Friday, December 26, 2008

One on One with Brandy

By Janaya Black

After a four-year hiatus, singer Brandy Norwood has resurfaced with a hot new single, Right Here (Departed), and is looking forward to the release of her highly anticipated new album, Human, on Dec. 9.
During a brief visit to Detroit to take part in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Michigan FrontPage had a chance to catch up with Brandy to find out what she’s been up to.
FrontPage: From the time that you dropped your first album to this point, what has the journey been like for you in the entertainment industry?

Brandy: The journey in the entertainment industry has been exciting! Of course it has its ups and downs but music is my life and in order to get my music out there I have to go through the music business. I have learned so many great lessons being an artist and I have met so many wonderful people to help me reach goals.

FP: On your last album your song Should I Go? Eluded to the idea that you were undecided about whether or not you wanted to continue your music career, so what made you decide to do another album?

Brandy: The reason why I am back with a new album is because I realized that it is my responsibility to make good music. It is the way I give back to the world. God gave me a gift and if I don’t use it by sharing it, then it’s all in vain.

FP: The song Departed is HOT! Who wrote it and what was the inspiration behind it?

Brandy: It was written by the "writing camp" and Darkchild. They were inspired by some of my life experiences. I connected to the song the first time I heard it. Everybody needs somebody and to know that you have people there that you can depend on or call on is a blessing.

FP: At this point in your career do you see yourself doing more albums after this, or do you plan to do more movie projects or a combination of both?

Brandy: I definitely plan to do more albums in the future and expand my acting career as well.

FP: How do you balance motherhood with everything that you have going on?

Brandy: I love being a mother and I always make sure that I get quality time with my girl because I am gone a lot now that I am working. I have a lot of help. My mom and my cousin help me with her when I am gone. I make sure she is loved and happy all the time as if I was right there. I also speak to her everyday if I am working on the road. My daughter understands very well that everything that I am doing is for her and that makes it a lot easier.

FP: Do you have any other projects in the works? Movies, TV, etc...

Brandy: I am developing television projects right now! Acting comes very natural for me and I look forward to playing a character that people can grow and love!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Up Close and Personal with Will Smith

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Will Smith about his new movie 7 Pounds and how he handles life as a mega super star! Ladies, not only was he one of the most down to earth people I've ever met, but he was FINE! lol. But I digress...the focus of this piece is the interview and it went a little something like this:

Up Close and Personal with Will Smith
By Janaya Black
Managing Editor

Will Smith has been coined the world’s biggest star on the planet, and with the magnitude of his impressive resume one could hardly argue that sentiment.
Will Smith, once known as one-half of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, has come a long way from the fresh-faced, happy-go-lucky rapper who just happened to land his own television show (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) to becoming one of the highest paid and most beloved leading men in Hollywood.
In celebration of the release of his newest movie 7 Pounds that opens in theaters on Dec 19, the FrontPage had the opportunity to sit down with Smith to discuss his role as Ben Thomas, one of the most challenging of his career, and his life as a super star.

FrontPage: You’ve been referred to a lot in the past year as the biggest movie star on the planet Earth, how does the view look from there?

Will Smith: Wow! (laughing) It’s uh…I read…I wish I could remember! My wife always remembers where she read stuff and it sounds so cool when you can say the author and stuff. [But], I read somebody said that he was a mountain climber and he set in his mind that I want to climb Everest, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it. And he climbed to the top and realized he couldn’t breathe, right? And the only thought he had was ‘how the hell can I get down off of here as fast as I can?’ And it’s like this weird thing that kicks in your mind, like be careful what you wish for. You know, you go and you fight to get there and there’s this discomfort that sets in and it’s really the last probably year and a half has been kind of scary and a little bit frustrating for me. And I had an epiphany working on 7 Pounds, and I realized that part of that feeling was that I was looking at my life, and I was looking at myself, and my future too much around these movies. And after 7 Pounds, I just had this huge epiphany of how much more I want to do and the idea of living in service to humanity vs. living in service to the commerce of my movies. That explosion just totally washed away that sort of scary, uncomfortable feeling. It’s like however people look at me, as a movie star or not, I want to be remembered as a man who cared about people and dedicated his life to making the world better. So with that I went from thinking of myself in this high place to like ‘Damn, I got so much to do’ or ‘I need to get to work’ and that’s so much better a place for me emotionally.

FP: What attracted to you to this movie?

WS: I was attracted to 7 Pounds not because there was a fantastic one-liner that I could sell around the world very easily. I was attracted to 7 Pounds because there were ideas, there were emotions that were part of this character that I was hiding myself from, so I took 7 Pound as a self exploration. Jada said something to me a few months ago; she said its funny how much I was rejecting this character. She [was] like, ‘you know that you are Ben.’ I was like ‘What?’ She was like, ‘The reason you’re so nice and the reason you fight so hard to be up-tone is because you’re at war with that guy inside of you.’ Then I was like ‘Damn, deep lady!’ And that’s when I realized, it’s like projects I was choosing and everything had to be ok in the end or it emotionally hurt me. So now my sensibilities are becoming slight less delicate and I’m able to venture out a little bit more into the world of emotional and artistic ambiguity in a way that strikes me as more authentic, but it’s terrifying for me.

Just like as a child growing up, I needed to know, and my grandmother made sure that I knew God is going to make everything ok. So however scared you get of how bad life is, just know there’s somebody in a high place that’s on your side. So to play a character who doesn’t necessarily believe that, to feel like he has to fix it , that God made a mistake and it’s his responsibility to fix it, and how to carry that emotional weight is a terrifying space for me emotionally and artistically.

FP: How has this movie impacted you?

WS: I’ve been exploring the idea of trauma and the relationship between trauma and continuing life. Like with I am Legend, in to Hancock, and now with 7 Pounds I’m starting the character on trauma. And then I was asking the question, ‘What’s the difference between someone who falls into depression and someone like Nelson Mandella, or Muhammad Ali, or Ghandi or Mother Theresa that just keeps going in the face of the ultimate weight of humanity and life?’ And the thing that I discovered on 7 Pounds is its purpose. When you wake up and you’ve dedicated your life to something beyond yourself all is bearable. It just to exploded in my mind with this movie and with this character, and if there’s been a movie in my career that I’d say changed my life, it’s 7 Pounds.

FP: Rosario (Dawson) said that you were kind of shy about the love scenes and maybe put them off a little bit. Was that the case?

