In Atlanta XXXIII… Chapter 33

Shu and Sara are still looking like deer in a headlight.  They know something and I am going to get it out of them one way or another.  “Yall, if there is something that you think I should know or if you think Joseph should know, you might as well tell me now.  I have to be able to think straight and be able to do the right things.  I can’t do that if I don’t know what’s going on.  I need to be able to fix whatever is going on.  Joseph is out to sea”  When I mention Joseph being out to sea they look at each other again and this drives me crazy.  I see I am going to have to treat these two as if they are one of my kids.  “GET TO TALKING!!!”  I don’t think they saw me getting loud on them.  With this kind of aggression, Shu spits it out like a canary.  He still has a thick ace t and I am trying to truly understand the words that he is saying.  “It is none of our business, but Julianna tends to have a lot of friends and parties when Joseph is out of town.  They are wild parties.  All of the neighbors are complaining about the noise and the drunk people hanging outside at all times of night.  They even party during the middle of the day.”

My eyes are at a fine slit.  I know he just didn’t say that this woman is partying up in my child house all the damn time when he ain’t here.  Joseph is gone pretty often and when he leaves he is gone for long periods of time.  Sara is the one that hasn’t said anything but I know she is the one that has the big secret.  I decide to play my position with her using guilt.  “Ok.  Shu, can you come and unlock the door?  We need to go in and see if I can find my grandbabies.  Sara, you come with us too. I know you might not feel up to this, but I need witnesses.”  I start walking through the grass and up the front steps.  I have both Sara and Shu in tow.  Shu gets the key and is having a hard time getting the key into the lock.  “Child!  Give me this damn key!”  I take the key and I am unlocking this door as if my life depended on it.  In reality, it does.  My life does depend on what is on the other side of this door.

The minute I open the door, there is a rotten smell that hits me face on.  This makes Sara retrieve backwards and as soon as she is off the steps, she is throwing up in the bushes.  Shu runs to her and he is holding her hair.  I tell him to take her home and come back over once he gets her settled.  I feel bad for forcing them to walk this house with me.  Especially when I already know that the kids aren’t really here.  I just have to see what the hell done happened.  Not to mention, the van that Julianna drives is still parked in the driveway.  If you didn’t know any better, you would think someone is home.  I get a handkerchief out of my purse and I place it under my nose.  Sara’s reaction to the smell in this house is real.  I am mad and sad at the same time.  My will to understand and find out what is happening is pushing me through it.  I was under the impression that Joseph had hired Ms. Burris to help with cleaning the house.  If I was her and saw this shit, I would quit.  It is probably what she is thinking right now as we speak.

I go straight to the girl’s room and I take a look around.  It is not clean,  but it is not as bad as the rest of the damn house.  There is a smell in here that makes me gag.  I look under the cover of the bed, I look in the trash.  There are a pile of dirty diapers just sitting there.  They smell, but it is something stronger.  I keep looking.  I open the door to the closet and my heart faints.  There is shit and piss every damn where on the floor of the closet.  Its like my feet are glued to that one spot.  I can’t move.  These kids were in their own closet.  They were obviously unattended to.  I hear footsteps and this unlocks my stance.  It is Shu.  He also has a look of disgust and disappointment on his face.  “Mrs. Jones, my wife and I would like to invite you over for tea. ”

Sur La Table

We finally made it to Lake Edward.  I leave the stash house that Pocket has and I walk over to where the townhouses are located.  It is only a ten minute walk.  I get to Joan’s house and I start to knock on the door as hard as I can.  Joan works for the Ford plant.  She works different hours and when she is home, she is either sleep or playing cards.  If she is sleep then it will be hell trying to get her to wake up.  She has a Rottweiler in her fenced in back yard.  The fence is damn near falling apart.  Chance is pouncing on the wooden door that leads to the back yard.  I yell at Chance to hush.  He doesn’t stop barking.  It is Chance’s barking that woke Joan out of her deep sleep.  He is my saving grace.

Joan comes to the door rubbing her face.  When she opens the door and sees me, she appears relieved.  “Hey!  What’s happening?  What you doing over here and who you with?  You came by yourself?”  I tell Joan that I was rolling with Pocket.  We go into her kitchen and we sit at her kitchen table.  She grabs her pack of Newport cigarettes and gives me one.  We are both puffing and talking at the same time.  “Julianna, when is Joseph suppose to be back?”  I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  It isn’t like he doesn’t give me a date.  I just don’t remember what he said.  “Joan, I have fucked up and I have fucked up something terrible.  I can’t find the kids.”  Joan has a long pull on her cigarette and then puts it out in the ashtray.  She finally looks back up to me and says, “You want to run that by me again?”  Tears start to fall from my face.  I go to my purse and I pull out a vial of powder that I keep.  I place a small amount on the top corner of my hand and I take a snort.

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Joan is not going to judge.  In fact, she gets up and fixes her a gin and tonic.  It is still morning, but I guess it is five o’clock somewhere.  “Joan, I have got to find my kids.  I have no idea where they are.”  She is still shuffling around the kitchen and then sits back down.  “Julianna, when you left the house, where were the girls?”  I am still feeling bad about the situation, so I tell her that I had the girls in their room with the door closed.  Joan has been to my house when I am having a party.  She can see straight through the statement about the girls being in their room.  She knows that I put them into the closet.  The reason I do this is because I don’t want them to get in the way.  I don’t have a baby sitter and God knows Pocket can’t stand them.  I put them in the closet so that they wont be in the way and nobody, including Pocket will have access to them.  It might not be the best idea, but it works for me.

Sur La Table0

Sara and Shu have really nice China.  I can tell that it is probably a family heirloom.  They clearly don’t believe in sugar around here.  I don’t see any and there damn sure ain’t a drop of it in this tea.  I am not rude though.  Given the circumstances, I know that they haven’t invited me over for tea just to chit chat.  Sara takes a sip of her hot tea and then she closes her eyes.  I don’t know if she is savoring the tea or if she is saying a silent prayer.  Either way, I don’t take my eyes off of her.  I need her to tell me what it is that she knows.  “Mrs. Jones…  I don’t mean to instigate anything, but there is something weird that is going on next door.”  No shit!  I am hoping that she just hurries this shit along.  I don’t have all damn night to get to the bottom of this situation.  I need to find my grandbabies.  “Sara baby, just spit it out.”  She looks at Shu and he gives her a nod of encouragement.  “I think that Julianna is having an affair with her drug dealer, Pocket.  I think that he has her having these parties so that he can sell drugs out of her house.  We know Pocket sells dope.  He and his friends come into our restaurant several times a week.  The whole city knows who he is.  I am sorry to have to tell you this.  We love Julianna and Joseph.  I can’t understand what she could see in a guy like Pocket.  I saw them kissing one day in the driveway.  She only has her parties when Joseph is out of town.”

Did she just say “Pocket”?  Shu starts to speak.  “I told Joseph that I would look out for the family and the house when he was away.  I feel like I have let him down.  What can we do to help you?”  I am still on the fact that Sara has said the name “Pocket”.   Pocket… Pocket… Pocket…  Where have I heard that name before?  Oh shit!!!  Pocket is Julianna’s cousin!!!  Or at least, that is what she told us.   My poor Joseph has been getting screwed behind his back in his own house.  Ain’t this some shit?

Effy Jewelry

In Atlanta XXXII… Chapter 32

My life was not always this way.  I wasn’t partying like I am now.  I grew up in a very strict environment.  My mother always had a husband,   ALWAYS.  Each husband came with their own set of rules.  My mother never budged or took the reins in defending me or my younger sister.  I had to dress a certain way, act a certain way, go to my room and stay there until I was asked to come out.  When I graduated high school, I went on to Norfolk State University for college.  Because it was around the corner from our house, my mother made me live at home to help out with all of the chores and “Cinderella” things.  To keep myself out of the house, I decided to get a job at the airport.  My friend Cynthia was also working there part time while we were in school and she said that she was making a decent amount of money.  I applied for the job at Hertz Rental Car and was hired on the spot.

