’. He’d even offered it to me and Derrick once for a “romantic getaway”.
“He took me there one weekend.”
“WHAT? WHERE WAS I?”
“With Aunt Carmen….”
Guilt consumed my soul. “Oh.” Was all I could say.