“Barnard promised not to say anything until I’ve had a chance to talk to Derrick Michael.” I said twirling my coils with my index finger, trying to figure out a way to ask Ameya to upend her life and custody of my kids.
“Good.” She sipped a homemade concoction and leaned back in the oversized chair she was in. “Are you worried?”
“Surprisingly, no…” I answered, then recanted, in favor of the truth. “Ok, a little; but it does feel like I lost 100 pounds by letting go of that secret – at least half of it.” I thought about Derrick. I wasn’t in a rush to tell him. “I’m just surprised Barnard was extremely kind about it all…unexpectedly kind.” I worried.
“Mmm….” Ameya contemplated something she didn’t speak. “Either way, I’m proud of you. You did the right thing for your girls. You protected them like a momma bear should.” She winked at me, held up her drink, then took another sip.
“Thanks.” I mumbled looking through window.
“When Timaya looks back on all of this in a few years, she’ll recognize you did what a mother should.” Ameya insisted.
“Will she?” I worried, looking down at my hands. “She has to speak to me again first.”
“She’s twelve, she’ll grow up and understand. We all do. It’s your job to protect your child from the predators of this world…you’re doing that.”
“Yea…well why don’t I feel good about it?” I asked while closing my eyes, willing myself to bring up the custody issue.
“It’s not supposed to feel good, it isn’t sex, Amya.” She shrugged and rolled her eyes at me. “Of course, it doesn’t feel good! It’s about making that disgusting piece of shit pay for what he did!” Ameya spat with daggers in her eyes.
“Whoaaaaa….” I waved my hands in surrender, “…we’re on the same team remember? I want to get him just as bad as you….”
“You sure?” She put her feet down on the ground and leaned forward, resting her arms on her knees.
“YES, I’m sure! It’s not like I can go down there and take it all back! Why would you even ask me that?”
“Hey” She relaxed her gaze and sat back in the chair again. She pulled her knee into her chest and used it to rest her chin. “You never know with you. One call from Merline and you might try…” She attempted a joke.
I responded with a weak laugh.
“…but you’re on the right path to healing, sis.” Ameya offered after a few moments; I suppose, to redeem herself. “You spoke the truth. That takes courage.”
“It’s not like I had much choice between you and Dr. Sanchez’s ultimatums.” I didn’t bother hiding my annoyance.
Unbothered, Ameya waved me off. “Tuh, you’re lucky I didn’t make your ass do it sooner. Ain’t no telling what they’ve done to my niece since you’ve been gone…” She turned her attention toward the window and shook her head with genuine concern. “I know what it’s like to be…used.” She hesitated as if she had a story to tell but didn’t say anything more. I didn’t press.
“Have you tried to go by the house again?” Ameya recovered quickly and continued her inquisition.
“Of course, I have.” I reassured. “I’ve even called Lisa, Merline, and my father trying to get in touch with someone – but no one will answer me, not even the girls.” My face reflected a downtrodden look. Ameya wasn’t moved.
“Well, did you go by the house?”
“Yes, often. I’ve even gone a few times when I knew the girls would be home without Derrick, but they refused to speak with me.”
Ameya jerked her neck in a stereo-typical fashion and shot me a look of confusion. “What the hell you mean they refused to speak with you? HOW?”
“What do you mean ‘how’? They wouldn’t speak. I tried to talk to them, but they’d lock themselves in the bedrooms and refuse to come out.”
“So, you mean to tell me that the only thing standing between you and your children is a door on some hinges?” Her look and tone were judgmental as fuck.
“The door was locked, Ameya! What did you expect me to do, kick itdown and force them out?” I was confused. She was acting as if I hadn’t even tried.
“YOU GOT-DAMNED RIGHT! YOU SHOULD’VE TORE THE DOOR OFF THE FRAME AND DRAGGED THEY ASSES OUT THAT ROOM BY THE ROOF OF THEY MOUTHS IF NECESSARY.” She spat with an alarming amount of venom. “YOU DO WHAT YOU MUST TO SAVE YOUR DAMN KIDS!”