Cynthia was right.   I loved working at the airport, sometimes when it was slow at the rental counter, I would people watch.  I even brought my sketch pad and I would draw the scenery.  I always wondered how each person knew each other.  Were they family, close friends, or business partners?  I wondered where they flew in from and how long would they be visiting the area.  What impressed me the most were the flight attendants.  They were so well put together.  They would come through the large glass doors as a group and it was almost as if they automatically put themselves in sync with each other.  Their makeup was always perfect.  Not a strand of hair out of place.  The scarves that they wore seemed to flow in the wind as they walked through the terminal.  They did all of this in high heels as if their feet never hurt.  I wanted to be one.  I was determined to be one.

I had one more semester of school left before it was time to graduate.   I went ahead and applied for a flight attendant position with Delta.  The following week, I was standing at the rental counter sketching out some things in my sketch pad when a robust man approached the counter.  He had on a Delta uniform.  I honestly thought that he was there to rent a car for himself.  Instead he wanted to know how soon would I be able to go to Atlanta to train to become a flight attendant.   I was overly excited.  “I can leave today!”  The heavy man chuckled and his belly moved along with his laughter.  “I see.  Well first we need to have an interview.  If you answer the questions to our liking, then we will see about getting you down to Atlanta to start the program.  Does this sound fair?”  It was more than fair.  I was ready to walk away from that rental counter and follow him home like I was some sort of lost puppy.  “All of this sounds great!  Just let me know when you want me to interview and I will be there”  And with that, I was on a track to becoming a glamourous flight attendant for Delta Airlines.

I had my interview a few days later and the heavy set gentleman said that he would be booking my ticket to Atlanta for flight attendant school.  Delta had it’s headquarters in Atlanta and that’s just about where everyone went to train for any position that Delta had.   I was set to leave in two days.  I thanked the manager of the rental car company for allowing me the opportunity to work there.  I hope that there wouldn’t be any hard feelings.  I was going to be in Atlanta for six weeks.  Six whole weeks on my own!!!  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I had never visited a city like Atlanta.  I was too excited to be out of Virginia.  School could wait.  It wasn’t everyday that just anyone became a flight attendant.  I hadn’t told my mother about my new plans.  I am sure she was going to explode when she found out.  This was my first experience in asking for forgiveness rather than asking for permission.

When I got in, I found Mother fixing herself a cocktail in the kitchen.  Her cigarette was lying in the ash tray awaiting her next puff.  “Well Julianna, you are home mighty early.”  I felt like I was already caught doing something bad.  Mother didn’t appear to be upset or mad.  She just made the comment as a matter of fact.  “Hi Mother, I got a new job, so my hours are going to be different now.”  She takes a sip of her concoction.  She closes her eyes which is an indication that she mixed her cocktail just right.  “A new job.  Huhhh….  What will you be doing at your new job at the rental company?”  My eyes dart around the kitchen to see my best escape route.  So far, the back door from which I just entered is my best escape.  She is now leaning against the kitchen countertop.  She has her cocktail in one hand and her cigarette in another.  I make a decision to answer her question while walking past her to get to my room.  “I quit the rental company and I was given a job as a flight attendant with Delta.  I leave in two days to go to Atlanta for six weeks of training”  I hear her high heel house slippers on the linoleum floor following me through the kitchen and into the hallway towards my bedroom.

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“Young lady have you lost your damn mind?!!!”   I know it sounds crazy, but in that very moment, I was waiting on something to hit me.  I didn’t know if it would have been her hands, a belt, a chain, and electric cord, or a chair, but I was ready to take the beating that I knew was sure to come.  I closed my eyes, hoping that my mind would take me to a different place mentally.  This usually helped me with getting through it all.  But the beating didn’t come.  Instead, I open my eyes only to see the hate and rage that my mother had in her eyes.  In a very calm voice she starts to speak to me.  “You ignorant ungrateful bitch!  I have put clothes on your back and food in your mouth and this is how you repay me.  I have been paying for your tuition at Norfolk State for four years, you have one more semester to complete and you will have your degree.  Never mind the fact that you actually majored in Art.  Art!!!  Who in the hell gets a job as an Art Major?!”  I am stunned that she knows this information.  Whenever she would talk with her friends, she would always indicate that I was at Norfolk State studying Early Childhood Education so that I would become a school teacher just like her.

This is probably the one thing that I did inherit from my mother, we didn’t care too much for kids.  So why in the hell did she think that I would want to be a school teacher.  She was a school teacher because that was the socialite thing to do.  It wasn’t because she had a passion for the work.  Mother continues with her rant about how much of a disappointment I am to her.  How I can be a disappointment is beyond me.  I hadn’t done anything wrong.  In fact, even if I had done something, she wouldn’t notice.  All she gave a damn about was her current husband and ‘”keeping up with the Joneses”  She finally marched off in search of her cigarette and her drink.  I closed my door and before I knew it, I had fallen asleep.  When I woke, there were pictures cut out of newspaper and magazine articles of airplane crashes taped all throughout my room.  Angeline was definitely a piece of work.  None of these pictures frightened me in the least.  In fact, it reminded me that I only had a short time to pack for six weeks.

I thought my own mother was a character.  If she was a character what the hell will people or my own children think of me?  They must think that I ain’t shit.  I feel like shit, look like shit, and I am starting to smell like shit.  Pocket is driving down Virginia Beach Boulevard headed towards Newtown Road.  I know that we could only be going to Lake Edwards.  This is where he has a dope house.  I have a cousin Joan that lives in Lake Edwards.  She has a real laid out crib.  Joan works for Ford and she gets paid big money.  We are like sisters.  Her mother is my mother’s sister.  It is a serious rivalry between the two of them, but not for Joan and I.  Joan is the most giving person that you would want to meet.  She is also one of the smartest.  I just hope that she can help me find the kids before Joseph gets back.  I know that Joan will know what to do.

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In Atlanta XXXI… Chapter 31

I leave the room and head towards the elevator that will take me to the lobby.  Hopefully, this cab will be waiting on me.  The problem is, I don’t know my way around Virginia and I really can’t give him any directions.  The last time I was here was when Jordan was born.  I stayed a week, but I didn’t leave the house to do anything.  All I wanted to do was spoil my new baby and Jacinta.  Jacinta watched my every move.  She is such a smart little girl.  My heart softens knowing what has happened to them.  When I was here, I would sit in the room with the girls while they took their naps. I was right there when their eyes started to flutter open.  How the hell could Julianna leave them is beyond me.  I am worried about her.  The woman that I know isn’t like this.  I know she loves those kids.  Something in the pit of my stomach has me worried sick.  I get off the elevators and proceed with my walk towards the lobby front doors.  There is a cab waiting and I get inside.

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I tell the cab driver the address to Joseph’s house.  He is unsure of where this house is.  So am I.  I tell him that maybe I can remember how to get there.  Either way, I am paying and if anything he will make extra if we get lost.  He pulls away from the hotel and we are on our way.  The sun has set and it is dark here in Virginia Beach.  I can see why Joseph likes it here.  It is peaceful and spread out.  The streets are clean and it doesn’t seem as though there is a lot of violence.  People tend to keep to themselves.  Virginia is a military and college state.  I am sure that with so many military living here, this is why things are so orderly and why it feels so safe.  Even if it wasn’t safe to come out at night, I would still be out here looking for my kids.  There isn’t anything that I am scared of.  The only thing that could scare me is if something happened to my kids.  Any of my kids!  I run a really tight ship in Atlanta.  Even these spouses of my children understand my mantra.  Having had this thought, I have already made up my mind that Jacinta and Jordan are coming back to Atlanta with me.  At least in Atlanta no one will leave these precious angels alone.  Not on my watch.

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I tell the cab driver that I remember driving down a Providence Road.  He looks at me as if I am crazy.  “Ma’am Providence Road is pretty long.  It runs from Virginia Beach through Norfolk and then through Chesapeake.”  I tilt my head.  Something that I do when I feel as though I am being talked back to.  “Then I guess we are going on an expedition.  Besides, we only need to go through the Virginia Beach sector.  My son’s address is not in Norfolk or Chesapeake.  I am certain that we can find the house if we drive along Providence Road in the Virginia Beach part.”  With this information, the cab driver turns around and decides to light up a cigarette.   I hate the smell of smoke.  It makes my nose itch.  For good measure, I roll down the window.   We start our journey towards Providence Road and I am watching each landmark as if my life depended on it. I finally see a street sign that says “Amesbury”.  This is the street!  “Sir, this is the street, and the house number is 952”  A feeling of confidence and accomplishment washes over me.