WS: Yes. See for me, my grandmother was really firm about how men are supposed to treat women. So, it’s like for me, my worst nightmare is for an actress to come on my set and feel like I’m taking this as an opportunity to get a little quickie feel or some legal cheating going on. I just need, specifically women, to be comfortable around me. I just don’t want to feel like I’m that dude.

FP: How does Jada feel about that?

WS: Jada said, ‘Listen, I know you’re uncomfortable but you better not embarrass me!’ (laughing) She was like, ‘When you do that love scene, you better show them what you’re working with!’

FP: Did she come to the set?

WS: No, she didn’t come to the set. I asked her to come to the set and she was like ‘are you stupid?’

FP: There are numerous reports about how grounded you are and how easy you are to work with. How do you manage to stay so humble in the midst of all your success?

WS: I think because I’m scared. I’m so grateful to be in the position that I’m in, to have been blessed with the things that I’ve been blessed with. I was with Redman the other day in Chicago and he came up and we’re sitting down and he said, ‘Man, listen; now I’ve got this relationship that I’m trying to make work and I’m telling you- if you and Jada don’t work, I’m done!’ And I was like wow! And he meant it. He was like the only reason he’s going to try is because of what he saw with Jada and I and he’s believing that there maybe a possibility so he’s going to give it a shot. So it’s like I just don’t want to break that. I don’t want to damage other people’s lives in that way so it really keeps me humble and grounded because I don’t totally feel like I’ve got it. It’s like I might mess something up and that sort of keeps me in a place where I’m really focused and paying attention. I just don’t want to step wrongly.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Detroit, be proactive

In the midst of what seems to be one of the most trying times in our state’s economic history, it does not behoove us to sit back and mourn the loss of better days. The time has come for us to take the bull by the horns and get life as we know it back on track.
It can be done; it is just a matter of focus and determination. Applying simple rules of logic to your everyday lifestyle can improve your standards more than you ever thought possible.
For example: yes, we are in an automotive crisis and, yes, gas prices are going down, but car-pooling continues to be a very practical and cost-effective way to save money. Cooking at home, while more inconvenient for some, is still a sure-fire way to save a few extra bucks. And stop throwing out those leftovers! Find creative ways to use your leftovers to create new and exciting meals for your family – stews, soups and casseroles are just a few examples.
Take the clothes that you don’t wear anymore or that your children have grown out of and sell them through consignment shops or boutiques. And don’t be too proud to shop there as well.
The holidays are quickly approaching and if things are a little tight in your household come up with some creative gift-giving ideas for this year. Photos, videos and food gifts are always welcome by friends and family members, and not to mention easier on your wallet.
If you are facing the harsh reality of a possible layoff, begin thinking of creative ways to generate other streams of income for your household. Assess your skills and figure out how to make them work for you. If you can sew, do side jobs making or altering clothing for family and friends at discount prices. Personal shop for your busy acquaintances or go through those over-stuffed closets to find things that you don’t need, then pay a visit to your local pawn shop.
Just because the present may look a little bleak that does not mean that all hope is lost. Things are a little tough right now but they will get better. Struggle makes us stronger and much more appreciative of the good times. And it also teaches us how to better prepare ourselves for the next time hard times hit.
Don’t be discouraged. You can make it, you will make it. We will survive and things will get better. It may not happen overnight but a change will come. Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh, what a tangled web

From the time that most of us could utter our first words, we were taught that it’s wrong to lie. We even had cute little movies and stories like Pinocchio or The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf that entertained us as kids but carried deeper moral values that our parents did not hesitate to reinforce. The basic premise was that not only is it wrong to lie but your word is your bond and if you can’t stand on your word, what else do you have? Nothing.
Earlier this week Detroit closed a chapter on a scandal, that has festered in this city like an infected canker sore, when Christine Beatty pleaded guilty to perjury charges in relation to the Whistleblower case. Now that she and former Mayor Kilpatrick have been forced to publicly acknowledge their wrongdoing and pay their debt to society, one is left to wonder was it worth it?
It started with one lie and that lie turned into a series of other lies which quickly snowballed into a plethora of additional lies to cover up the old ones. And what ensued was a vicious cycle of untruths that have impacted the lives of not only the accused but that of their families, friends and co-workers, and has cost the city a lot of money.
No one is impervious to the temptations of life but the valor lies in one’s ability to take responsibility for one’s mistakes. We all make them but the key is to learn from them, not cover them up.
It is a sad, sad situation that two intelligent people who had so much going for them got caught up in a bad situation that has since taken them away from their families and cost a lot of people their jobs. But the lesson that we all need to take away from this situation is that old adage that we were all taught at a very young age: Thou shalt not lie.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always been obsessed with martial arts and the art of combat. So as soon as I was old enough to engage in physical combat, I took part in every form of martial arts my dad would enroll me in.

I loved every minute of it and I was good, very good. When I had a competition it was very seldom that anyone could beat me and if someone did it only happened once. I was meticulous about correcting the mistakes from my losses to ensure a flawless victory the next time I met up with that opponent. Our next battle would ultimately end with that person being mercilessly pummeled, due to my over zealous and competitive nature.

One thing I learned about myself was that I had an intense blood lust, and it was through that learning that I quickly realized I had to be disciplined enough to control all aspects of my temper. So as I progressed through martial arts training, I learned to harness the viciousness that resided within me, but it was through sparring and competition that I was able to release the animal lust I had for combat.

By the time I turned seventeen, I had become a second-degree black belt in karate. Though only a second-degree by official rank, I had the knowledge, tenacity, and viciousness of some fourth-degree black belts with only formalities hindering my advancement. Eventually it got to the point where I felt that I couldn’t advance any further with karate, so I began to study the ancient art of Ninjitsu and pressure point control. I was vehemently obsessed with learning all the different ways of inflicting pain upon anyone who might decide to get on my bad side.

Carmen, my sister, thought I was a nutcase. We were only two years apart and she just couldn’t understand why I would want to waste all of my free time fighting when I could be shopping. I didn’t understand that either, but different as we were she was still my best friend. We did everything almost everything together when I wasn’t training.

My sister was the most beautiful, kind, and sweet person I ever knew. She would give anyone the shirt off her back if she thought they needed it. I can’t tell you how many times she would make us late on various occasions because she would see a homeless person on the street and would just have to find the nearest fast food restaurant to supply a meal. There was never a time that I can remember that she wasn’t doing something for someone else.