I was taken aback by her reaction. I’d touched an exposed nerve. It made me uncomfortable.
“I TRIED the heavy hand. I tried yelling and beating her into confession, and all it did is backfired on me! Timaya doesn’t want to admit anything and I can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to do!”
Ameya pursed her lips like an unbelieving mother, “…OK. And what’s your excuse when it comes to Catina? She’s not pregnant and she hasn’t been raped. The only thing she’s hiding are those androgynous clothes she changes into whenever you’re not around.”
My phone buzzed. A message from Merline:
I SUGGEST YOU CALL ME AS SOON AS YOU GET THIS.
Something inside of me became unnerved. I returned my attention to my sister.
“And what exactly are you trying to insinuate by that?” I frowned and glared at Ameya from the corner of my eye. I knew what she meant.
My twin laughed and stood up from the couch, “What I meannnnn is, your oldest daughter is a lesbian –JUST LIKE YOU, SIS!” She taunted me like a child with her face, “Except, she’s a lil androgynous stud and the baby is trying to hide it.”
“My daughter is not trying to be a damn boy!”
Ameya rolled her eyes and exhaled, “OK FIRST, I’m going to need you not to be so damn ignorant about these issues. Especially when Carmen was an androgynous lesbian woman and you had no problem with her.”
“Stop calling my daughter a boy, then!”
“I didn’t SAY she was a boy, I said she was androgynous – not transgender.”
“What the fuck is the difference?” I snapped, surprising myself. “Don’t they both mean girls who dress like men?”
Ameya snarled. “Clearly someone has some deep seeded issues with the transgender community…” She raised a brow in disapproval, “you should deal with that.”
“Wha—” I stumbled at the accusation. “This is not about…I don’t have any issues with the transgender community! This is not about that! It’s NOT!” I insisted.
“If I had it my way Catina wouldn’t even be gay, but if she’s gonna be gay can she at least not be the kind that makes it obvious for the world?”
“So, it’s ok to be gay as long as she does it your way and pretends to be something she’s not?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“But that’s what you’re insinuating….”
“You’re taking my words all out of context, Ameya.”
“I’m only repeating what you said…”
“You’re not at all repeating what I said, you’re twisting my words to fit your agenda.”
“I’m the one with the agenda?”
“What the hell do you mean by that?”
“You know what I mean.”
Ameya stood up from the chair again and stretched her arms above her head. A smirk rested on her face; she didn’t try to hide it.
“Look, I just want my daughter to be safe, is that so wrong? Dressing that way makes it obvious to the world that she’s a lesbian. She’s already black. She’s already a woman. Now we throw in the fact that she’s gay…and to top it all off she has to be that kind of gay?… and dress in boy clothes? I can’t protect her from this worl—”
Ameya cut me off, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but…I couldn’t…no, I can’t let that slide…CLOTHES have no gender. People assign gender to clothes, but clothes are clothes….”
I looked around trying to gather myself. Here I was expressing my fears about my daughter’s identity and she wanted to give me a lesson on gender identity and clothes?
“Ameya, would you just shut up and let me talk for once!?! SHIT!” I snapped and rubbed my hands over my face. “I need to ask you something anyway…”
“You’re just trying to change the subject…” She twisted her lips in disbelief.
“Ameya, this is serious….” I stared, solemnly.
Ameya was bent over with her face pressed between her legs, stretching her back. She released the stretch and stood, rolling her shoulders back, then walked over and joined me on the couch. She matched my mood.
“Ok, what’s up?”
I closed my eyes. I hadn’t done much praying lately, but I said a prayer for God to move her heart in favor of her long-lost family.
“CPS is going to come and take the girls. I don’t know when, but I know it’s going to happen. This case has to do with the rape of a minor and she’s pregnant…you know they’re going to take Timaya and remove Catina too.”
“But nothing happened to Catina…”
“So.” I shrugged, “They won’t care about that. She’s a minor and as long as the investigation is open, they’ll be remanded into the custody of the state…”
Ameya appeared alarmed. I continued.