I wasn’t sure what I would do once I got to the house.  It isn’t as if I had a key to go inside and wait.  Instead, I sit on the front steps of the house so that I can think this thing out.  I am getting into this house, come hell or high water.  I just need to be smart about it.  There is a deck on the back of the house.  There isn’t a fence for the back yard.  Only Joseph and his neighbor next door are the only houses on the street without a fence.  I make a mental note to speak to him about this.  If I can break into your house, anyone can.  I get to the back and sure enough the window to the kitchen is right off the deck.  I can break the window and climb through.  I don’t want to cut my hand or arm with the glass, so I go to the tree that is on the side of the house, to see about getting me a strong branch to break through it.

Sur La Table

As I am pulling down the tree branches, I feel a light shine on me.  Aww shit!  Here we go.  I figured the nosey neighbors in this neighborhood would be calling the police if they saw me.  Joseph is the only black family on his street, maybe even in the entire neighborhood.  Julianna is Filipino, being Asian doesn’t count as much as being black.  People say that I pass as a white woman. This is only true because my real daddy was white.  I naturally have blonde hair, but I hated the color and so I dyed it several years ago so that I wouldn’t look so Irish like.  The blonde hair made me stand out and I didn’t like that.  I look over my shoulder and the flash light that is being shined into my face, doesn’t allow me to see who is shining it at me.  “Hello!  Who are you?  What are you doing to this tree?”  The voice is a foreign voice.  It sounds like a Chinese man.   I place my hand on over my eyes to try and block the bright light that is now in my face.  I yell back “My name is Susan Jones, my son Joseph lives in this house.  He and his wife are not here and I need to get in it.  I was going to break a window with this tree branch.  I think the kids are in there by themselves and I am trying to get to them.”

The flash light falls to the man’s side and he hurries up to me.  “Oh!!!  Hi my name is Shu Wong.  I am the next door neighbor.  I will get my wife.  She has an emergency key to the house.  We don’t have to break nothing.  I will get her.”  The Chinese man hurries to his garage.  Look at God!  I am relieved and grateful that I didn’t have to break a window.  What kind of name is Shu?  I swear they need help with naming each other.  I shake my head and walk towards the edge of their driveway.  I look into the  open garage.  The light is on.  I am instantly jealous.  These folks got at least 4 deep freezers in their garage.  If I was to put this on my carport, I wouldn’t have shit to show for it.  In the corner of their garage, are enough fishing rods for a fleet of fishermen.   There are all kinds of pots and pans hanging from the ceiling.  Whatever they are doing, I am sure it is amazing.  A great cook always recognizes another one.

The door from the house to garage opens and out comes a beautiful pregnant woman.  She is also Chinese.   She is carrying low and I can tell it is a boy and I also know that this must be her first time pregnant.  She is very meticulous with her steps.  When you have had six children like myself, walking on eggshells is the last thing you do.  She is very nice and she holds a set of keys in her hand.  “Hello, my name is Sara.   Joseph and Julianna left a spare key with us for emergencies.  Joseph looks just like you.”  She smiles broadly.  I ask Shu if he minds coming into the house with me to check on things.  I told the two of them the situation.  As I was talking the both of them kept looking at each other as if they knew something, but didn’t want to say anything.  Finally, I cut the shit.  “Look, yall real nice people and all, but yall know something and aint saying it.  I have my own six children, my sister’s five children, and now I have a total of thirteen grandchildren.  Now one of yall get to talking!”

Effy Jewelry

In Atlanta XXX… Chapter 30

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Dr. Hall’s office is located on the basement floor of the medical building, where Dr. Wise’s office is on the second floor.  This office has no windows, but to make up for it, their are several flat screen televisions framed on the wall as if they were actual windows.  You can really see various scenes of nature as if you were looking out of a real window.  I believe that this is creative.  The office has noise diffusers in every corner of every room.  Dr. Wise has them in her office as well.  She says that they produce “white” noise.  It reminds me of the quiet hum of the airplane after it has reached a cruising altitude.  It really does put you at ease and in a state of relaxation.

I approach the receptionist’s window and the kindest lady greets me.  It is as if she already knows all that I am going through.  You can tell by the way she talks to me.  It is soft and reassuring.  She gives me a clip board with several pages of medical questions for me to fill out.  I find out that Dr. Hall does not take insurance.  When I ask about the cost, she tells me that it is $150 for the first visit and $130 for every doctor’s visit.  My other option is to pay $1500 for an entire year of medical concierge service.  This will give me unlimited doctor’s visits and personalized care 24/7.  I can even text him and have access to him via his personal cell phone.  Wow!  I decide to pay $150 and if this doctor can truly help me, I will consider the concierge service.

I take my seat next to Chico who is flipping through his Instagram page.  He asks me if I need any help filling out the forms.  I tell him that I can manage.  Most of the forms are your standard current health concerns, medical history, and personal medical information.  There is a HIPA form, that is pretty standard.  Then I finally get to what looks like 4 pages of personality questions.  I start to flip through the list of questions and I start to feel overwhelmed.   The questions are broad, yet blunt.  It is damn near the same questions that the Social Worker from the “Doom Room”.  I know that Chico is somewhat sneaking a peek at the forms that I am completing.  I find myself stopping at different questions, not sure how to write down the answers.  I am nervous all over again and I just say “Fuck it!”  I answer each of the questions, not really caring how I am answering them.  “Babe, you ok?”  Chico is already sensing my anxiety.  “I’m ok”  That’s a lie.

I take the clip board with all of my paperwork and I take it to the receptionist.   As I pass her the clip board, she grabs my hand.  Once she lays the clip board down, she holds her other hand on top of the hand that she is currently holding.  “Listen Beautiful, you are going to be ok!  Dr. Hall is the best, he will help you.   I promise.  My name is Diane.  You let me know if we can do anything for you.  We will call you back shortly, babe!”  This puts me at ease.  I don’t if Diane does this with all of his patients, but she made me feel as though she was only there for me and she understood what was happening.   We are called to the back and we are taken to such a quaint and comforting room.   A few minutes later, in comes the skinniest man.  He looks like Mr. Rogers except younger and way taller.  Dr. Hall has to be 6’5″.  He has long locks of curls that dance around his head.  By far, he has to be the most positive person I have ever met.  He has a smile on his face and there can’t be anything more perfect than right this second.  This is going to sound bold, but I swear white people have great lives. They never seem stressed.

“Hi! I’m Dr. Hall!  I am so glad that you have decided to let me help you.  So tell me, what’s going on?”  We take Dr. Hall through the same journey that we explained to Dr. Wise.  The entire time that we are explaining things, I am crying, but Dr. Hall is still happy go lucky, but listening intensely and taking a ton of notes.  After we finish explaining, which I thought was hard in itself, he decides to start asking about some of the real questions that were on the questionnaire.  Lord, build a fence.

“According to your medical forms, you are currently taking Prozac, Xanax, Amlodipine, and Ambien.  Do you know what each prescription is for?  How long and how often have you taken these prescriptions?”  Dr. Hall is just rattling off question after question and in such a polite way.  It is making my head spin.  “Yes, I have been on Prozac since 1982.  It was first prescribed to me by a child psychiatrist when I was younger.  I was scared of a lot of things, so my grandmother took me to see a doctor and this was given to me.  It is suppose to help with the anxiety and the hiding in the closet issues.”  This statement makes Dr. Hall stop what he is doing.  He puts his clip board down and looks at me.  It is almost as if he is trying to read my mind or see through my soul.  “Prozac was introduced in 1982.  Do you know if you were taking this prescription under some sort of medical study?”  I look confused.  I didn’t know that Prozac was introduced and approved by the FDA in 1982.  Dr. Hall on the other hand has a look of defeat on his face.  It is almost as if he feels sorry for me.  He grabs the clip board and starts to take additional notes.  “You said you have issues with hiding in the closet.   Is this a behavior issue that still exists?”  I look up at Dr. Hall and then at Chico.  Chico’s eyes are so encouraging.  “Yes, I still hide in my closet or any tight space for that matter.  It’s like a security blanket for me.  It is hard to explain.”