I remember when we were little, I always thought of Carmen as my very own little baby doll. I would always try to dress her up in my baby doll clothes and pretend like I was rescuing her from ninja, who were sent to kidnap her. When she was finally old enough to go to school with me, I would sneak out of my class everyday to go down to her classroom to check on her to make sure that she was happy and that nobody was picking on her. No matter how sneaky I thought I was being, somehow she could always sense my presence and would look up and wave at me. That was the bond we had; we always looked out for each other. If she was in a fight, I was in a fight, and if I was in a fight she was trying her best to be in a fight- even though she knew that I probably had everything under control and was enjoying every second of beating the crap out of whoever was stupid enough to actually pick a fight with me.

We grew up in a loving home with the best parents a kid could ever ask for. We never wanted for anything. My father made a great living as an electrical engineer, my mother worked for the city as a legal clerk, I was in my second year of college, and Carmen was a senior in high school on her way to college with a full academic scholarship. Our house was almost like the Waltons. My mother had dinner on the table promptly at 6pm every night and there was hell to pay if the whole family wasn’t sitting in their assigned seats ready to eat when the last piece of silverware hit the table. Our dad spent most of his free time doting on Carmen and me showing us how ladies were supposed to be treated. From the time that we could walk, my daddy made sure we knew that we were his princesses, thereby raising our standards and expectations for the world and any future suitors who thought they might be brave enough to step through his door and ask permission to date one of his daughters. Yes, our lives were perfect until one day my sister didn’t come home. I was twenty and she was eighteen.

Carmen was nothing if not responsible, so when my mother found her bed empty and untouched the morning after she had gone out to a birthday party with her friends, it was an immediate cause for alarm.

“Don’t panic,” I told my mom, “she probably decided to spend the night at Jasmine’s house because it got late. She probably didn’t want to wake anybody by calling the house phone. Just check the voicemail on your cell to see if she called.” I heard myself saying the words, but even as they were spilling forth from my mouth, I didn’t believe them myself. I knew my sister like the back of my hand and she would never stay out all night without calling our parents to let them know.

I had a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t want my mother to worry so I continued to falsely reassure her that the occurrence was surely a brain fart on Carmen’s part and she would come bouncing through the door at any second. Slowly but surely the seconds turned to minutes and the minutes turned into hours, and still no word from Carmen.

By the time my father finally made it home my mother was on the brink of hysteria and I was in a silent state of inner turmoil. While my parents contacted the police, I called all of Carmen’s friends but none of them had heard from her since the night of the party. Jasmine said that she wasn’t really feeling the vibe of the club so she decided to leave the party early to go home and get some rest. They said their goodbyes and that was it.

“Did anybody walk her to her car?” I yelled, vehemently into the phone.

Jasmine hesitated briefly and muttered a weak “no”. I didn’t wait for her to say another word before I slammed the phone down and tried to keep myself from throwing up. I knew right then and there that my little sister was in trouble. My mind urged and pleaded with me to be optimistic and think only good thoughts, but the realist in me knew much better. My heart knew without a shadow of a doubt that my sister was never coming home again.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Beautiful Rage: The Breaking of Dawn- Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Before I knew it I was sitting in the prison parking lot, gripping the steering wheel so tight that my knuckles had turned white. “What am I doing?” I asked myself. Yolanda’s lecture had been more than effective, obviously because I was sitting in the parking lot of this God forsaken facility that housed some of the most broken souls I have ever encountered in my life trying to summon enough courage to go in and do my job.
What was I afraid of? I honestly couldn’t put my finger on what it was about this case that was making me so uneasy. Finally, I shook it off and forced myself out of the car and made my way into the haven of madness where my newest prospect was awaiting my arrival.
“Hey, Bert,” I said to the heavy-set security guard I had gotten to know on a first name basis.
“Ms. Jackson, you back again so soon? I think I’m going to have to make them give you an office up here pretty soon. You got a hell of a piece of work waitin’ for you this time,” she chuckled lightheartedly, as she checked me in. After completing the necessary procedures, she buzzed me in and led me down the long corridor to the visitor’s chamber.
She paused before entering the combination to open the large metal door to the interview room and looked at me with a serious look on her face. “Now don’t be alarmed when you go in, Ms. Jackson,” she warned, “we had to take special precautions with this one. She’s prone to having extremely violent episodes from time to time, so her restraints are a little different from what you are used to seeing.”
I nodded and then she finished entering the code. I took a deep breath and forced myself to walk inside. There before me sat an extremely attractive petite woman, with a dark brown complexion, a short cropped Afro, and she was securely wrapped in a straight jacket and shackled to the table. The restraint contraption was wrapped so tightly around her body that all traces of femininity outside of her face where hidden within in its confines. I tried to mask my shock by feigning a brief coughing episode, but her piercing eyes gazed unflinchingly at me as she watched my every move.
Gingerly, I pulled myself together and sat down at the table. I was unaccustomed to the interviewee being in the room before me. Normally I had a chance to collect my thoughts and get situated before they arrived. Nevertheless, I was determined to remain in control of the situation and go about obtaining my interview in the same fashion that I always had. Never mind the fact that the gruesome photos of this woman’s victim flashed through my mind every ten seconds, and now I was sitting across a table from her. My palms were sweating profusely.
The deafening silence was broken by the slam of the door as Bert returned to her station. The two male guards that remained in the room looked expectantly at me as if to say “get on with it already”.
“Hello, Ms. Langston,” I croaked in a voice I barely recognized, “my name is Vanessa Jackson. As you know, I’ll be conducting the interview that you requested from the Women’s Lib Magazine.”
She smiled briefly and with the subtle smile she offered her eyes softened as she replied, “I know who you are Ms. Jackson, thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I’m sorry if my appearance startled you.”
“Thank you. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting…this,” I stated.
“Well, they seem to think that I am prone to violent episodes so this is the only way they would allow me to meet with you.”
“Are you given to violent episodes?”
“I am given to violence only when violence is required. I believe that violence begets violence, Ms. Jackson. Are you familiar with the principle of an eye for an eye?” she asked pointedly.
“Yes,” I admitted skeptically.
She sat back gingerly in her chair and looked me directly in the eye. “Do you believe in that principle?”
“I guess I believe in it in theory, but I also believe that no one has the right to take the law into their own hands.”
“Is that what you feel I did?” she asked with obvious amusement in her face.
“Yes, I do,” I responded holding her gaze defiantly.
“Well, Ms. Jackson, I really hope that by the time we finish this interview you will be able to see it from my point of view. I don’t expect you to condone what I did, but I feel that justice is in the eye of the beholder. Our legal system is set up to protect the rich and condemn the poor. People with money rule the world, and it was unfortunate for the man that killed my sister that the decision of the United States Justice System was overturned- by me.
“Contrary to popular belief, Ms. Jackson,” she went on, “I am not crazy or insane. I planned that man’s death down to the second, executed my plan flawlessly, and then I turned myself in. If I had to go back I would do it all over again, except if I knew then what I know now I probably wouldn’t turn myself in. Prison is not a fun place, but I am a woman of conviction and I accept the consequences of my actions. But make no mistake, I have no regrets about what I did.”
As I sat there taking in the depth of what she’d just said, I realized that I had probably bitten off more than I could chew with this assignment. Then I thought of Marion Hayes and the promise I had made in honor of her to help these women tell their stories and be their “Voice”. “God doesn’t put more on you than what you can handle,” I though to myself.
I was scared to hear her story and I fully acknowledged that fact. I was afraid what hearing it might do to my character. After gathering every last bit of courage I could muster, I pressed the record button on my recorder, looked Dawn Langston straight in the eye and said, “Ready whenever you are.”

