“What’s got you so happy?” said the dark-skinned, toothless woman. She was smoking a cigarette. But Lavenia was on that stuff and it had made her skin darken and cling to her bones. A lot of their neighbors was like this. They nodded, bowing low enough to be inches from the floor before jerking back again, brushing away bugs, only they could see as they unnecessarily cleaned, picking imaginary lint from their clothing, and laughing at jokes only they were in on—the real walking dead. Their skeletal bodies roamed the country roads early mornings, afternoons and late at night. Or they stood next to gas stations waiting for customers to come out, so they could collect change, their long skinny fingers curled into tight fists around the crack they sold their souls for.
Wanda cringed on the inside. Seeing her people like this made her physically sick. Lavenia was once pretty.
“It’s a good day. That’s all.”
Lavenia frowned and inhaled the cigarette like it was the last one she would ever smoke.
“Hmm. Yea. How Abby doing?”
Diversion. Lavenia never asked about Abby. Lavenia only cared about one thing. Getting high. Wanda frowned at the thought. She was so excited, she hadn’t noticed the signs.
“Oh, Abby is doing good, Miss Lavenia. I think she’s adjusting real nice. You seen her mama any?”
Lavenia let the cigarette breathe some, exhaling smoke into the air before sucking on it again.
“Naw. Ain’t seen her since that day.”
She was talking about the day she carried Abby into Cassaundra’s prison. Lavenia eyed the young lady in front of her. She had a shape like that once.
“You got some money? Let me borrow a couple dollars till my paycheck hit.”
“I’m sorry Miss L. I ain’t got nothing on me.”
“I can walk with you to the house. All I need is a lil change.”
“I can’t. I’m broke.”
Lavenia frowned. “You ain’t no damn broke.”
“Miss L. I am. For real. You know if I had it, you’d have it. I gotta get going. Tell Brandon I said hey.”
Lavenia walked off in a hurry. Brandon was her son. She’d probably left him in the house by himself again.
EVEN SALT LOOKS LIKE SUGAR
a short novel
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About. Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises, that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.