I can tell that Dr. Hall wants to ask more questions, but is thinking as to whether he wants to put through all of this emotional agony.  He looks to Chico as if he is trying to get a head nod to go ahead or to stop.  He decides to continue probing away.  We are in his office for two and half hours.  He is so intrigued by the situation, even I am shocked at his interest.  I have never had a doctor take the kind of time that this doctor has taken.  After we go through all of the crazy instances and issues that I think that I have, Dr. Hall looks at me with a smile on his face.  What the fuck is he so happy about?  “Jacinta, what if I told you that I think that I can cure you.   Would you believe me?”  I tell him “No, I don’t think that there is a cure for all of the things that I have been through”  He gives a slight chuckle and asks, “Can we at least see if I can try?”  Say no more.  I can’t think of anything else worse happening.

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In Atlanta XXVIX… Chapter 29

Ms. Burris has asked that we take her home before we go to Social Services.  I don’t quite blame her there.  Tidewater Park is not necessarily the place you are trying to walk through at night.  I don’t have a car seat, so I tell Denise that she needs to hold onto Jordan as best she can in her seatbelt.  Jacinta seems to have calmed down a bit and I believe the drive has soothed her into a sleep.   I am sure that she is absolutely exhausted.  A three year old, should never have to go through what she has been through.  I am sure her emotions and thought process is all over the place.  I pray that all is well with Julianna.  I don’t know where she is or why she would leave her children and her house in the conditions that she did.  Something must be really wrong.  As much as I have a strong dislike for her mother, I do not ever wish that on any of the children.  These circumstances are not their fault.  They are simply caught in the middle.  Denise is truly concerned and I can tell that she loves these little girls as if they were her own.

Ms. Burris is overwhelmed and exhausted as well.  I am sure that she didn’t wake up this morning thinking that she was going to walk into what she did.  She has had her hand on her head the entire ride.  I decide to break the silence.  “Ms. Burris, you did the right thing.  Don’t feel bad about anything.  If anything this family owes you the world.  No telling how worse this situation could have been had your not come in today.  These kids will be fine and I am sure that we will be able to help them get to the right people.”  She lets out a huge sigh.  “I’m sure that you know what you are doing Ms. Garrett.  I honestly applaud you for stepping up to the plate and taking charge of the situation.  Most people would have hung up on me had I presented this situation to them.  I know their real grandmamma did.  Its a damn shame.   And Ms. Julianna….  I don’t know what has gotten into her.”

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I finally pull into Tidewater Park.  Ms. Burris is gathering her things.  Before she gets out of the car, she grabs my hand.  “Ms. Garrett, please make sure nothing happens to these babies.  Mr. Joseph is a good husband and a good father.  I know he will fix this.  Don’t let them strangers take them away from him.”  I nod and a tear falls down my face.  I don’t know what I would have done if someone tried to take Denise away from me.  Even though she is already a grown woman, she is still my baby.  “Ms. Burris, I promise I will do everything I can to keep these kids safe and to help get them back to their father.  I promise you that.”  I squeeze her hand in acknowledgement and she finally closes the car door.  I wait and watch her walk until she is finally in her apartment.  God knows he can send angels.  As she was walking through the courtyard, all of the kids playing run up to her and help her with her bags. It is as if she is the grandmother of the projects.  She is most respected.  Even the hoodlums speak and offer to help her into the house.   Having seen this, I began to back out of the parking space and head down to Princess Anne.

The bus has run it’s few errands in the city and now I am finally getting dropped off at the airport in Casa Blanca.  It took an additional two hours out of the way.  I wish that they could have just dropped me off first, but beggars can’t be choosers.  I locate the Pan Am ticket counter and I stand in the somewhat long line.  All of the announcements are in either Farsi or French.  So far, no English.  This should be interesting.   I finally get to the ticket counter and a beautiful Moroccan woman greets me at the counter, speaking French of course.  “English?”  In a thick accent, she responds.   “Yes Sir, what can I do for you today?”  I explain my itinerary which makes her have several faces of ‘wow”.  “Ma’am, I am just trying to get home as soon as I can.  Can you help me?”  She looks through several sheets of what I think are flight schedules.   She looks at the clock behind her on the wall and then back to the flight schedules.  “Ok, so there is a flight leaving for Paris in another hour.  However, if you can run, there is a flight leaving for Rome, Italy in the next 20 minutes.  The gate is not that far.  It will allow you to transfer flights in Rome and then from Rome to New York.  It is a longer flight, but it will get you back to the U.S. faster than the route you requested.”  I tell her to book it.

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“Pocket!  You don’t understand.  My kids are gone!  They are not here!”  I am still running through the house screaming their names.  “Well hell, it seems to me as if we don’t have any problems.  If they aren’t here, then we don’t need to do anything.  I thought you said, you were coming here to get some money.  Where is the money?  Let’s get that and then we can split.”  He clearly doesn’t understand the severity of this situation.  I can’t think clearly and tears are rolling from my face.  What in the hell happened to my babies.  I have fucked up big time.  This house is a mess!  My kids are missing!  My husband is out at sea!  He has no idea about my partying.  He is going to lose it if I call him. I have got to find my kids.  Pocket is still trying to get me to get some money and leave with him.  “Julianna!!  I am not going to ask your ass again.  Get the money and let’s split!!”  I don’t want another back hand.  I get a few things.  I grab a change of clothes and I go into my walk in closet.  Joseph keeps extra cash in a few of his dress socks.  I grab a few pairs of “money socks”.  I don’t want to leave, but I don’t have a choice.

The police station in Princess Anne is cold.  Not just temperature cold, but it gives me chills.  Jordan has fallen asleep and Denise is carrying her.  I am holding Jacinta’s hand.  She is still sleepy herself.  I reach the information counter and I tell the officer sitting there that I am there to meet a social worker.  He tells us to have a seat on the wooden bench.  We sit on the bench and the bench itself confirms the coldness.  “Momma, what are these people going to do about the kids?  Do you think they may make them stay here?  If they stay here, they are going to be more scared than what they were when they were in that closet.  Can’t we just keep them until Joseph calls and gets his mother to help?”  At this moment, looking around this station, I totally agree with Denise.  I don’t want to leave these kids here.  I just want to let the authorities know that these kids are in my care until the real parents or guardians become present.  I call myself trying to do the right thing.  You just can’t walk off with other people’s children, even if they did abandon them.  Before I can respond to Denise, I hear someone call my name.  “Ms. Garrett!”  I stand up and tell Denise to come on.    At this point God is going to have to let his will be done.  We can request as much as we can and I will.  I just don’t know if these folks are going to be that understanding.

I am steady dialing the phone number that Ms. Burris gave me for Mignon Garrett.  When Ms. Burris told me who Ms. Garrett was, I was in shock.  She must be an angel.  Aint no way I could have been in her position.  Taking care of the grandchildren of the woman who stole your man.  The phone continues to ring.  I finally hang up.  What I do know is that this woman has my grandchildren.  From what I understand, she is a good person.  I don’t feel like being in this hotel room.  I call the front desk.  “Yes, this is Susan Jones in room 317.  I need a cab….

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In Atlanta XXVIII… Chapter 28

We are finally landing the helicopter at Port Lyautey which is a U.S. Naval Air Station base outside of Casa Blanca.  There is a bus that I can take from the Navy base that will take me into Casa Blanca.  I am not sure if I will be able to get all the way to the airport, but it is worth a shot to ask the petty officer if he is willing to help a brother out.  He agrees and says that we will be leaving shortly.  The military is extremely efficient.  No one is just going to take time out to take me by myself into Casa Blanca.  All travels outside of the base has to be approved.  We are only free with our rights inside the military base and the grounds of the U.S. Consulate.  I have not had a chance to even contact the Consulate to let them know that I am returning back to the U.S. before the date that my work visa states.  The Petty Officer lets me know that the bus going to Casa Blanca will leave in about 45 minutes.  I have enough time to make a few phone calls and grab a bite to eat.  At least on the Navy base, I know the food is safe and has been inspected properly.

