Chapter 16: “Something’s Not Right”
Tina plugged her phone into the charger and changed into her pajamas. As she changed, she thought about Janiyah. They had their worst fight earlier, and Janiyah’s words had pierced her to the core. It had not occurred to her that she was neglecting the children, something she promised never to do. There used to be a time when Miss Bernice was not allowed to cook for her family. Now it seemed she made dinner for them every night. Dinner was supposed to be their time together.
Tina’s heart sank as she climbed into bed. There was just too much going on, and she didn’t know if she could take much more. Silently, she gave her props to the mothers pulling double duty. She was struggling and had no idea how she would balance it all. Having children was one thing, and being married with children was another thing, but being a single mom to children that weren’t biologically hers was a Goliath, and she was no David. She wanted to call in help, a referee, to lighten the burden that had become her life. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. She was supposed to marry the love of her life and have her own children. Tina cringed. She hated to say it like that. Niyah, Mike, and KK were hers as if they had come from her womb. She had helped Keisha to raise them and became their Aunt. Since Tina and Keisha were besties, any children they had would be a niece and nephew.
But as much as she loved Keisha’s kids, Tina still yearned for seeds of her own flesh. Was this selfish? Tina was sure that it was, but she was also sure that she was human, and that societal, biological clock ingrained in her ticked, and every time it ticked, she hurt from loss. She hurt from a loss that could neither be explained nor understood by anyone, not in her situation. These were supposed to be the days her and Keisha dreamed about as teens. These were those grown-up years where they were supposed to be gazillionaires with huge families and took trips to Dubai just because they could afford it. While Keisha successfully had her dream four, Tina wished she hadn’t had any children. As Tina graduated High School and headed to College, Keisha dropped out of school to raise Janiyah and quickly got pregnant again. This time a boy, Tyrone who everybody called Ronnie. She had hoped to get her GED and attend community college, but then she had Micheal and then Kayla. Keisha gave up hope and started giving that hope to the streets. She was hooked before Tina could walk across the stage.
Tina’s phone pinged from an incoming text.
Freddy: Hey, can we talk? I’m sorry about my behavior lately. I know Ronnie’s death was hard on you. Can you meet me tomorrow?
Tina’s lip curled up. Fred had been her partner for five years now. He had been there for her when Ronnie died and had always been by her side. It was nice to see he had not completely lost his mind.
Tina turned the phone off, turned over, and raised the covers over her head.
“Haven’t I always been there for you T?”
Tina sighed and sipped her coffee, closing her eyes and letting the coolness of the wind caress her face. A dog barked, and someone’s child screamed. Tina’s eyes popped open and scanned the park, and then back around to face Freddy. They had met here before heading to the office. It was not unusual, but hindsight is 20/20.
“Of course, Fred, c’mon.”
“You say that, but I’m worried about you T. Seriously. What’s going on?”
Tina sighed and shook her head. She could trust Fred. But, then again, she thought she could trust Jason too, and he snapped on her. Tina looked at him and smiled.
“I’m okay. Really, I am.”
Freddy shrugged, “I’ll never stop worrying about you T, but if you say you’re okay, I believe you.”
Tina smiled and leaned against Freddy’s shoulder, “aww, Fred!”
They both laughed as Fred’s phone rang. He held it up.
“Gotta take this. You good?”
“I’m aiight. Take your call.”
Tina pushed him, “Go!”
Fred stood and walked off, laughing as he put the phone to his ear. Tina smiled. At least she still had one friend.
Fred winced as his phone rang. He knew it was Juan wanting details, but Tina was telling him nothing. He faked a smile and walked off, leaving Tina on the park bench, sipping her coffee.
“I don’t know, man, she ain’t budging.”
“Then make her budge,” said Juan’s voice on the other line.
“Look, I been knowing T a long time. She trusts me. I’d like to keep it that way.”
“What you’d like to keep is your job.”
“Juan? C’mon man. Why you tripping? I can’t make her tell me nothing.”
“You can, and you will.”
The line went dead, and Freddy pulled the phone back and looked at it, startled by the dial tone. Juan was tripping. Everybody was acting crazy. Tina, Juan, Erica. He didn’t know what to think. He was supposed to be spying on Tina, and so far, he was failing. Something ain’t right. He had to dig deeper, and if Tina were not going to talk to him, someone would.
Fred flipped his cell phone back open and dialed a number, raising the phone to his ear.
“What’s up, girl? You at Altgeld tonight? Stay up. I’m coming through.”
Chapter 17: “Altgeld Projects”
*We are getting closer to finding out more about how Paschar and her legion operate in the physical realm. Be sure you are caught up on all the chapters!