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Monday, February 18, 2008

It's Finally Here! Beautiful Rage

Hello All! For those of you that have been waiting, the wait is over! The third and final installment of the "Prison Chronicles", "Beautiful Rage" is finally finished! And as a gift to you, my fellow readers, you will be the first to preview the first five chapters! So, lend me your eyes and give me your honest criticisms. Before we begin I do have to let you know...this one is a doozy.

Without further ado, I give you "Beautiful Rage: The Break of Dawn"


I remember a saying that I once heard my grandmother say, “time heals all wounds,” and I have to admit that particular sentiment never sat well with me. Ideally, I suppose that it made perfect sense in the grand scheme of things, that time would heal all wounds, but even though the wounds heal the bearer of those wounds never forgets how the wound got there.

After my sister died, correction, after my sister was murdered at the hands of a deranged white man, I kept hearing my grandmother’s voice in my head assuring me that time was going to heal my wounds. I tried to listen to Grandma, but eventually the darkness that was continually growing in my heart drowned her voice out: for good. It was at that point that I decided to do what I needed to do to make my own wounds feel better.

It took me exactly three years, two weeks, and five days to pull it off, but I accomplished what I set out to do…I avenged the death of my sister. I methodically planned and executed the kidnapping, torture, and murder of my sister’s murderer. It was poetic justice to me, but the powers-that-be called it a crime. So, that’s why I’m here in this God forsaken hellhole that many affectionately refer to as prison, waiting for the chance to tell my story to “The Voice”- that’s what we call her in here.

The Voice is the reporter from the Women’s Lib Magazine that told the stories of those other two women and made their voices be heard on the outside where people are so quick to judge. And now it’s my turn to be heard. I killed a man and I have no regrets because he deserved it.

I want to be heard not because I feel the need to expunge my demons or clear my conscience, but because I just want the world to know that sometimes revenge is a sweet, sweet dish and it is always best when it’s served cold.


“You know that you are the one to blame for all of this,” I stated matter-of-factly to the headstone in front of me. It was a cool, balmy day and I wanted to do what I came to do and get out of there before the rain began.

It had been a little over two years since I began my work at the Wayne County Women’s Correctional Facility. My first assignment had been an interview with Marion Hayes, who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering her husband. She was the reason that I was here now. Her story was so compelling and heartbreaking that it moved me to do more to help the stories of incarcerated women be heard. Not that I was trying to justify anything, but after hearing Marion’s story I just felt that people are often too quick to judge the actions of others based what is on the surface.

Once a month, I made it my business to visit her gravesite to clean off the tombstone I had purchased and deliver fresh flowers. For someone that had experienced some much ugliness in her life, it made me feel good to make her resting place look as though somebody cared that she was gone. It wasn’t just for her, it was for me too because meeting her had changed my life. During our interview sessions I grew to respect her tremendously for her strength and resolve, so much so that I ended up considering her a friend.

It is because of her that I continued to push on with this assignment, or whatever you want to call it. My last interview was with a young girl name Timberlynn Crawford, who got herself emotionally involved with a married man and ended up killing his wife. That case on top of Marion’s death was so emotionally draining for me that I actually thought about giving this up and going back to my former humdrum life of writing about politics. But then, I began to receive stacks and stack of letter from inmates begging me to please tell their stories so that their minds could be put to rest, and then came the nickname. “The Voice” which is what they started calling me.

“I just don’t know what to do with all of this,” I admitted to the headstone, “I don’t know how much longer I can listen to all of these people’s stories and not go crazy. It’s like I’m reliving these events each time they’re told and it’s really starting to get to me.” I sat there staring blankly at the slab of stone as if I expected it to respond.

“This new case is a doozy,” I said, “The next woman I’m supposed to go see killed her sister’s accused murderer. If you could have seen the pictures of what she did to that guy… it would literally make you sick! I mean, what am I supposed to do with this? I don’t know if I can keep doing this…” I whispered.

“I just don’t know if I can keep doing this,” I reiterated to Yolanda, the editor and chief at the Women’s Lib Magazine, in my office the next morning. She just sat and stared blankly at me as I continued to go on my tirade as to why I couldn’t continue the Prison Chronicles series.

“This is really starting to take a toll on me emotionally,” I continued pacing back and forth, “Marion Hayes was already a difficult case for me to handle after what happened, Timberlynn Crawford’s case had me dealing with repercussions from the victims family on top of the emotional stress, and now this? Dawn Langston is obviously a nut-case.”

“How do you know that?” Yolanda inquired.

“How do I know? Did you see what she did to that guy?” I asked disbelievingly, “How could someone do that to another human being and have no remorse whatsoever? I watched the court video, that woman showed no emotion over what she did period. How do you expect me to go in there and try to make sense of this? At least with the other two stories, they showed regret and remorse for their crimes. That is how I was able to connect with them and tell their stories on a level where people might be able to identify with them, but this…I don’t know what to do with this.”