My first call is back to my house.  The phone is just ringing.  No one is picking up.  This makes me nervous.  It is starting to get late in the states.  I am about 10 or 12 hours ahead of their time.  It is around 9:00 a. m. here in Morocco.  Where in the hell is Julianna?  I’m upset.  I hang up the phone and others are starting to look at me as if they should be on alert.  I wave to let them know I am friendly and most importantly, that I am an American.  I am not in military uniform.  They don’t know if I am a U.S. civilian or if I am a Moroccan national.  I don’t need those extra problems.  As a precaution, I decide to pull out my U.S. passport, so that others around me can see that I am just a government contractor trying to travel back home.  I turn my attention back to the phone and I call the biggest safety net that I have.  I call Waterford.  My father answers the phone on the third ring.  He sounds relieved to hear my voice.  I am relieved to hear someone familiar and someone that I trust.

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“Daddy, I am in Morocco.  I am trying to get home to Virginia as soon as I can.  I don’t know just yet how I will get home or how long it will take me.  I have to see what happens when I get to the airport in Casa Blanca.”  I am talking a mile a minute.  Daddy can sense my uneasiness and he finally cuts me off.  “Joseph, calm down son.  You know we got your back.  Your momma left here this morning.  She called me when she got to Virginia Beach.  She is already there.  She took a cab to your house and the door was locked.  She says that she is staying at a Hilton near Pembroke.  Do you know where Pembroke is?”  Pembroke is literally five minutes away from the house. “Listen, don’t you worry about anything.  Your momma just didn’t have a key to get into the house.  She does have the phone number for your housekeeper.  She has been trying to get in touch with her.   Trust your momma, she gone get this situation straightened out.  You just get here as safe and as fast as you can.  You need any money?” This question actually makes me smile a bit.  My Dad worked his ass off and he is now retired.  I make about 4 times more than what he did at the time that he retired.  I don’t need any money, but the fact that he wants to make sure that I am ok is heartfelt.  I love this man.  I am sure that something happening with my kids and my wife is worrying him too.

“Daddy, I have some money put away in my sock.  I should be good on money.  I just need to make sure that my family is ok.  If nothing else, I want Momma to get my girls.  I will have to find out what happened to Julianna when I get there.”  He tells me to watch myself and we hang up the phone.  I already know that we have the best soldier on the front line to represent me in Virginia.   My Momma plays no games.  She is one that you don’t want to dance with on the wrong song.  I know that she will take care of my family and make sure that everyone is ok.  I just wish that I could be there right now myself.  This is not to my advantage.

I have to make one more phone call.  I call into a hotline that is primarily designated for employees of Sperry that are working internationally.  An operator comes onto the phone and I am directed to another person in another department.  I tell them my employee ID information and they start to ask a series of security questions to validate my ID.  I am working covert.  If something were to happen to me, there would be several layers of government involved to put a resolution into place.  I am praying that nothing has happened to Julianna.  I have always been somewhat anti-social when people asked me what I did for a living.  I would usually tell people that I was an auto mechanic.  I guess the cleanliness of my hands and the upscale neighborhood didn’t align with that story.  So I told people that I was an Engineer and I worked on power grids.  So far, no one questioned that.  I guess the only thing they really questioned was why I was gone for such long periods of time.

I finally get through the series of security questions and I am told that I am on a secure line and I can speak freely.  I tell the guy on the other line, who has not even given his name, about my situation and that I need to get back to the states as soon as possible.  At this point, I hear typing in the background as I am talking.  I am now asked a series of additional questions about my family.  Where my kids go to school?  Where my wife works?  What grocery stores do we frequent?  I have to let them know just about everything about us.  There is a possibility that Julianna could have been kidnapped due to my position.   You would be amazed at how people will demand a ransom or a missile launcher code.  I am told that I will be able to go to the airport in Casa Blanca.  From there I will catch a flight that will fly me from Casa Blanca to Paris.  From Paris, I will fly to London.  From London, I will fly to New York.  I have the option to take a train from New York to Newport News, Virginia or I can wait on another flight which will depart eight hours later that will fly into Norfolk from New York.  I write as much as I can down.  In my peripheral, I see the Petty Officer waving to me that it is time to leave.  I thank the guy on the phone and I am running with my bags to the bus.   As the bus pulls off, I try to mentally prepare myself for this 3 day journey back home.  I have a layover in every city.  I just hope that Momma or Julianna is back home by the time I make it to Paris.  This will be the next time I will be able to use a phone.

Pocket finally finishes up his conversation with Pipe.  He gets back in the El Dorado.  As sweet as I can muster I ask him, “Baby, run me by the house so that I can get a couple of things.  I just need to feed the kids and get some money and then we can head back out.”  I believe that me announcing that we could go and get some money was my ticket to getting a ride back home.  I will have to figure out what to do once I got there.  It was now dark outside.  I feel bad.  I am actually ashamed of myself.  I can’t believe that I forgot about the kids.  Joseph would kill me if he knew what was going on.  He loved those kids with everything he had.  He was a great father.  He was even a better husband.  What the fuck am I doing?  I run my fingers through my messy bun.  I still have blood on the side of my face from when Pocket slapped me.   I decide to get a Virginia slim cigarette out and I light it up.  The smoke from my nostrils starts to calm me down.

We finally pull into my driveway.  There are no lights on inside the house.  I fiddle through my purse looking for the keys to the house.  I finally get them.  Pocket decides to yell and it makes me more nervous than what I already am.  “Look! Don’t take too fucking long, I got shit to do and we gone need that money you trying to go in there and get.  I don’t give a shit about them damn kids.  They bet not be doing a whole bunch of hollering and crying.  Ain’t nobody got time for that shit!”  I finally get the keys in the door and I turn the lights on in the foyer.  The house is an absolute mess.  The smell is making me nauseous.  I cover my mouth and my nose and I am still trying to remember who all was here during the party.   I go into the girls’ room and the door to the closet is open.  They are not there.  I start to run through the house and I can’t find the girls anywhere.

“Pocket!!!  The kids!!!  The kids are gone!!!”  All he does is chuckle….

 

In Atlanta XXVII… Chapter 27

I don’t speak any other languages.  So far, I have had to depend on Navy men who are fluent to help me out when I am at shore.  I had a Navy guy write on a piece of paper the word “airport” in French.  The double blades from the helicopter is rotating stronger and stronger.  There is a big difference between flying over water versus flying over land.  The wind is choppy and the movement of the chopper is not an easy ride.  I start to feel motion sickness, but there is no way that I will throw up on this military chopper.  My nerves are already bad given the circumstances.  At least when I get to port, I can find a pay phone and call home again to see if there are any updates.  I am thankful that Ms. Burris and Ms. Garrett were able to get to my kids and watch them until my momma is able to get there.  Now I have to figure out the quickest route to get home.  No telling how long these flights and layovers are going to be, but I am getting there as fast as I can.

As much as I am worried about the children, I am intensely worried about Julianna.  I have no idea what has happened to her.  This whole situation is way out of sight.  I can’t imagine her just getting up and leaving the kids.  I am worried that something has happened to her.  The last letter that I received from her, she sent pictures of the kids and the three of them together.  I have all of them in my pocket right now.  I pull one of them out and it is taking everything in me not to cry.  I love this woman.  I love my family.  I just want them to be ok.  I feel bad for even have left.  Maybe this was too much for Julianna.  I don’t know.  I thought that everything was good.  This is why none of this makes sense.  A party? Why would she be having a party?  None of this makes sense.  Even if she did have a party, why would she leave the kids in the closet.  This is insane.  This helicopter can’t get to port fast enough.

