T W E L V E

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Kendra sat there picking at a piece of chicken breast while glaring at William sitting across the table, doing his best to avoid eye contact.

"Kendra," hissed Tyler's dad, the pastor. "We bless the food before we eat in this house."

"Like, why though?"

"Everybody join hands, please," he said dismissively.

"What? It's a valid question. Have you never thought of that?" Kendra barked. "Like, why the hell would black people in this country be Christian, it makes no sense." She pointed at William. "Any ideas, colonizer pervert, hm?"

Tyler's mom, a glass of wine in already, let out a hearty cackle.

"Kendra, shut up we wanna eat already," Tyler snapped at his cousin.

"The devil is a liar," quipped the Deacon, eliciting a hard side-eye from Kendra, who sat next to him.

"Why are you even here?" she hissed.

"Why you askin' questions you know the answer to, Kendra?" Jayden muttered, casting a side-eye at the pastor, while making a tight circle with his fist and continuously poking his index finger in and out of it. Tyler didn't like the gesture.

"Bro, shut up."

"Jayden, what does 'that' mean?" asked the innocent Destiny, as she imitated the gesture not-so subtly.

"Nothin', Destiny."

"Are we done?" Tyler's dad interjected, clearing his throat. "Take your neighbor's hand, bow your heads, close your eyes. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for another glorious day and thank you for this meal we are about to eat. Please do not choke Kendra...."

Of course, everyone zoned out except for maybe the obsequious deacon, as he peppered the prayer with his gradually intensifying "amens." Jayden snickered as Tyler's mom released his hand to scoop up her wine glass.

"Okay, let's eat," said the pastor, casting an opprobrious eye on his wife sitting at the other head of the table. "I see some of us have already started." She dismissed him with a grunt as she tipped the glass up again.

William found himself staring at her throat as it undulated, Tyler's mom. She was reasonably attractive; pretty enough to be someone you would assume could be the wife of a respectable pastor, and not one who would be too much of distraction near the pulpit. Her haircut was reasonably efficient, cut just above the shoulders and clipped bangs exposing a reasonable amount of forehead. Her wardrobe consisted of reasonably bland earth tones in her conservative blouses, long skirts, and trousers, clunky boots and walking shoes for comfort. But William had never known a pastor's wife to drink so excessively. He wondered if Tyler had seen her this way before; if he'd ever thought about unbuttoning her shirt, just to feel the heat from her chest when her blood vessels opened from the alcohol. He wondered if Tyler had ever known his mom to be so lewd.

"How was everyone's day today?" asked the pastor.

"It was great, dad. I found out I got an 'A' on my algebra test," Tyler chirped.

"That's so wonderful, son, I'm very proud of you."

"Amen."

"Mehmehmeh, I got an 'A' on my algebra test, mehmehmeh," Kendra mocked. "My period started today. Hail Satan."

"Young lady."

"Oh, let her be, Daryl, it's just a phase," Tyler's mom exhaled with a twinkle of delight in her eyes. She scooped up her glass of wine and put it between her smirking lips. William hadn't touched his food, still intent on salivating on the amount of liquid the woman poured down her throat. Destiny had her cheeks stuffed, looking like two ripe peaches getting plumper with each helping she shoveled in.

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