Yolanda said nothing as she gazed at me with a smirk on her face. After she was sure that I had finished my tantrum she stood up and handed me the dreaded Langston case file and said, “Look, I know that this is difficult for you, but do you remember why we started this series?”

“Yes, I do but…”

“But nothing, Jackson. We aren’t doing these stories to justify the crimes that these women commit, we are doing these stories to give the public insight as to what drives these women to commit the crimes they commit. That’s it. Do you know why I picked you?” she asked pointedly.

“No, actually, I don’t know why you picked me. Please enlighten me,” I replied sarcastically, as I sat down heavily and began to massage my temples.

“Because you have a heart and you wear it on your sleeve. That’s what makes you such a great writer! It’s your words that have given life to these women’s stories because you were able to identify with them and feel what they felt! You didn’t judge, you just told the stories and that’s the whole point of the project- to just tell the story. Now if you want me to take you off the project, I will. I don’t want to, but I will. Just remember this…you said yourself that ‘you never know what a man’s been through until you walk a mile in his shoes’. Now all I’m asking you to do is give this woman the same chance you gave the other two.

“I know that her case seems pretty extreme to you, but if you judge her before you hear her story, aren’t you doing the same thing that you condemned the public for doing when you started this project?” she asked in a way that clearly said that she really didn’t need a response.

After that I sat for a long while meditating on our conversation and decided that I would be a coward and a hypocrite if I didn’t follow through with what I promised I would do. No matter how disturbing the prospect of this assignment seemed, I had to see it through or I would never forgive myself.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Chapter 5

Chapter 5

I would never forgive myself for what happened to Chad. I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been. I had seen the change in him, but I was too wrapped up in my own problems to give it a second thought. I vowed that from that point on, no one would ever hurt my brother again. I put that on my life.

Once we were back at the orphanage, Chad was put into counseling to start him on his road to recovery. He had begun to wet the bed and cry out at night, and would not talk to anyone but me. Even that was very seldom. He would barely eat and he didn’t show interest in anything. More often than not, he would just sit and stare or mope around with his head down.

Therapy seemed to help somewhat, because after about a month he began to communicate more and slowly started to interact again with kids his own age. It was a long process, but I was by his side every step of the way. At first, the head mistress thought it would be better for Chad to attend therapy alone, but I quickly set her straight about that. She didn’t want to make a big deal out of it so she let me have my way. Lucky for her, because as far as I was concerned it wasn’t going to happen any other way.

It was a slow process, but the therapist was very patient and kind. He didn’t pressure Chad about anything. He just allowed him express himself in his own way, and before I knew it he was carrying on like he had known that man for years.

Chad was still very squeamish around any woman but me, and I wasn’t officially a woman yet. He would hide behind me whenever female workers came around, and if I wasn’t around to be his shield then he would just stare at the ground while being spoken to.

Some nights while he was sleeping, I would sit in my bed and watch him sleep. I tried to imagine why anyone would want to hurt a little kid like that. The more I thought about it, the madder it made me. In the end, my anger was always redirected at myself. I knew Chad didn’t have any bad feelings towards me because he was too young to think in those terms, but I had let him down big time and it was killing me inside. Once the anger went away then the tears would come, and blessed sleep would soon follow.

I prayed to God once again to please watch over my little brother and me. Even at that young age I had a strong faith in God. I never questioned Him about why so many bad things happened to us, I just kind of accepted it as my lot in life and dealt with it the best that I could. Besides he gave us all free will right?

The days passed by slowly and I found myself thinking about Marshall a lot. I missed him terribly and wondered if he thought about me at all. He was about the only person I could really talk to besides Chad and he was too young to understand my problems.

Finally, summer was over and it was time for school again. I was going to the seventh grade and Chad would be in the second. We would be attending the same charter school as the other children at the orphanage, and oddly enough I was actually looking forward to it. Same shit, different school, so I figured I would make the best out of a situation- not a bad one necessarily, just a situation.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Breaking Point- Chapter 4

Chapter 4

To fast forward a bit, the school year flew by. I had managed to make a few friends at school and so did Chad. He was to the point where he didn’t dread going everyday. He even had a new best friend named David. That was it, just David- no last name. That was great because he was six now and it was high time that he started to interact with kids his own age and not be sitting up under me all the time.

In the mean time, my home life continued to be my hell-on-earth but my time outside of home couldn’t have been better. Marshall and I became best friends and it seemed like we grew closer every day. We saw each other daily. He was so intriguing to me because he was always able to make me feel good. He made me laugh when I wanted to hate everyone. He taught me how to see a brighter side of things, and how to open up and trust people on some level. I often wondered why he was so intent to hang with me on a regular basis, but I was really glad that he did.

The summer was filled with us playing flag football with the neighborhood kids, swimming at the rec center, and playing basketball. Sometimes we would just sit on my porch and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up. My free time was filled with so much Marshall that I barely noticed the gradual change that was taking place in Chad.

He became more withdrawn somehow, and he would barely speak. All he wanted to do was sit in the house and watch television or play by himself. I couldn’t even convince him to play with David when he would come over. I just shrugged it off, because lets face it, I was almost thirteen and I had my own problems of Mrs. Epps and puberty to deal with.

Puberty; which was a huge problem to say the least. I had never had a female role model to sit me down and explain the facts of life to me. All I knew was what we learned in Sex Ed at school, and that information was very basic and non-specific to say the least. So, when I started my period I almost lost my mind.

I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. It was the middle of July and Marshall and I were having a deep discussion about why we needed to go to college.

“I’m not going to college,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“You have to go to college if you want to get a good job,” he retorted.

“That’s not true,” I said, “there are plenty of people who never went to college and do just fine.”

“Like who?” he asked.

“Mr. Epps,” I said without hesitation. “He didn’t go to college and he has a good job and he makes good money and has a nice house.”

“He makes factory money and will never do better than what he is doing right now. Don’t you want to get out of Detroit and live in a mansion with fancy cars and all that? I ain’t settlin’ for no job on an assembly line, working twelve hours a day putting seatbelts in cars,” he said indignantly.

“I ain’t goin’ to school any longer than necessary, and that’s a fact,” I shot back.

“Well, my wife has to go to college and since I plan on marrying you, you better go or my plans are ruined,” he said staring at me intently.

My mouth went dry and I was speechless. All I could do was stare him in the eye and wonder what it would be like to be his wife. Marshall was already thirteen and his thinking pattern was that of someone way older. I couldn’t believe that he was already thinking that far ahead about his future and even more shockingly, it included me.