“Pocket!  I need to go home!  I forgot about the kids.  I left the kids at the house.  They are by themselves.  I have to get back there!!!”  I am sure that Pocket could care less about my kids.  They aren’t his kids.  Even if they were his kids, he wouldn’t give a damn.  I am feeling awful and anxious.  I know that they have to be scared to death.  I don’t even know how long I have been gone.  I yell for Pocket to come on and before I can turn around to sit back down in the car, I feel a tight sting on my face.  I taste blood in my mouth.  I hit the side of the car and I fall to the ground.  My cousin Waverly jumps out of the other car and comes to my side.  He looks at Pocket and he is about to square off.  “Look Jack! I don’t know who the fuck you are, but this here is my bitch.  Stay your ass on the other side before I pop off on you too.”  Waverly looks back down at me.  “Waverly, I am fine.  Seriously.  Just go back to the car.”  I am slowly but surely picking myself up from the ground.  Dusting myself off, I can see the look of hurt in Waverly’s eyes.  “Julianna, you have got to be fucking kidding me right now.  Where is Joseph?  Where are the kids?  Are you tricking for this dude?”

I can’t look Waverly in the eyes.  I am already feeling like I am in a tight space.  On one end, I need to get back to my kids.  On another end, I need to get this dope.  I am not going to let Waverly get in the way of me getting what it is that I want.  I can have both, if we could just move this transaction along.  Pocket is already uptight and I don’t need him getting more upset with me than he already is.  I am sure that Pipe is tired of the extra drama and is ready to sell his dope to the next dealer.  Pocket is not about to let that happen.  It looks like me being here isn’t so helpful after all.  “Jack!  You must be deaf or stupid, I said take your ass back over to that other car!  Pipe,  I got the loot, you got the dope?  And can you fetch your bitch right now?”  I can see the temples of Waverly’s head throbbing.  “I ain’t never been nobody’s bitch.  Understand, Julianna is my cousin.  I am only concerned about her.  For some dumb ass reason, she actually thinks that her being in the situation is good.  I don’t.  Fuck it!  Julianna, you made these dumb ass decisions, you live with the shit.  I just hope that Joseph and them kids don’t drop your ass like they should.”  Those words cut me deep.

“Yes Ma’am….  I understand.  We will be there shortly.”  I hang up the phone with the social worker.  Instead of her coming to the house, she is ok with us bringing the children into the police station down Princess Anne.  No one needs to see the condition of this house or the condition in which we found the kids.  Ms. Burris is clearly overwhelmed.  I tell her not to touch anything.  We will let Joseph determine how he wants to move forward with this situation.  For now, my plan is to meet with the social worker and see if they will grant me temporary custody of the kids until their grandmother from Atlanta arrives.    According to Ms. Susan, she said that she would be right here.  I didn’t know what time that would be.  The main thing is that we are taking the proper precautions.  I feel better going to the authorities about this situation.  No one wants to see any child be placed in the system.  From my experience as a public school teacher, those are the kids with the worst grades and the worst behavior.   The system makes these kids become a statistic.  I am not trying to do that in this situation, but I need proper documentation.  No one is going to accuse myself, Denise, or Ms. Burris with anything.  We found the kids and we called the proper persons to ensure that they would be taken care of.

“Babe, you ok?  You look a little spaced out.”  I look at Chic and I let him know that I feel fine at the moment.   He looks like he doesn’t really believe me, but here lately, I don’t think anyone really does.  I think that they are just grasping at what they think is going on in my mind.  They don’t know if I am the real Jacinta, the PTSD Jacinta, or the Hallucinated Jacinta.  It is hard for them I know, but it is even harder on me.  I am super confused most of the time, just trying to figure out what the hell is real and what isn’t.  Chico tells me that it is time to get dressed.  I have another doctor’s appointment.  This time, I am meeting with a Psychiatrist.  I am hoping that he can help me with all that is going on.  Dr. Wise has referred me to Dr. Hall.  She says that he is the best in the state.  I have heard this before.  I just hope that I can trust this doctor to help me and not put me back in the “Doom Room”.

Waiting on God…..

In Atlanta XXVI… Chapter 26

I am moving as fast as I can.  “WILLIAM!!!!”  He is usually super irritated when I yell his name.  But this time, I think he knows the difference in my tone this time.  I am all over the place.  One thing I know for sure is NOBODY!!!  I mean NOBODY messes with my kids.  I don’t give a damn who they are.  I am not real sure who this Mignon Garrett lady is.  She sounded nice and all, but I don’t know her and right now she has my two of my grandbabies.  I don’t play like that.  My son Joseph, bless his heart, is out in this world trying to build things to protect it so he can provide for his family.  Not just his wife and kids, but all of his siblings, nieces, nephews, and more importantly me and his father.

William finally walks his ass into the bedroom where he finds me going through my drawers.  I don’t know why I am even packing a suitcase.  I already know what plan I got.   “Susie!  What’s wrong?  What’s going on?  What is all this fuss and rumbling about?”  I give him the look of death for even questioning me.  Sometimes, better yet all the time, I know he is eves dropping on my phone conversations.  He is nosey as hell.  After being married for over fifty years, you still have to keep the spice going.  I swear as much as he is listening in on me, I am listening in on him too.  I learned that two can play that game long time ago.  We argue mostly all day every day, but he is my husband and the father of my children.  I love him and he loves me.  If we have made it this far, then at this point there is nothing but get back.  Ain’t no point in leaving now.

I give him a quick run down of what the lady in Virginia told me about the kids and Julianna leaving while Joseph is out at sea.  He now understands why I am going about the room getting things together.  “Lord, I got to call Sonny.  I need him to take me to the airport.”  I have been blessed to have two sons that work for the airlines.  Charles works for TWA and Sonny works for Delta.  I also have a son in law that works for Eastern Airlines.  It was nothing for them to get me a flight to wherever in the world I needed to go.  When Julianna was pregnant with Jacinta, I was so anxious.  Joseph and Julianna was in the middle of moving and I kept telling them that moving from New Orleans back to Virginia Beach was overbearing for a pregnant woman that was that far along in her pregnancy.  They said that they had professional movers that were going to help them load and unload.  These young blacks got a different spirit than what my generation had.  We didn’t hire no movers.  Hell, we didn’t even have a place to move to until Joseph’s senior year in high school.  That was a big deal in itself.

I was worried sick the entire two days that they were moving there.  I just hoped and prayed that the baby wouldn’t come while they were in the middle of the highway somewhere where they couldn’t get medical help.    When they got to Virginia Beach, Julianna was unpacking boxes in the garage of the new house in Virginia, which she had no business doing in the first place.  A few minutes into her moving stuff around she went into labor.  They had to move the moving truck so that the ambulance could get to her.  I didn’t know anything, but I was still worried about he toll that the move was going to take on Julianna and my new baby.  Julianna was in labor for over 12 hours.  I finally got a phone call from Joseph around 6:20 a.m. on April 5, 1977.  He said, “Momma, I got me a little girl.”  That is all I needed to hear.  I told him, “I will be right there!”  Sonny had me on a flight to Norfolk and I was rocking Jacinta in the hospital at 11:45 a.m. the same day.    I did the same thing when he called and said that Jordan was born.  These were my only grandkids that didn’t live in Atlanta.  They are precious little angels.  They are my little angels and to think that Julianna has left them by themselves is a terrible feeling.

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I very rarely get out of my wits or really show any sad emotions.  I could feel the pressure in my chest.  It seemed to be rising up through my throat.  You know how you feel when you have a knot in your throat that you can’t pass.  I call Sonny and he said that he would be here in 15 minutes.  If he says he will be here in 15 minutes, then I better be ready in 10 because that is when he will be pulling into my driveway.  I notice that William has started to pack a bag.  “What do you think you are doing?”  He looks up at me confused.  “I am going with you to see about them kids.”  Now that is not going to happen.  “Listen, we got a ton of other children here that are expecting Sunday Dinner to be on the table at its’ usual time.  I have a ham and a roast going in the oven.   I need you to make sure that dinner is going to start on time.  I should be back by dinner.”  He just continues to look at me like I am crazy.  At the end of the day, I know that he knows that I  can handle any situation thrown my way.  Taking care of kids is my specialty.  I hear the truck pulling up in the yard and I know it is Sonny ready to take me to the airport.  Just hold on my babies.  Goodmomma is on her way.

