Part 2

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Monday, September 25, 2017, 5:03 pm

It was a no brainer what Joseph wanted for dinner.  Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese.  She was required to prepare it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  She had been concerned about the weight she gained since his odd request 4 months ago.  She approached him timidly about purchasing an air fryer, bringing concern about his health in focus.  "You cook what I say cook and how I say to cook it,"  was his response.  She wasn't surprised.  A couple of months back, she had thought of putting arsenic in the flour to coat the chicken. A special piece just for him. She researched it and realized it was too dangerous. There was a chance that he may not die immediately. Her efforts would have been pointless.

Even though the sun did not relinquish its shine at 5'o clock in the evening, Natalie was still ordered to dim the lights in the dining room and light candles, even as the sun illuminated every uncovered window in the house.  He sat across the table devouring his food while talking on the phone.  He didn't bother to hide his conversation with the woman who took up most of his time in the evenings.  A mistress that he often referred to as his ' Sweet Plumeria'.   Natalie sat with her eyes cast down toying with the food on her plate.  She would have been devastated by his elicit talk to another woman 16 years ago.  That was 16 years ago.  Today, she didn't care.  She had grown accustomed to his brash and unapologetic behavior.  He ended the call and sat at the other end of the table and stared at her.  His elbows resting on the table forming a triangle with his hands around his mouth.  She could feel his black eyes piercing through her.  

"You know why I see other women?"  He spoke with food swashing about in his mouth.  Without meeting his eyes, she shook her head no.  

"Cause you are no longer nothing fancy to look at.  Look at you.  You gained weight, you don't take care of yourself.  When was the last time you did something to your hair?"  

"How can I lose weight if I have to eat fried chicken three times a week?"  Joseph leaned back in the chair taken back by her response.  In shock, he began to stumble upon his words.

  "You-You can still do something with that rat nest you call hair".

"I went to the salon in Roanoke and you made me take out my braids".  She spoke in disbelief of her own voice.  She hadn't heard it in awhile.  It felt good to become reacquainted with it again.

"All that fake shit in your hair looked a mess.  If you took care of your hair, you wouldn't have to put that shit in there.  I like my woman to wear their natural hair not that synthetic shit you call braids".

"It's my hair, Joseph.  If I want to wear fake shit in it, I will".  She raised her eyes to meet his in defiance.

He rose abruptly from the table stomping over quickly to her.  Joseph was 6'1 and on a good day, he appeared to be 6'4.  Today, he was 6'4.  He grabbed her by her throat and pushed her and the chair down to the floor.  She covered her face bracing for a foot or a slap but it never came.  Panting and out of breath, he retreated and walked upstairs.  Startled, she felt a vibration in her stomach.  She grabbed her phone out of her sweatshirt pocket.  There was a text from Maria.

We are 15 minutes away

She rose from the floor and sat the chair back at the table.  She cleared the dishes and set them in the dishwasher looking over her shoulder as she tidied up.  She could feel the migraine trying to invade her temples and the nape of her neck but the medicine pushed it back to a small throb.  She sat on the couch within view of the stairs and waited.  She heard him fumbling around upstairs.  Soon he was marching down the steps.  She took a deep breath and prayed that whatever he did was quick and that he would leave without killing her in the process.  He grabbed the keys on the hook near the door and left.  Natalie did not move from the chair until she heard his Benz pull out of the driveway.  She didn't know where he went or how much time she had but she was ready to go.

She stood in the side window opposite the front door watching for J.J. like a puppy waiting for his master to come home.  When she saw the red Sonata pull up to the bottom of the driveway, she ran outside, forgetting her keys, purse, and shoes.

Her aunt and uncle departed the car.  Uncle Calvin popped in the trunk to grab J.J.'s overnight bag.  

"Aye...You gonna give your uncle and aunt a hug girl? Why you out here with no shoes on?" Uncle Calvin looked at her feet and furrowed his brow.

Uncle Calvin's gold tooth glistened in the sun as he walked towards her smiling with his arms stretched out.  She ran over and gave him a quick hug and then ran over to Maria giving her the same rushed embrace.

"Mommyyyy! I missed you!  She grabbed J.J. up swiftly in her arms planting kisses all over his face.  The 4-year-old twisted his nose," Ewww mommy you smell like chicken".  

"Well, I guess we better be heading back", Maria said looking oddly at Natalie.  

"My God girl, the boy been gone just for a couple of days.  Yall mothers are Sumthin' else I tell ya.' Calvin began to laugh.

"No. Stay out here for a second.  I am leaving too.  I just need to grab a few things.  I want to follow you guys out."

If Joseph were to come back, he would not try his hand with her uncle Calvin.  They bought her time.  She ran in the house leaving the front door open.  "Wheres mommy going? J.J. looked up at Maria.  "I don't know bebe'.  She looked over at Calvin.  "Something isn't right Calvin".  Calvin shook his head and got in the car.

She ran in the closet and grabbed the old coat.  The cell phone was missing.  She didn't waste time pondering on its whereabouts.  She grabbed her purse and keys and headed out the door.  

"C'mon baby. Get in the car" she motioned for J.J. to climb in his car seat. 

"Natalie are you ok?" her aunt yelled with half of her body in the car and half out.  "

Yes. Tia.  I'm fine".  

She watched as her uncle and aunt slowly drove away.  She locked J.J. in his car seat and hopped in the driver's seat.  Her hand shook so badly that she dropped the keys.  

"Mommy where are we going?" J.J. yelled from the back. Shit...Shit...Shit!  She yelled.  She didn't have Akoni's number on the new phone and she couldn't remember it.  She grabbed the keys that had fallen under her right foot.  Her feet were still bare.  She called Olive while backing the car out of the driveway.  

"Hey, mommy!   Olive had begun to pack her things and prepare to leave the office.

 Olive call your dad and tell him to text me that address and then have him call me on this phone.  Not the old phone".  Natalie kept her foot on the brake as she spoke to Olive.

"Mommy. What's wrong?  Why do you sound like you are out of breath?"  Olive stopped packing her items and sat back in her chair.  Worry began to creep in her voice.

"Baby. Please do as I say and do it quickly.  I will explain later".  Natalie rested her head on the steering wheel.  She had begun to get irritated with Olive's questions.

"Mommy...  J.J. whined from the back seat.

"Wait J.J... Olive don't ask me any questions right now. Just promise you are going to do what I asked".  Natalie released the brake and slowly started backing out of the driveway again.

"I am mom...I'm just a little concerned".  Olive's voice became shaky.  

MOMMY!!!  J.J. began to yell louder.

"J.J. wait...Do it now Olive! Natalie's voice cracked as she continued to back out of the long driveway.  She kept her eyes glued to the side view mirror, maneuvering the vehicle in a straight line.

"Ok. Mom". Olive hung up the phone and called her father.

MOMMY!  J.J.'s voice had grown loud and high pitched, tickling Natalie's eardrum.

"Damn It J.J. what's wrong?

"Daddy's here...

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