Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Release date: January 11th, 2022
Classic preacher’s kid, Roxanne felt like the oddball in her environment.
By age 22, she found herself compromising and settling in various avenues of her life- including love.
Will Roxanne be brave enough to end her relationship with a man who ails her? Will she take the path towards her purpose no matter how sloppy it looks? Or will she allow the world and her family to dictate right and wrong?
When I saw Tori’s beads at the ends of her braids sway back and forth to Biggie Smalls’, “One More Chance,” I knew I wanted to share my Play-Doh with her. Her deep brown skin shimmered as she smiled. Her grin, devoured by her deep dimples, made my fingers feel jittery as she cackled at my multi-colored LEGO house. I remembered switching my head to the right and eyed my overnight bag.
“What?” Tori grinned.
“I got you something, Tori,” I replied.
“What is it?”
She pounced up. Eyes wide and her beads jiggling as she swayed in anticipation.
I crawled over to my bag and rummaged for my two jars of Play-Doh. I pulled out both jars and held them in the air.
“Hey, can I have some, Roxy?”
“Of course. That’s why I took it out. It’s for you. Here.”
I bent over, pushed a jar towards her direction and watched her squeal. She knelt, placed both arms in front of our LEGO houses, and slid them back. With one quick swoop, she grabbed the jar once it reached her rainbow socks. I watched as her toes wiggled flamboyantly. I crawled to her side and opened my jar as well.
“Let’s make stars, Tori.”
She closed the Play-Doh and gently placed it on the beige carpet. She wrapped one arm around me and pressed her lips against my cheek and held them there for a while. I’m pretty sure that my heart leaped to the top of my mouth.
“Thanks, Roxy. Yeah, let’s make stars.”
“Yeah, ‘cause you’re a star, Tori.”
Her mother swung Tori’s bedroom door open. “Ya’ll are both 8-year-old girls, not stars. Jesus is the star. He’s the risen King and our everything. Now come in this here bathroom and wash ya’ll hands. Ya’ll been playing in here with this door closed, ya’ll ain’t hear me callin’ ya’ll. I dun’ called ya’ll five times. Dinner is ready. Hurry up and wash ya’ll hands so we can all say Grace. Everybody is downstairs.”
We shuffled past her and skipped down the hallway to the bathroom.
As our hands wrestled each other in the water, our giggles alarmed Tori’s Mama.
“Stop all that playin’ ‘round and get down here,” she hollered from the bottom of the stairs.
We both looked at each other in the mirror and snickered.
Tori had the same kinky coils as mine. Our parents refused to allow us to relax our hair.
I rubbed my hands together and watched the bubbles overtake my little fingers. I felt sprinkles of water hit my face. I looked at the back of Tori’s head as she buried her hands into the brown hand towel that was on a wooden rack. I quickly flicked a soapy hand in her direction, and she flinched. I rinsed off and waited for her to step aside so I could dry my hands too.
“Oh yeah,” she said as she spun around to face me. She pressed her lips to my right cheek. It felt as though a fluffy teddy bear patted my cheek. She skipped out the bathroom, and her footsteps rumbled down the stairs.
I was frozen until Tori’s mother exclaimed, “Little girl, don’t have us eatin’ cold food. Get your butt down here!”
I hurriedly dried my hands as my smile remained plastered on my face for the rest of the evening.
The following morning, when my Mama was on her way to pick me up, Tori and I waited in the living room. As we watched cartoons on the couch, I finally returned the kiss back. I remember the dent my lips felt upon reaching her cheek. I liked her dimples.
A week later, Sunday morning, Mama was preaching about the right kind of love that men and women of God should pursue. We were members of Holy Ghost Saints of Mt Ararat for All Nations in East New York, Brooklyn. I felt up and down the soft, fuzzy fabric until one of the deacons, sitting next to me, grabbed one of my hands with a tight grip. I squealed. I looked up at him and pressed my lips tightly together, hoping he’d let me go. He nodded, tilted my chin up, and raised my pressed lips. He gave me a you -better-not act-up- in-the-House-of-God face in return.
He whispered, “Listen to your mother preach and stop the fidgeting with your clothes before you mess them up. She paid good money for that skirt. Act like a god-fearing young lady.”