I sent Denise to the store to get more diapers, milk, and a few things to eat.  I am assuming that this baby is still breastfeeding.  I hope that she isn’t.  From the remnants of this party, I hope that this baby isn’t breastfeeding from someone that is using drugs like this.  I go into my purse and I look for my checkbook.  Because I belong to the teachers credit union, they have a list of important phone numbers listed inside the casing.  I look down the list until I see Child Protective Services.    I grab the phone again and as I am dialing, Ms. Burris is now tending to the children.  “Ms. Garrett, do you really need to call them people?  The other grandmother in Atlanta said that she was on her way here.  Shouldn’t we give her a chance to get here first.  That way she and Mr. Joseph can sort all of this mess out.”  I feel bad.  I truly do.  However, myself and Ms. Burris can not legally hold these children without proper notification to the proper authorities.  All I can do is call Social Services and see what we need to do the right way for the best interest of the children.   If something were to happen to these kids while they were in our care, we could be held liable.  The best thing is to at least report the situation and see if we can ask if we can keep the kids until the paternal grandmother arrives.

“Hello, yes…  I need to report an incident of child neglect….”

The ship is always noisy.  I don’t care what time of day or night, there is a level of noise that you just never get used to.  The captain has really done me a solid.  Once I explained the situation to him, he helped me arrange travel from the ship to the shore.  I am not waiting on the daily helicopter to arrive.  It should be here in another 3 hours.  From there I will be helicoptered back to Morocco.  This is when the travel will become gruesome.  But for my girls, I would swim the Atlantic to get to them.  It will take me a few days to get back to the states, but best believe, I am on my way.

In Atlanta XXV… Chapter 25

Most people have seen aircraft carriers from the shore.  Unless you are military or an affiliate of the military, you truly don’t understand the complexity of any Navy Ship.   The air craft carrier is the largest ship floating.  It can hold up to 10,000 people and for the most part it is it’s own city on water.  Everything that you can think about needing or even wanting, you can get on the ship.  There are several decks to this ship.  Four levels are underwater.  There are elevators that bring the actual fighter jets to the tarmac.  Essentially, what I am trying to say is that this is not just a weapon on water, it is the largest maze of confusion.  There are no signs to direct you which way to go.  You have to be in the know and you have to know how to understand codes and numbers so that you can navigate throughout this ship.  On each corner or stairwell there is a code.  This code will tell you where you are currently located on the ship.  It is up to you to figure out which direction you should go next.

I typically only go to certain areas of the ship.  Those areas include the physics lab, the launch pad, my sleeping quarters, shared shower room, and the chow room for my meals.  All of this means that I very rarely see the outside.  I am rarely going through various parts of the ship just to explore.  I am here to do a job and I am trying to get it done so that I can hit my target timelines.  There are no off days on the ship.  Everyone military and non-military persons on the ship works everyday.  EVERYDAY!

When I got the message that something was urgent was happening at home, I panicked.   Julianna seemed anxious when I would leave for long periods of time.  The good thing was that she had Jacinta and Jordan to keep her busy and occupy her time.  I made sure that she had any and everything that she and the kids would need while I was away.  I told Julianna that she didn’t have to work any longer if she didn’t want to.  I figured this would allow her the opportunity to be more involved with the upbringing of our children.  When I was growing up, my mother and father worked two full time jobs each.  My mother always regretted not being able to spend more time with us as children.  I didn’t want the mother of my children to feel this way.  I hired a housekeeper to also help her with the chores around the house.  I was hoping that this would make life easier on them.  I have no idea what the hell could be so urgent that Julianna would send a message for me to call home.    The time difference alone is making me feel some kind of way.

I try to manage my way to the communications department.  I have only sent small messages via telegram to my company.  There is a mail bag that comes to the ship once a week.  I usually receive any real direction or information from the mail drop.  I can send my correspondence or request for information/ feedback back on the outgoing mail post.  But with the note that I have in my hand, I need a phone.  It takes a judge and jury to get a phone call from the ship.  Logistically, it is analog and the phone signal is not what it would normally sound like if you were calling someone on land.  I reach the officer in charge and I tell him my sense of urgency and why I desperately need to use a phone to call home.  I am not military but I still have to get clearance from the Captain of the ship.   Technically, spies are coming up with more and more equipment to intercept with naval communication.   No one outside of my company and the military should know that I am on this ship.  This would be a hazard and security risk to know that there were actual civilians aboard a ship.

I sit in the communications room trying not to appear too anxious and too aggressive.  The telephone is literally three feet away from where I sit.  I am still waiting on the Captain to give me clearance for me to make my call.  I wait  for literally thirty minutes.  I realize that it is 3:00 a.m.  I am sure the Captain was sleeping soundly.  On a ship, the sway of the ocean is like a lullaby.  I am hoping that he will have a certain level of empathy for my situation and not focus on the fact that I got him out of bed this time of morning.  He probably had another hour a good sleep to go before it was time for him to wake up and start his day.  I just made that day longer and I am not sure how he will react to my request.

Simply Be

There are heavy footsteps marching over the steel grates that serve as the ship’s flooring.  I stand out of respect and out of appeasing this man that thinks he is God.  He is a healthy stocky man.  I am certain from his stance, he is definitely not eating the what they are serving in the mess hall.  He is looking like prime rib and baked potatoes with lobster tails.  “As you were, I understand that you have a request for an urgent phone call to the States.   Can you explain in detail what the matter of urgency and why this phone call must be placed?”  I figured he was going to get straight to the point.  I have met with the Captain on several occasions.  I have even worked with him on a previous tour.  He knows me and he knows my work.  I don’t ask for much and when I do, it is something that I truly need.  This is however, the first time, I am asking him for a personal favor.  “Captain, I just received a telegram stating that I needed to call home and that it was urgent.  I have never received a telegram from home.  If my company is sending me this message, something has to be seriously wrong.  I would really appreciate you allowing me to make a phone call to see what it going on.”  I pass the Captain the telegraph that has the message typed on it.  He reviews it and luckily for me, he decides that it is ok for me to make the call.  He also instructs that I have approximately 5 minutes and only one call.  I accept his offer and thank him for allowing me to have the opportunity.  I understand the risk that we are taking by just making a simple phone call from our ship.

I am patched through several lines until I finally get a high static ring that is calling my house.  On the third ring,  someone finally picks up the phone.  “Julianna!  Honey what’s wrong?  I don’t have long to talk.  Is everything ok?  Are you and the kids ok?”  The person that responds is not Julianna and I can feel my blood pressure rise.  “Mr. Joseph, it’s Ms. Burris.  I have the kids here with me and Ms. Mignon.  I think you need to come home.  We don’t know where Ms. Julianna is.”  Now I am in a full blown panic.   Ms. Burris gives me a quick run down of the situation and I tell her to call my mother in Atlanta.  Tell my mother to come and get my kids.  Where the hell is Julianna?  I have no idea where she is or what would possess her to leave our children at home by themselves.  They have to be scared to death.   I hang up the phone and I am running my hands over my face.  I want to scream.

 Diamond CBD

“Ms. Garrett, that was Mr. Joseph.  He says that we should call his mother in Atlanta and tell her to come and get the kids.  He gave me her phone number. ”  Ms. Garrett is changing another diaper on Jordan.  Denise is in the kitchen trying to look for something to feed the kids.  There isn’t any baby food or food that isn’t spoiled or too old for the kids.  Denise is thinking the same thing that I am thinking.  How can someone do this to their own two children.  Ms. Garrett finally responds to my statement.  “Ms. Burris, as a school teacher we are obligated to call Social Services when something like this happens.  It is up to Social Services to keep these children safe and determine who gets to keep them.  We have to call Social Services. ”  I understand where Ms. Garrett is coming from, but I don’t come from the “call the police” squad.  In Tidewater Park, we have to take care of our own.  Even if this means that the kids end up fending from themselves, we don’t call the police.