As I started to respond, it happened. I felt a big patch of wetness between my legs and I snapped my mouth shut. My face must have drained of all color, because Marshall looked startled and said, “Marion, are you ok?”

Without saying a word I just jumped up and ran in the house like a bat out of hell. I made a mad dash for the bathroom, shut the door, and locked it. I just stood there for about a minute and tried to figure out what was going on. I walked over to the toilet and pulled down my shorts and sat down. I looked down and there it was in all it’s glory- I had started my period. I was horrified and scared. I didn’t know what to do, because I didn’t have anything to stop it and I was not about to tell Mrs. Epps.

Finally, I kicked off my shorts and panties and went to the linen closet, which thankfully was in the bathroom, and sought out the feminine hygiene products. God was on my side this time, because I found them right away. Then I picked up my soiled underwear and tried to rinse the blood out, but to no avail because I didn’t know the first thing about how to get a stain out. I then went to the door and checked to see if anyone was around. The coast was clear, so I ran to my room and put on a clean pair of panties and stuck the pad in them. Fortunately, I did not go through to my shorts, so I wouldn’t have to worry about Mrs. Epps noticing that I had changed my clothes. Once I had all my clothing in order, I picked up the soiled underwear, wrapped them up in paper towel, and tossed them in the garbage can in my room.

I had no idea what to do at that point. There was no way I was going back outside to face Marshall, and I had just made a complete fool out of myself. He was probably never going to speak to me again. He tells me that he wants to marry me when we grow up, and then I turn tail and run? I would never be able to look him in the face again. I was so ashamed. I snuck downstairs and peeked out the window to see if he was still there and he was gone. A wave of relief and regret swept over me, as I headed upstairs to see what Chad was up to.

He was in the den watching his eternal cartoons when I walked in.

“Whatcha watchin’?” I asked.

“Nothin,” he replied.

“Is it good?” I pressed.

“I don’t know,” he said.

I walked over and turned off the TV. “Chad, what is wrong with you?”

“What do you care? You don’t even spend time with me anymore,” he spat.

“I’m sorry, squirt,” I said sadly. At that point, I realized that was why he was so different lately.

“Hey, you wanna go to the park?” I asked, with hopes of cheering him up.

“No thanks,” he replied dryly, “can I finish watching my show now?”

“Sure,” I said, “Chad, I am sorry. I will do better I promise.”

“Ok,” he said simply and continued to stare blankly at the television.

Later that night after I had done the dishes, I was in my room reading and Mrs. Epps walked in.

“You little shitty whore-” she said menacingly, “What have you been up to?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked startled by her actions. I guess at this point nothing should have surprised me but I was scared.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” she hissed walking closer to me, “I knew you’ve been messing around with that boy, but now I have proof.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…I swear I haven’t done anything,” I cried.

“You lying little bitch!” she screamed, as she lunged at me and grabbed my face.

I grabbed her hand and tried to push it away but she was very strong in her anger. There was something in her hand, but she had my face restrained so that I couldn’t look down to see what it was. By this time she was on my bed sitting on top of me with her nails digging into my face and her face hovering over mine. Her breath reeked of alcohol.

“Then what is this, huh?” she screamed, as she held my soiled underwear up to my face.

“I-I…” I was stuttering because I didn’t know what to say. I was horrified. I could not grasp what was happening. She was trying to insinuate that I was having sex, and I was trying to tell her that I had just started my period.

“I told you! NO MESSING AROUND IN MY HOUSE! Now you will eat this shit!” she screamed.

My brain shut down and instinct took over as she tried to shove those nasty panties in my mouth. I got a sudden surge of strength in my frenzied state of terror and I somehow managed to push her off of me. The blow caught her off guard and she fell off the bed.

I didn’t stop to see what she was doing, I just ran out of the room and down the stairs as fast as I could. By that time she had recovered and was fast on my heels.

“Don’t you run from me!” she yelled.

By this time, Chad had come out to see what the commotion was about and when he saw me running and crying he immediately ran to my aide.

“Sissy, what’s wrong?” he cried throwing himself around my waist. I hugged him close and tried to calm him down as was my natural instinct.

“Chad, we have to go,” I said as calmly as I could, while dragging myself and him toward the door.

Just as my hand closed around the doorknob I felt it turn from the other side. I jerked my hand back as the door opened and Mrs. Epps continued to make her descent down the stairs. At that exact moment Mr. Epps walked through the door.

I threw myself into him and cried, “Help me please!”

“Janelle, what the hell is going on here?” he asked, as he tried to keep himself and me from falling.

“Stay out of this Michael, I have to teach this little slut a lesson!” she said crazily.

“What?” he asked clearly confused about the situation he had walked in on.

By this time, I was sobbing uncontrollably as I tried to explain, “Sssh…she tried to make me…e-e-e…eat and I d-d..didn’t do anything.”

“She’s lying, Michael, and she must be punished!”

“Now, Janelle, you wait! Just calm down a minute!” he said.

“No…” she began.

“Shut up!” he barked.

Then he looked at me, wiped the tears from my eyes, and led me to the chair in the foyer and said, “Now, Marion, tell me what is going on here?”

I took a deep breath to calm myself and finally I was able to speak. “She thinks I’m having sex, but I just started my period. I didn’t want to tell her because she already hates me, so I just handled it on my own. I didn’t know what to do so I threw my soiled underwear in the garbage.”

Mrs. Epps gasped and sat down on the steps with her hands over her face and began to cry.

“I’m so sorry,” she cried.

“Don’t you worry about a thing. We’ll get you all situated with that, ok?” he said tenderly, as he handed me a tissue to wipe my eyes.

As I sat and tried to pull myself together, he walked over to Mrs. Epps and said in a low tone, “Upstairs, now.”

She could tell that he meant business and got her ass up them stairs in a hurry. While they went upstairs to handle their business, Chad came over and hugged me.

“She’s a bad lady,” he said sobbing on my shoulder.

“It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who thinks that,” I said hugging him back.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I drifted in and out hearing the Epp’s argue about us in their room. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I knew that Mr. Epps was letting her have it, and I was glad. I was really hoping that he would knock some sense into her.

Then my thoughts drifted back to Marshall and I wondered how I would ever face him again. Not only that, what would happen after tonight? Mrs. Epps was a loose cannon and I was starting to fear for my personal well-being.