“I can’t take them and no one in the family can take them until they’re cleared of involvement – still, I don’t trust Derrick Michael’s parent’s because they’re just as gullible as he is when it comes to my father and Merline.”
“So….” Ameya’s gaze turned suspicious. “What is it you need from me? Money…I hope….?” She looked down, nervously. I assumed she knew where this was going.
I sucked in a breath and spit it out. “I was wondering if you’d agree to take them in…”
“Take who in?” Her question seemed genuine when coupled with the bewildered look on her face.
“Timaya…and Catina…your nieces….”
“In…WHERE? HERE!?” Ameya’s eyes grew with surprise.
“Well, yea…that’s the plan.”
Ameya stood staring for a moment with her mouth slightly ajar. I could tell she was weighing her options, likely trying to find a way to tell me “no”.
“I wouldn’t ask if I had any other option, sis. My girls have lived very sheltered lives.” I reasoned, “…and going into some state-run facility would only traumatize them further. At least with you, I know they’d be safe.”
Without saying a word, Ameya suddenly got up, grabbed her glass, and bee-lined into the kitchen. She opted out of whatever she’d been drinking and reached for a bottle of 151 she’d stored in the back of the cabinet. She then rinsed her glass, grabbed a few cubes of ice from the freezer, poured herself a stiff drink, and threw it back like an alcoholic pro.
“SSSSSSSSSS” She sucked the air between her teeth while making a pained expression with closed eyes.
“Ok, sorry. Now, you want me to WHAT?” Ameya asked as she grabbed the bottle of spirits, along with her glass, and rejoined me on the couch.
“I need you to take the girls in, so they won’t have to go into foster care. I’ve already verified I can work with my lawyer to ensure they get assigned to you – barring one thing…”
“….and what is that?” She poured herself another – and again – she threw it back.
“They have to do a background check, financial check, home welfare checks…basically, they gone get all up in your business and with your…business…I figured that could prove problematic.”
Ameya sucked her teeth and a gave her eyeballs a roll. “Oh that? Girl, I’m not some amateur Backpage pimp. I run a legit business. They can ask all the questions they want.”
“Ameya….” I shot her a sober look. “You run an escort service.”
“I WISH YOU’D STOP SAYING THAT!”
“You’ve LITERALLY spoken to girls in my presence about using protection when they’re having sex with clients! HOW is that not an escort service?”
“I recommend they use protection IF they decide to have sex with a client…I am not forcing women on the track to sleep with random clients for money. I am hiring women – and some men – to help clients ma—”
“I knowwww…make their marriages better…or so you want me to believe.” I folded my arms in contempt.
Ameya scowled back at me. “Look, do you want to talk about what you think I do for a living or what I know I can do for you right now?”
“Are you going to take the girls?”
“For fucks’ sakes, NO! Why would I agree to take in two half-grown kids and a newborn child I DO NOT KNOW? And have them people all up in my business? HELL NO!”
“They’re your nieces…your family…you took ME in…”
“Yea…but you got one daughter blackmailing you to keep her little bundle of trauma a secret; and another one hiding her identity and backing her sister up in the blackmail of their mom. If they’ll do that to you what in hell do you think they’ll do to me? HELL…NO.” She carried on, obnoxiously.
“Ten minutes ago, you were chastising me about doing whatever to make sure they’re safe, now I’m asking for your help and you’re kicking them to the curb?”
“I didn’t say I was kicking them to the curb, I said they couldn’t stay here. I don’t do children, especially sneaky ass teens. I’ll fuck a kid up – straight, no chaser.” This time she sipped.
“If they can’t stay here what exactly are you going to do to help me?”
“I know someone they can stay with…”
I scoffed and got up from the couch. I marched over to the kitchen and made my own drink – white liquor instead.
“Merline is part of the problem, Ameya.” I tried to remain calm. I still had hope I could talk her into changing her mind.
“I didn’t say STEP-grandmother. I said grandmother, as in our biological mom.”
My face flooded with “what the fuck” as I willed my lips to say the same.
“Huh?” It was all I could muster.
“Yep.” She nodded and swallowed up the rest of her drink. “It’s time.”