“Ms. Garrett, I respect your intellect.  I really do.  But don’t you think that we should at least call Mr. Joseph’s momma in Atlanta?  At least she is family and these kids won’t end up in the system.”  She stops tending to the baby and looks at me with some defeat.   “Ms. Burris, we can call Atlanta, but in the meanwhile, we are going to do the legal thing and call Social Services.  For all we know, Julianna needs some help as well.  Social Services will help both the kids and Julianna.  We don’t even know where Joseph is right now.  It may take him some time to get here.  We have to call Social Services.”   I understand where Ms. Garrett is coming from.  So I give her the number that Mr. Joseph gave me for his mother.  Ms. Garrett gets on the phone while I hold Jordan.  Jacinta runs to my side and you can tell that even though she is only three, she is really worried about her sister and the situation that she is in.  No child should have to wonder about these kinds of things.  It isn’t fair.

“Hi, my name is Mignon Garrett.  I am calling for Susan Jones.”  There is a pause and then a woman comes to the phone.  “This is Susan, do I know you?”  I am already feeling bad that I am having to meet this woman this way.  I don’t even know how to explain who I am and how I am in her son’s house with his two children.  Hell I am not even related… technically.  “Ms. Jones, it’s the kids.  We need you to come to Virginia as soon as you can…”

In Atlanta XXIV… Chapter 24

I’m driving in my car.  I have no idea where I am, but Chico is in the passenger’s seat.  If you know me, I try to be a careful driver.  This stems from years of driving a corporate car for Kraft.  All of the highway signs are indicating that we are in Canada.  We must have crossed the bridge from Detroit.  Everything in this country is so different yet the same.  I exit the highway and start to press my on the brakes for the exit’s light.  The brakes don’t work!!!  In fact, it feels as if the car has taken control of itself.  The new BMW’s don’t come with the emergency brake lift.  I am whizzing around cars and trying to avoid an accident.  I can’t seem to find a good spot to run into in order to help stop the car without hurting anyone.  I look at the speedometer and it is reading 92.  Chico hasn’t said a word, which is weird.  I am yelling at him to help me.  It is as if he doesn’t hear me.   I am scared and still whizzing around cars yelling and blowing the horn to get them out of my way.  All of a sudden I hit a phone pole.  Chico is ejected from the passenger seat and goes through the windshield.  Blood is everywhere.  I don’t have a scratch.  The airbags didn’t deploy.  Half of his body is still in the car, the other half is laying on the hood.  What have I done!!!  Oh my God! I get out of the car and I run to the other side.  Chico’s eyes are wide open and he is none responsive.  My God!!!  I yell and scream.  There are people standing around us, but no one seems to want to help.  I am yelling for someone to call an ambulance.  No one seems to be moving.  “Chic, baby wake up!!!”  He isn’t moving and those eyes are piercing at me as if to say “I told you so and this is your fault”.  Chic is dead.

I couldn’t get much sleep last night so I decided to go to the gym.  I am glad that they are open 24 hours.  It was quiet and no one was around, so I had the gym all to myself.  I hadn’t really had a good workout since we came to Atlanta from Tampa.  This was my favorite pass time and I was really enjoying doing something that seemed normal for a change.  I have my earphones in and the trap music is perfect for my workout.  All of a sudden, the trap music stops and my phone is ringing.  Who in the hell would be calling at 5:00 a.m.?  I see that it is Joseph.  “Hello”  From the yelling and screaming in the background, I can already tell that something is up with Cint.  Joseph wants to know where I am and he tells me that I should get back to the house as soon as possible.   I hear the sense of urgency in his voice but I also hear fear.  I know that he is in over his head.   I rush out of the gym and now I am speeding towards the house.

I heard screams coming from the other room.  I am always up around 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m.  Old work habits are hard to break.  I was always working on Taiwanese time.  So even in my retirement, I am wide awake this time of morning.  I thought that I had heard some moving around earlier, I just thought that maybe someone was up using the bathroom.  But now I am hearing screams and those screams are definitely coming from Jacinta.  I go to their bedroom and when I open the door, I don’t see Chico or Jacinta.  I still hear the screams, but no one is around.  Their master bedroom takes up the entire half of their house.  It is huge.  Their bathroom is the size of my guest room.  Their closet is another room all in itself.  I look for Jacinta in the bathroom.  I don’t see her.  I look for her in the closet, which is a “safe” place for her.  I don’t see her.  Baylor is starting to bark on the side of the bed.  If it weren’t for him doing so, I wouldn’t have know that she was on the floor on the side of the bed.  She is laying in a fetal position and in crying uncontrollably.

“Jacinta, baby what’s wrong?”  She is steady screaming and hollering.  I don’t know if she is in any physical pain or what.  I look her over and from what I can tell she has sweated out her nightshirt.  Her hair is soak and wet.  She is sweating and crying.  I touch her head to see if she has a fever.  She is warm, but I don’t think she has a fever.  Maybe she got overheated or something.  I leave her for a moment so that I can go and get my phone.  I yell through the house for Chico and I don’t get a response.  I check the garage and his car is gone.  I dial his number and ask him to come home quickly.  I hang up.  I didn’t have time to explain what was going on.  In fact, I didn’t know what was really going on myself.  I get back to Jacinta and even though she is still crying and screaming, she now realizes that I am here and sitting on the floor next to her.  “Daddy!!!  I killed him!!!  He is dead and it is all my fault!!!  I didn’t mean to do it!!!  I didn’t mean to do it!!!” Jacinta is steady screaming and I have no idea what she is talking about.  “Baby, calm down!!!  What are you talking about?  Who did you kill?”   This makes her scream more and louder.   “I killed Chico Daddy!!!  I killed Chico!!!”  I know that I just got off the phone with Chico.  He seemed to be ok.  In fact, he isn’t even here.  I tell Jacinta to calm down and I hope that Chico can walk through this door so that I can help calm her down.  She must be hallucinating again.

Denise is rattling off questions a mile a minute.  Most of the questions that she has, I truly don’t know the answer myself.  I explain to her all of the information that Ms. Burris has given me.  Part of me feels crazy even having this conversation with my own child.  She is in college and at some point, she will have to understand what happens out here in the real world.  Denise is sensitive.  I can tell that this is somewhat overwhelming for her.  “Momma, I don’t know what is going on with Julianna.  I just can’t imagine leaving those two babies at the house by themselves.  I am sure that if Joseph was in town, we wouldn’t be getting this phone call from Ms. Burris.  He has to be out of town Momma!  I know it.  Julianna is just acting wild.  I don’t get it.”  I look over at my daughter and for the life of me, even right now,  I find myself getting emotional.  There is no way that I could ever abandon her.  Denise is starting to tear up and I see the tears falling from her face.

Denise has had to give me directions to Julianna’s house.  I have never been there.  I see that we are in a new neighborhood.  Extremely nice homes.  I pull into the driveway and before we can even ring the door bell, Ms. Burris is already opening the door.  “Ms. Garrett! I am so glad that you are here.  I have no idea what to do!”  Denise speaks to Ms. Burris and walks pass her to go and find the kids.  I truly don’t believe my eyes.  I look around and the house is a complete disaster.  I can see why Ms. Burris is in over her head.  I would be charging double if I was her.  The house is really pretty and different.  If I had a house like this, there would be no way I would mess it up like it is.  We go through the foyer and into the den.  Jacinta is crying and so is Jordan.  Denise is holding Jordan and Jacinta is leaning on Denise.  Denise is crying, but she is telling them that everything is going to be alright.  I step over all of the trash that is scattered all over the floor.  That is when I notice that there are a few lines of what appears to be cocaine on the glass coffee table.  Lord, we are definitely going to need your help with this one.

Knock!!!  There is rarely a knock on the door of the physics lab that I work in on the USS John F Kennedy.  We have been in international waters off the coast of Morocco.  There is a Chief Petty Officer at the door with an envelope.  “Sir, this is a telegram that has been sent to you.”  He salutes me and dismisses himself from the lab.  I get the envelope.  I hope all is ok.  It must be something from my company.  They are the only ones that know what ship I am working on.  I am not Navy.  I design missile launchers for the Navy.  We are on a secret testing mission.  We have been out here for three weeks already and I have at least another four weeks to go.   I open the envelope which has “confidential” stamped on the front.  I really thought that this would be a message from my boss.  Instead I read “Please call home.  It’s urgent!”

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