Finally, at about two a.m. I got up to go the bathroom. On my way down the hall I saw that Chad’s bedroom light was on. I stopped to see what he was still doing up and I heard Mrs. Epp’s talking to him in a cajoling manner. I put my ear to the door to listen.

“Come on Chad, just let mommy see. I won’t hurt you. You know I would never hurt you…” she crooned.

I opened the door slightly and saw her sitting on Chad’s bed, with his covers pulled back, and his pajama bottoms pulled down. He had his hands over his eyes and his head was shaking violently back and forth and he was crying, “Please no, not again. I don’t want you to.”

I didn’t need to hear anything more; I snapped. I mean I could literally hear the crack in my brain. I swung the door open and leaped on her with the fury of a mad woman.


She was not prepared for my attack and once again I could smell the liquor on her breath. To this day I am not sure that factor would have mattered anyway, but nevertheless, I tried to kill Janelle Epps that night. I swung at her with every ounce of anger and hatred I had in me. I punched, I bit, and I kicked. When that got old, I picked up one of Chad’s toys (don’t remember what it was) and hit her with that. I had put up with her shit for over a year and I would be damned if she was going to be messing with my six year old brother. Not as long as there was breath in my body.

I don’t know how long it was before Mr. Epps was finally able to pull me off of her, but when the ambulance arrived she was barely breathing. She was rushed to the hospital and I told the cops everything. It was about 24 hours later that she regained consciousness and was brought up on charges of child molestation.

Needless to say, we were removed from the Epps’ home and sent right back to the orphanage, which was just fine by me.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Breaking Point- Chapter 3

Chapter 3

A few more weeks passed and my twelfth birthday had come and gone. They took me to a place called Boblo, and I had my first boat ride. The boat took us to an island that had an amusement park and we had a blast. Mr. Epps brought us cotton candy and gave us money to play the games. Mrs. Epps doted on Chad and nit-picked me as usual. I really couldn't understand what her problem was, but she seemed to have a real problem with me ever since the day she demanded that I not tuck Chad in anymore. But, I had fun in spite of her.

Our home life was pretty bleak while Mr. Epps was at work, because he was the one who liked to do things. When he was away, all Mrs. Epps did was sleep, drink wine, cuddle Chad, and pick on me.

It was, "Marion, do this. Marion, do that.” or “Chad come here and give Mommy a kiss. Oh Chad, this or that." It was really sickening. It was like she was competing with me. And the weird thing was that Chad was different somehow. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it was there just the same. I would ask him what was wrong and he would just say nothing.

Finally it became time to enroll in school. We would be attending the Detroit Public Schools. We were tested for placement and Chad would attend Walker Elementary for first grade (he would be six in November) and I would go to Jefferson Middle School for sixth grade. Classes were to begin the following week.

As I was leaving the counseling office with Mrs. Epps and my new counselor, to take a tour of the school to see where my classes would be, that's when I met him for the first time. His name was Marshall Washington and he was beautiful. I was only twelve, but I swear that when he looked at me and smiled for the first time, I thought my heart would break. He had hazel eyes and light brown curly hair.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi," I replied. All of a sudden my mouth became very dry.

"I'm Marshall, are you new?" he asked.

"Yes." I said. Then we just stood there with him staring at me and me staring at the ground.

"Come along, Marion," said Mrs. Epps.

"Uh...I have to go," I stuttered.

"Well it was nice meeting you," he said, as he walked into the office.

I don't remember a thing about the tour that I got that day because I swear I could not get that boy's face out of my head. I was not one that could be considered boy crazy; hell, I had never even paid attention to any boy other than to fight before. But this was different and it came out of nowhere. I was really hoping that I would see him again or maybe he would even be in one of my classes. Only time would reveal and classes were only a few days away.

On the drive home, I was still day dreaming in my own little world when all of a sudden I felt my brother tugging on my arm.


"Yes, Chad, dang calm down!" I snapped, as I snatched my arm away.

"You watch your tone, young lady," she said to me. "Chad, mommy will take you to the park. Would you like that?"

He shrunk down in his seat and poked his lip out.

"I'll take him, Mrs. Epps, he likes for me to play tag with him."

She looked into the rear view mirror and saw Chad's expression and said, "Very well, I suppose."

So when we got home, Chad jumped out of the car and grabbed my hand and I took him to the park. While I was spinning him on the merry-go-round, I asked him why he didn't want Mrs. Epps to take him and he just looked down at the ground.

"Chad, do you hear me talking to you?" I asked in my grown up voice.

"I wanted you to bring me that's why," he said.

"Is that all?" I asked.


"Ok, then. Are you excited about your new school?" I asked trying to change the subject.

"No," he said, "I don't like school. The other kids always make fun of me."

"Well, you tell them little bastards that if they mess with you, then your sister will come up there and whoop all their asses. Ok?"

He smiled at that and said, "Ok."

When we got home about an hour later Mr. and Mrs. Epps were sitting in the living room. He had just gotten home from work and she was sipping on her wine, as usual.

"Hey, kids," he greeted us with a big smile, "how would you like to go out for dinner tonight?"

"No," said Mrs. Epps, "we are not going anywhere. I cooked dinner and we are not going to waste good money when we have food right here."

Mr. Epps just looked away in an effort to avoid causing her to get upset.

"Mike and Chad, you boys go ahead and wash up for dinner and Marion and I will get everything ready," she said.

"Come along, Marion and you can set the table."

"Yes, ma'am," I said, as I followed her into the kitchen.

I went directly to the silverware drawer and started to gather up what I needed and when I turned around-

WHAM! She slapped me right across my face and the silverware went flying everywhere. I looked up at her with tears in my eyes.

"Don't you ever do that to me again!" she said in a menacing voice. "How dare you try to override me with Chad! You don't think I see what you are doing? Trying to come between me and my son? I am his mother now, so you'd better start acting like it and this is the last time that we are going to have this discussion!"

Clearly this bitch had lost her mind. My natural reaction was to ball up my fist and just start swinging, but I was really scared of what might happen next. This woman was crazy. She had really lost her mind!

"Are we clear?" she asked.

I just stared at her.

"Good," she said and continued to fix dinner as if nothing happened.

