73. Message From Sarah

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Henry made his way down the street of tenements, arriving at his eyesore of an apartment. The morning sun started to peek through the fading wall of clouds. Despite the promise of a bright day ahead, Henry felt like the light had been ripped from his heart. He was missing Sarah and started to wonder if he'd made a terrible mistake.

Walking through the busy market earlier, Henry had passed by a large white and gold poster for the Diamond Club on the front of the Hester Savings and Loan building. He paused to look at it, thinking of Sarah and how much he had enjoyed spending time with her. He remembered their talks in the park about poetry, baseball, and enjoying life. They both wanted families. Children too. He'd never felt so free with someone. He'd never been able to talk so openly with another person.

As Henry stood there, two young women strode up to the poster. One wore a dark green dress and short charcoal dreadlocks, resembling the yarns of a shag carpet. The other wore a yellow frock, her hair flowing like black satin down to her shoulders.

"You've been there too, right?" the girl in green said.

"Yeah, I've been to the Diamond Club," the other girl said, her yellow dress flowing gently with the breeze. "It was fun, except for the owner. That guy is a creep!"

"Edward Benedict?" The girl in green sighed. "Oh, I know. He's all over every woman that comes into his place. I heard he even tried to kiss that girl who fixes cars. Sarah? You know her?"

"Yeah, that's Albert's niece. Ed likes her greasy overalls."

The girl in green twisted up her face. "Seriously?"

The other girl snorted. "Yeah, but those greasy overalls didn't like him. At least not at the last Amateur Night. He went to kiss her, and she shoved him right off and ran out of the club. Fast as those skinny legs could carry her."

The two women howled, their raucous laughter rising over the market chatter. Wide grins split their faces as they rocked on their heels and slapped their thighs. A full minute later, they continued on their way, their snickering voices fading into the crowd.

Henry stood there staring at the poster. Those girls had established Sarah didn't want anything to do with Edward at the Diamond Club. But that didn't explain what Henry had seen at the ballgame. A part of him was still mad about that. Of course, if he'd been wrong, that meant he'd turned his back on Sarah. A thought that made him sick to the gut.

What if I've been wrong all along?

Now, outside his apartment, Henry sighed, haunted by that question. He entered the apartment building. Inside, he started to climb the stairs.

At the top of the fourth flight, Henry slowed his pace at the sight of the lady. He could feel his eyes bulging out of their sockets, his jaw already gone slack.

A full-figured black queen of a woman paced in front of Henry's apartment door with the number "4A" painted in white. She wore a deep purple dress and held a thick red book in her hand, and it wasn't until she turned to face him that Henry realized it was a bible.

As soon as she saw Henry, she shot one eyebrow up and Henry somehow knew he was going to get an earful. Whoever this woman was, she reminded Henry a lot of his mother.

"Are you Henry Louis?" she asked, her tone as steady as her glare.

Henry couldn't help but notice a hint of the South in her voice. "Yes, ma'am. May I ask what-"

She held up a white-gloved hand. Then she proceeded to talk faster than a freight train to Baltimore. "My name is Nella Carson, and Sarah Stewart is my dear friend. I'm here to tell you that you've made a grave mistake doubting that girl. A grave mistake!"

Henry remembered Sarah mentioning Nella a couple times. But he never expected to meet her like this. Nonetheless, Henry wondered why Nella was here instead of Sarah, but he had a more pressing question. "Are you saying, Sarah wasn't kissing Edward Benedict at the ballgame?" Henry braced for the response.

Nella's eyelids fluttered. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that." She looked skyward as if she could see right through the paint-chipped ceiling. "I'm sorry Lord, but this boy needs your help something fierce." Then she turned a wild-eyed gaze back to Henry, and he wondered if she might be a little crazy. "I suppose you were too busy to see Sarah slap Edward across the face."

"Wait? She hit him?"

Nella looked to the ceiling again. "Lord have mercy! This one is truly trying my patience." Then she met Henry's eyes once more. "That is how she strained her wrist."

Henry felt the color drain from his face. What had he done?

"I'm going to tell you exactly what you need to do if you ever want to see Miss Sarah again. You're going to put on your best suit and march on over to the Diamond Club tomorrow night for Amateur Night. It's as simple as that. Have I made myself clear, Mr. Louis?"

Henry stiffened; something didn't add up. "But why's she going back to the Diamond Club after everything that's happened?"

Nella's expression screwed up in a way that reminded Henry of his mother when she was about to yank his ear. "Never mind that! It's not important. Now let's try this one more time. Have I made myself clear on what you need to do, Mr. Louis?"

Henry inhaled a breath and let it out. "Yes ma'am. Diamond Club. Tomorrow night."

Nella grumbled. "With a suit."

"My best suit," Henry said.

"Good!" Nella Carson's expression finally softened. She held her bible firmly in both hands. And as if the Lord's work had been done, she flashed a big toothy smile.

And for the first time in a while, Henry found himself smiling too.

Author's Note


I use the word "WE," because YOU and I have walked this story's journey together.

I'm so grateful that you've taken the time out of your busy schedule to read these chapters, share your thoughts, and help me become a better writer.

As I've said before, without YOU, this story would have ended a long time ago.

WE are on the cusp of the first major emotional milestone of Color. IMHO, it's huge!

As I've noted, in Chapter 74, there will be an original song. This will be Sarah's voice. I hope you can listen to this song with earbuds or headphones when Sarah recites her poem or after you read the chapter.

If you're not able to listen to the song, I'm afraid you'll miss much of the meaning behind the words.

After you've read the chapter and listened to the song, please let me know your thoughts. I can't wait to hear your feedback.

And now, I'm going to get to work on Chapter 74!



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