H O W A R D   U N I V E R S I T Y

Faces & Voices 5
An Anthology
of Verse and Prose

by
the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,
2000-2001.

Professor
E. R. B
RAITHWAITE

Faces & Voices 4
Art@Howard

    



Mrs. Jackson
By Amber N. Mobley
Hometown: Kansas City, KS
Major: Print Journalism
E-mail: krupke1@yahoo.com

  
        “How ‘ya doin’ Mrs. Jackson?” asked Jimmy.
        “Oh just fine, just fine Jimmy, how about you and yours?”, she replied sounding annoyed.
        “Good. I just came by to pick up my mama’s order.”
        “Well....you know where it is. Don’t act like a stranger. Just go an’ get it!”
        Jimmy stared at Mrs. Jackson as he walked forward to the storage room. He could tell that something was wrong. The genteel-like nature of her Louisiana accent wasn’t present. As a Southern gentleman, yet only 19 years old, he wasn’t sure if he should ask if something was wrong. 
        He bent over to lift the heavy box of apples. He lifted with his back instead of his legs. Seeing this, Mrs. Jackson seemed to snap out of her worried trance as she rushed over to him to correct his actions.
        “Now how do you expect to play star center for Wyandotte if your back is out of whack?” She pressed her hand onto his back and pushed his body down in order to put the emphasis on his legs. 
        There was strength in those legs. His back seemed powerful enough to lift her and an entire apple orchard. His was the beauty of youth.
        “Feels better doesn’t it, Jimmy?”
        “Yes ma’am. It sure does.”
        She was smiling.
        “Mrs. Jackson? I know it’s probably none of my business, but it seems like there’s something weighing a little heavy on your mind.”
        Her mind was in fact a ball of confusion. Her marriage was on the brink of divorce. Yet, for her, the fear of being alone was worse than the daily torture of marital agony. Smiles and bashful giggles helped to camouflage the pain. Her husband had a firm hand and he rarely ever denied her the weight of it. Eyeliner and rouge helped to camouflage the bruises. Now, she attempted to ease her mind of these troubles. 
        “The only thing ‘weighing a little heavy’ on my mind is the way you keep calling me ‘Ma’am’ and ‘Mrs. Jackson’ instead of calling me Miss Linda like everybody else.” 
        Jimmy was a little embarrassed and it showed by the way he cocked his grin to the left and looked at the floor. 
        “Well, all right. Miss Linda it is,” said Jimmy.
        “Now that we’ve got that established, put that box down so we can have some pie. It gets lonely over here at the store. I’m usually by myself you know.”
        For some reason or another, Jimmy didn’t feel comfortable. She was shaped like a Coke bottle. His gaze danced across her every curve causing his jaw to slowly drop lower and lower. Jimmy tried not to think about her bodily dimensions, but that was becoming harder and harder to do. 
        She bent over to get a freshly baked pie out of the oven. As she did, she smiled at him. Was she flirting or had he merely allowed his libido to take control of his rational mind? 
        The slices of apple pie were steaming hot as she brought them over to the table.
        “Thank you Miss Linda. It looks great,” he said. He quickly grabbed up the fork. He was going to eat his pie, get his mama’s apples, and get home as soon as possible, but it seemed as if she had other plans. 
        She took his fork and gently blew on the steaming chunk of apple pie. When it was deemed cool enough by a touch of her tongue, she fed it to him. A kiss soon followed. That kiss would be followed by other kisses on other days. This was the beginning of an affair....
        The phone rang. It was Linda.
        “Jimmy, I need you to come down to the store.” By the time he got there, it was five o’clock. The chimes on the door rang as he opened it. There she was, and there he stood. Although not a single word was spoken, the silence spoke loud enough for both of them. 
        “There’s no need for you to come in Jimmy. I’m closing up.” As soon as she said that, the rain began. 
        They stood together in the narrow storefront doorway, the crippled umbrella providing inadequate shelter against the rain; together, yet from the rigid posture of their bodies, and the way in which they avoided looking at each other, miles apart.
        “So, you’ve decided?”, he asked, his eyes directed to the nearby playground where a group of youngsters, bare-chested in the rain, was engaged in a noisy basketball game.
        “I’ve decided” she answered, the words barely audible, her chin thrust forward aggressively.
        “Yeah. Right. So, what about me? Don’t I have a say in any of this?” 
        Now she turned to face him.
        “Jimmy, you’re nothing but a kid. So, no, you don’t have any say in this because you don’t know what’s best for you. I saw you looking over there. Basketball is your talent, and your gift. Why would you let some 32-year-old pregnant woman come between you and your dreams?”
        “Maybe because I love that woman, and she just so happens to be pregnant with my child!” 
        She slapped him. Hard.
        “Shut up Jimmy! This thing was never about love. I’m married. This baby was a mistake, and I’m not having it...You’re nothing but a little boy...What do you know?”
        He looked at her, his face betraying his puzzlement; then, quietly, he said, “All right, Mrs. Jackson, I’m sorry.”
        Jimmy walked away from her and into the rain. He took his shirt off and joined the boys on the playground.....