Somehow I made it through dinner and then went up to my room. As I sat on the bed, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. I told myself that maybe she was just having a bad day, and not to think anything of it but I knew that wasn't the case. I made a promise to myself right then and there to just bide my time, do what she said and try not to make her angry, because I had no clue what this woman was capable of.

On the brighter side of things, I was starting school next week and with any luck Marshall Washington would be in one of my classes. That thought alone was enough to spark hope in my heart.

Somehow I made it through the weekend, and finally the first day of school was here.

"Come on, Chad!" I yelled up the stairs, "we're going to miss the bus!"

"I don't wanna go!" He screamed back at me.

I stomped up the stairs and pushed his door open only to find him sitting on his bed, with his arms folded across his little chest and tears streaming down his cheeks.

"You'd better get dressed and come on! Why are you crying?" I asked. I was really irritated that he was taking so long.

"I ain't going to first grade and you can't make me," he stated matter-of-factly.

"Oh, yeah?" I asked, as I started toward him, but then I thought better of it and decided to take a more diplomatic approach.

"I wonder what all those kids are gonna say when they see you playing outside and don't see you at school? They’re gonna come up to you and ask you why you don't go to school and you'll have to tell them that you're a big baby. What a shame."

"I AM NOT A BABY!" he yelled.

"I know that, but how will they know if you don't go to school and show them you're a big boy?" I asked, with fake wonder in my voice.

By that time he was off the bed and pulling his pants on.

"I'm not no baby," he said again, as he finished getting dressed.

"Ok, I'll be downstairs waiting for you."

By the time I ran downstairs and grabbed our lunches and my backpack, he was waiting for me at the front door. We had just made it to the bus stop a few minutes before it pulled up. Chad and I found a seat and when we got to the school I walked him to his class and then I ran next door to the middle school.

I found my homeroom class with no problem, and as I walked in, I couldn't help but notice how many of the other girls were pointing and snickering at me. My clothes, although a million times better than what I used to wear, still were not the name brand stylish clothes that most of the other girls were wearing.

"Nice shoes," said a light skinned girl with shoulder length black hair, "I'm guessing K-Mart blue light special?"

"No," I replied coolly, "your mamma's closest."

She just rolled her eyes and I continued on to my seat. I was pissed but I was determined not to get in trouble on the first day of school. Just then I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Don't pay her no mind," the voice said, "Crystal is just a rich little black girl, who doesn't get enough attention from her daddy."

"Shut up, Marshall!" The girl shot back.

My heartbeat sped up immediately, and I had to remember to breathe evenly. I turned around and there he was; Marshall Washington looking as handsome as ever.

"I don't remember getting your name," he said.

"Mm..Marion," I stuttered.

"Welcome to Jefferson, Marion, and don't let these jealous hoes around here get to you," he whispered.

"Thanks," I said and turned to face the front in an attempt to keep him from seeing me blush.

After that, the rest of the day seemed to fly by. I continued to get icy glares from Crystal and the other girls in her clique but I didn't care. If they kept it up, her and all of her bitches would be collecting their teeth in a shiny container. I had a very low tolerance for people trying to bully me, even at the age of twelve. There was very little in this world that I was afraid of, and girls my age was not one of them.

I collected my homework and bookbag from my locker and made my way to the elementary campus to pick up my brother.

"Hey, Marion, wait up!"

I turned around and Marshall was running across the grass to catch up with me.

"Do you mind if I walk you home?" he asked.

"If you want to," I said and shrugged my shoulders to try to act like I wasn't pressed one way or the other. Inside I was doing cartwheels.

"Good, I'll save you a seat on the bus," he called, as he ran off to the bus parking lot.

I found Chad and almost ripped his arm out of the socket because I was practically dragging him to get the bus. By the time the bus pulled up to our stop, Chad had already made himself Marshall's best buddy. The whole ride home, Marshall listened patiently to Chad ramble on about his day at school. He even asked him questions to make him feel important. I was very impressed.

When the bus finally got to our stop, I asked him, "Why weren't you on the bus this morning?"

"My mom had to drop me off this morning because I had a doctor appointment," he replied.


"I like your brother, he's a smart kid,"

"He's ok as far as little brothers go. I wouldn't trade 'em," I said, as I tried to suppress a grin.

"So, where do you live?" he asked.

"On Archdale," I responded. "Where do you stay?"

"Right around the block, on Parker. Where are you from?" he asked.

I was silent for a moment. Did I want to tell him the truth, or make up some elaborate fairytale existence? I decided that it was best to tell the truth, especially since Chad was right there. He was bound to blurt out the facts, if he heard me telling anything other than that.

"I am from Detroit, but I used to stay at the orphanage on the other side of town. Our parents were killed in a car accident."

"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that," he said sincerely.

"It's ok. It's not like we're missing out on anything. Our parents weren’t the most loving," I told him. I was kind of embarrassed to say it out loud, but it was the truth.

After about ten minutes, we came to our house. In that time I had already made up my mind that this guy was special. Even though he was only twelve, he seemed more mature than the other guys my age at the orphanage.

"Well, this is our stop. I guess I'll see you around"

"Yep, I'll come by and pick you guys up tomorrow. Bye, Chad!" he called, as he began to jog down the street.

I don't think I even touched the ground as I went up the porch steps. We walked into the house and I didn't even take my coat off good before Chad was yelling, "Marion has a boyfriend," at the top of his lungs.

"Shut up, brat!" I said, as I tried to grab him before Mrs. Epps could hear the racket. But I was too late.

"What's going on in here?" she inquired.

"Marion has a BOYFRIEND," Chad taunted in a sing-a-song tone.

"Is that so?" she said, with one eyebrow raised.

"No, ma'am," I replied nervously, "I made a new friend at school and his name is Marshall."

"He walked us home! I like him!" Chad happily volunteered.

"That's wonderful, sweetie," she said and she bent down to give him a hug and a kiss.

"Now, Marion, I won't tolerate any mess do you understand? This boy better just be a friend. I won't have no sluts livin' in my house, you get me."

"Yes, ma'am," I said as I tried to hold back my anger. I simply picked up my bookbag and made my way upstairs. The whole way up I was running through my mind all of the different things I could have said to her; like where to go and how to get there. I was really starting to hate her. My only saving grace was Mr. Epps, who really seemed to care about me and Chad, but he was always working. It made me sick sometimes because I was always worried and feeling like I had to watch my back.

I went to bed that night and prayed for God to watch over me and help me to stay out of her way.

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