Some people describe me as 'sensuous'. Mike says I have, 'bedroom eyes', and everybody seems to like my voice. I think it's too husky, but people, especially men, are always talking about that 'sexy voice of yours.'
My hips aren't as curvy as most Black women's. I guess my mother is the cause of that. She's White, Canadian. We have some Creole and some Indian blood on her side I'm told, but I didn't have much contact with that side of the family.
Mixed. I hate that word. It has the sound of confusion. I have my mother's features sure enough, except for my full lips, and her hair was straighter than mine. My nose is long and slender like hers, and I have her slim frame.
They say that children of White and Black parents are some of the prettiest people on earth. If so, that's because God knew all the rejection we'd have to suffer. Like I said, my mother's side of the family didn't have much to do with Dad or me, not before or after she died.
She died when I was five. I remember Mom vaguely, mostly from pictures. She was pretty-bright eyes, a thin face. She had a wry smile that seemed to say she was easy to get along with but hard to fool-I hear she was both-long blond hair, brown at the roots. I've heard she struck people as someone who could be trusted.
My father loved her. To this day he compares every woman he meets to my mom.
"She ain't your momma, but she's nice."
My father loved walking down the street with us. He told a man one day, "This is the most beautiful woman on earth,
man. The little one's in training."
I love my Dad, but he can be a hard man. Like I say, no woman was ever good enough after momma died. Sometimes I wish he had found someone.
I used to take care of Dad. That's all I remember: cooking, cleaning, making sure the house wasn't a 'mess' according to his standards.
My father drank. Too much. He would swear and curse sometimes when he drank. I used to be scared when I was little that he'd go into a rage and hit me, but he just broke things, and calmed down when I'd say, "Daddy, you can't be acting this way. You're drunk. I'm afraid."
From the time my mother died, I would have dinner prepared when he got home, whenever that was, the house cleaned and his clothes ready for the next day. Most days that was enough, but some nights his drinking got in the way.
I don't like to think about that because, like I said, most days he was my greatest joy. I would read his paper with him after dinner, and then he would read my schoolbooks and help me with my homework. We used to sit in the living room in the two big chairs while we read.
I love my dad, but I had to stand up to him. I decided when I was thirteen I had to be that woman to love him enough to make him choose.
"Daddy," I said, "you're killing yourself. You keep telling me you want me to go to college, 'the first Fields in college.' I am not going to stand on my high school or college stage and cry because my daddy drank himself to death or killed somebody in a car crash. I packed my bags, Daddy. There's nothing in this world I love more than you. It would break my heart to spend every night on my knees at Auntie's pray
ing for you to stop drinking. You have to stop, Daddy. Be at my college graduation, Daddy."
That's when I broke down. I fell on my knees and stained his Navy white shoes with the tears.
"Please stop drinking, Daddy. I...please. Please."
He picked me up, looked me in my eyes, and said, "You love me like she loved me. I'll stop. You have my word as a naval petty officer. My last drop dried in your tears. You have my word, Cheryl."
He drew me into his arms slowly, running his fingers through my hair.
"My baby. You'll always be that little, hairy, perfect girl your mama had to make me hold. You were so tiny, so easy to break. You pray me through right here in this house. I don't know...I'm just saying, it's, there's...you keep praying, OK? When you graduate, this soldier will find you, and I'll be stone, cold sober from here on. You look just like your mama, baby."
He poured all his liquor out, called his friends, and told them about our conversation.
That night, before I went to bed, as I was in my room reading, there was a knock at my door. At my fearful, "Come in"- I thought he'd changed his mind-my daddy opened the door, walked past my bed, picked up the empty suitcase next to my dresser drawers and said, "This is what I'll see when I want a drink. You won't need this until it's time to go off to school."
I felt guilty when it was time to leave and go to Maryland, but he held his part of the bargain. The only part of my dad's promise he didn't keep was the suitcase. He couldn't give it back. He gave me the one he and Mom used on their
The first two years of my school life, Daddy called every day. Since then, he's been missing at sea, or so they told me. That's a mystery I have to clear up.
I never let Mike drink around me. That's another reason for Vernon to hate me. I can't stand liquor, and Vernon drinks like a fish. I can't stand the smell of liquor. I wouldn't know what it tastes like, because I've never let it touch my mouth, but I'm sure I would hate the taste. I hate everything to do with alcohol, and Mike knows it. I know he drinks when I'm not around, but he's a man. I can't make him stop drinking altogether, but he's going to respect me when I'm around.
Vermin. Where do I start to tell you about that cockroach? Plain angry most of the time, though he hides it behind jokes. Some things aren't funny. Vernon always picks on people or pokes fun or tries to make himself look good at someone else's expense. The frustrating part is sometimes I'm the only one who seems to see how phony he is.
"Hey, Cheryl, let me tell you about the hoes that were begging for me last night. I had to choose one. That's the hard part of my life: choosing which ho is going to get the pleasure of a turn with Vern's magic monster."
Most people think he actually believes that trash. I've talked with a few of the girls he's been with, and they say he's less than magical. As a matter of fact, I know a few girls who are scared of him.
That's what bothers me about him. He gets aggressive when he's drunk, and nobody can calm him down but Mike. That's why he wants Mike around. Mike is Vernon's conscience, always keeping him out of trouble and taking Ver
non's hand out of the fire before he goes too far.
I used to think Mike would get tired of Vernon's mess, but they just keep going along. Vernon calls, and Mike answers. I hate that about Mike. I hate the fact that he can't see Vernon's using him.
Once Mike's eyes open to who he has for a friend, he'll put that monster away.
I want to believe it.
(view more excerpts and start the experience at CherylsSong.com)