        At that hour of the morning Linda was quite surprised, and pleased, to find that the coffee shop was not crowded, as usual. She quickly chose a table near a window which afforded a clear view across the busy Avenue to the Metro Station, the bus stop and the parking lot. This time there would be no surprises. From her vantage point she would see if he came alone, as promised. Any sign of a third person and she’d be gone. 
        Her leg bounced in nervousness and her yellow handkerchief became tightly knotted around her index finger. Where is he? Will he come this time? What has he been thinking? What will he think when he sees me?; these thoughts raced in her head. After thirty minutes of waiting and watching, twisting and shaking, she saw a familiar figure come up the escalator from the Metro Station. Broad-shouldered, and seemingly taller than before, the figure was Jimmy. The eight years had done him well.
        This meeting was dangerous for her. What if her husband, or one of her husband’s friends just happened to see them? Her attempt at help and escape would fail. Jimmy understood the seriousness of the meeting. This fact alone made Linda suspect him of coming with another person - a social worker or someone of the sort. The Jimmy that Linda remembered - and thought of so frequently - wouldn’t know what to do without “backup”. But, unlike last time, no one accompanied him.
        He looked around to check his bearings against the address written on the paper in his pocket. After confirmation, his gaze fell upon the coffee shop window. That gaze - wishful in nature - penetrated the glass and found Linda. Her gaze ran across the busy fairway and said “hello” ...again.
The light turned green and the white light of the walk signal hurried him through the intersection, up the sidewalk and into the coffee shop. The door chimes rang as he entered, and it all seemed so familiar. He took in a deep breath - shoulders rising and falling, mouth open - and sauntered across the black and white checkered tiles. As he got closer, his breaths became shorter and he stopped short of sitting down. 
He looked at her. This couldn’t be Linda. She had told him the nature of the rendezvous. That is what inspired him to come. But now, he could only shake his head in disbelief. The woman before him was at least ten pounds heavier than he remembered, but the suspected weight wasn’t from eating too much. The weight came from the heaviness of her heart and her bruises. The heaviness was evident on her face, arms and legs. She was purple and black. Her skin had always been so caramel colored. This heaviness inclined her to sit hunch-backed. She always sat with great posture. This heaviness inclined Jimmy to think that if she were to take off her tattered, flowered dress, the bruises would cover her back as well. After eight years of being apart, they couldn’t bring themselves to say a single word. 
        “I’m sorry Jimmy,“ she said. 
        Their reunion began, as their relationship had ended, with an apology. 
        Jimmy kneeled down and looked up at her with a question of which he already knew the answer. 
        “Linda, he did this to you ?”
        She shook her head “yes” and fell into him crying. Her hot tears melted the coldness of his heart. This woman had called him a “boy” nearly eight years ago, but now, it seemed as though he was all the man she needed.

© 2001 Amber N. Mobley


© 2001 Howard University.
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse and Prose, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2001. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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