I looked down and felt my skirt again. I jolted my head back up and looked to my left to see Tori’s smile. Her eyes were looking at my own and I knew what was next. As she slid off the pew and dug into her mother’s church bag on the ground, I went into my little purse. I looked up at Deacon Brown and smiled at his fixation on my mother.
Eyes still on his gray beard, with every breath I slid my jar of Play-Doh out until it sat on the pew with me. One leg crossed over the other, I shifted my body slightly towards the left towards Tori’s direction. I coughed twice as I opened the small jar of mushy goodness. Tori did the same as she yawned her Play-Doh jar open. She shaped hers into a purple heart. I nodded and shaped mine into a blue diamond. I lifted it up a few inches and raised my chin to her. She raised her purple heart and paused, then slid back to the floor and into her mother’s bag to grab a pen. She scribbled on the Play-Doh heart and looked up at me.
Her mother yanked her right leg towards her hip and muttered into her ear. Tori’s head lowered as she cupped the heart in her hand. Her mother pinched her thigh and retrieved the pen. Her mother looked at me and pierced my chest open with her eyes. Her hand levitated and motioned attention to watch my mother. I looked forward.
My mother was a regal woman, faithfully has the fragrance of Perry Ellis 360 lingering way after she leaves.
The clicking of her heels sounds like elegance with a hint of fierceness lingering on the bottom of her shoes. She smiles when talking about Jesus and how proud she is of me when I do anything related to God. With one look, she can pin me down and close up my throat. She’s the authority even when she’s absent. Her voice booms even when she’s calm, and she cooks as though her parents discovered spices. Beverley, my mother, was the first woman to become ordained in our church. My Mama is fierce. My Mama is strong. My Mama terrifies me.
“Don’t let that Devil tell you that you need to look elsewhere!”
My eyes followed my Mama’s hand as she snatched the Bible from the podium stand and raised it in the air.
“Everything you need is right here in this book; you ain’t got to look no further. That includes love.”
She placed the book down and walked away from the podium. She scanned the congregation and took a deep breath.
“How to love and who to love. That’s right: who. Some people sittin’ in these pews right now got a boyfriend at home, and they a man themselves. Some women sittin’ up in these pews have lady lovers at home.”
She went down the two carpeted steps from the podium and walked forward.
“I’m here to tell you that even though God is love, homosexual relations ain’t love. The sun needs the moon and man needs woman. You can love your neighbor as you love yourself, volunteer at the soup kitchen and talk to God every day. But if you out here lusting the same sex, the altar is where is you have to be because that is not of God. But that’s alright, because our God is a deliverer. Our God is a healer.”
The entire congregation stood on their feet and clapped. A few shouted “Hallelujah!” while my head sank and my body slumped into the pew. “You better preach it this morning, Minister Patton!” Deacon Brown shouted.
Mama marched back up the two steps and returned behind the podium. She scooped up her reading glasses and pushed them onto her face. Mama’s owl eyes gazed down at the Bible as she flipped through the pages before continuing, “Let us turn to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and then I want you place a pen at 1Timothy 1:9-10…”
I knew my Mama saw me and Tori just now with our Play-Doh. I mouthed the scriptures to myself as she read them to the congregation. I’d written them down ten times on a notepad for punishment after I told her that I wanted to marry a pretty girl and have lots of babies. Tori was forbidden to spend the night at my house after Mama caught us holding hands a little longer than we should have been.
“Saints, I want you know that it’s just a sin like everything else. Greed, lust, lying, whoremongering and homosexual relations, all sin. Ain’t none bigger than the other. Yes, saints, it does matter who you love.”
She turned her head and squinted her eyes towards me.
“An abominable act is an abominable act no matter how nice, kind, and sweet you are. But there is deliverance.”
After the church service ended, Tori made a mad dash to me and put my heart in her bag.
“Here,” she said as she smiled.
I showed her my creation and said, “Look. I made it cause you’re a diamond. You can keep it.”
She wrapped her arms around me and giggled.
About the Author
Jasmine Farrell, from Brooklyn, NY is a freelance writer and author. With poetry being her first love, she has published three full-length poetry collections: My Quintessence (2014), Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves (2016), Long Live Phoenixes (2018). She released a poetry series that included three micro collections titled, The Release Series (2020). She recently published her debut novel, Sloppy (2022).