Sample of On the Wings of a Prayer
Copyright © 2017 Wayne Colley
All rights reserved. No part of the work may be reproduced without the expression written permission of the author. This book is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All characters, events, and incidents in this book are a product of the author's imagination.
Lying in her bedroom on her bed, seventeen-year old Carmen pulled the covers over her head as she heard her mother's live-in boyfriend, Michael, starting to yell. She knew what was about to happen. It was the same thing that happened every time Michael started raising his voice at her mama — raising his hands would be next.
None of that phased Carmen though. Yeah, she felt bad that her mama was about to get a beatdown, but she'd learned a long time ago to stay out of whatever was going on between her mama and her boyfriends — her mother had told her to.
Plus, this hadn't been the first time something like this had ever happened. Carmen’s mother, Gina, had had many boyfriends over the years. And yep, every single one of them had wanted to put their hands on her.
Carmen placed her earbuds into her ears and started her music to playing. She loved her mother. She didn’t want to hear the pain that the woman who’d given birth to her was about to endure. She decided to try to drown out the battle and get herself some sleep.
Carmen got up early the following morning and got herself ready for school. Since her school was only a half-mile away, most mornings she walked. If it was raining, or the weather was otherwise bad, she'd hop on the school bus.
This particular morning, the weather was perfect for Atlanta in late springtime. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature was pleasant.
Carmen and her girl, Lisa, normally walked to school together. Lisa's apartment complex was right beside Carmen's. Carmen was glad her girl was walking out the front door as soon as she made it to her place. I ain't got no time for waiting around for her behind today. I have a Civics test this morning and I don't wanna be late.
Lisa cheesed as soon as she saw Carmen. “Hey, boo. I bet you thought I was gonna be tripping this morning.”
"Girl, what else was I supposed to think? Your ass been late almost every day this week — been making me late, too. What I ought to do is just start walking to school without you."
Lisa laughed. "You know you ain't about to start leaving me, Carmen. You need to quit playing."
Carmen knew her girl was telling the truth. One of the best parts of her day was walking to school in the mornings with Lisa. Carmen and Lisa had been down ever since elementary school. Lisa felt more like a sister to Carmen instead of just a bestie.
They had only been walking a couple of minutes when a car pulled up behind them and began to slow down. Carmen frowned and looked over her shoulder. When she noticed who it was tailing them, the worried expression on her face turned into a nervous, but excited one.
It was Jason Hopper, a.k.a. J-Dog.
Lisa smiled. "Don't look now, boo…but that fool — you know the one you been crushing on — he’s right behind us."
"I know he is, girl. I peeped him out the side of my eye.”
Jason put on his flashers and rolled down the passenger side window of his Beemer. He slowed down to a crawl to match Carmen and Lisa’s walking speed and flashed them a sexy smile. "Hey Doublemint twins, y'all wanna ride?"
Everybody called Carmen and Lisa the Doublemint Twins. They weren't sisters, but they did look a whole lot alike, and they dressed a whole lot alike, too.
"I said do y'all want a ride to school? I'm headed that way."
Lisa cut her eyes at Jay-Dog but smiled. She stopped licking her purple lollipop and said, "What your ass doing heading that way? You like twenty years old or something. I know damn well you ain't got no business at high school. You ain't got no classes."
Jason had dropped out of McKinley High five years ago; he'd been in the 10th grade back then. So it was true that he didn't have any classes to take at McKinley. But he sure had some business to handle there. He had to drop off a couple ounces of weed to his foot soldier — a freshman named RayTron. J-Dog got good money out of the students — and a couple of the teachers — at McKinley.
Carmen grabbed the passenger side door of Jason's ride. "Come on, Lisa. Let's roll."
It only took them a few minutes to make it to the high school. Lisa opened the back door and got out of the car, but Carmen stayed where she was sitting in the passenger-side seat."
"Ain't you coming, Carmen?" Lisa asked. "Your ass said you didn't wanna be late today."
Carmen was sitting beside one of the finest men she’d seen in a long time. She'd been crushing on J-Dog ever since she'd first laid eyes on him. She flashed her girl a little smile. "I'll catch up with you in second block, Boo."
J-Dog grinned. "You rolling with me for a little while today, Shawty?"
Carmen nodded her head. "Yeah. I'm down."
J-Dog handled his business with RayTron. Then he glanced over at Carmen. “Let’s roll.”
Four Days Later at School:
Carmen followed behind Lisa in the lunch line and grabbed herself a tray. When they finally made it to their favorite table, Carmen’s Civics teacher, Mr. Pittman, approached them.
“I don’t wanna interrupt your lunch ‘cause I know you guys only get twenty-five minutes. So can I talk to you after school today, Ms. Flood? In my classroom?”
Carmen already knew what her teacher, Mr. Pittman, wanted to talk to her about. She'd missed the last four days of his class. Ever since she'd hooked up with J-Dog four days ago on the way to McKinley, she hadn't been making it to school in time to make it to her first class of the day — which was Mr. Pittman’s Civics course. She'd been spending the night at J-Dog’s upscale apartment and they hadn't been waking up until around 10 o'clock in the morning. School started at eight. Which consequently meant she hadn’t been getting to school until about eleven — some days noon.
Carmen gave the man a genuine smile. Mr. Pittman was actually one of her favorite teachers. She figured him to be young — about twenty-five years old. And he was fine as he wanted to be, too. Truth be told, Carmen had had a little crush on him when he’d first started at McKinley High two years ago. “Okay, Mr. Pittman. I’ll see you around four. Okay?”
Three hours later, Carmen was taking a seat in a desk in the front row of Mr. Pittman’s classroom. “Alright, Teacherman… I’m here.”
He didn’t waste any time. He went right in. "I wanted to talk to you about your performance in my class...and some other things. Now you've been doing really well — up until this week. You've missed the last four days of classes and I suspect I know the reason why. Rumor ‘round school is that you have a new boyfriend."
Carmen nodded her head. "I do." That was the only information she gave him on that particular topic.
He stopped drumming the pencil he had in his hand on his desk. His eyes met Carmen's. "You're a very smart girl, Carmen. And you're going places in life — that is if you don't let somebody who doesn't have a future bring you down." He paused for several seconds to let his words take effect. To let them sink in.
He continued speaking. "The school policy is makeup tests need to be taken within three days. You missed your test on Monday. Today is Thursday. I would've warned you — that is if you'd been coming to class. But you haven't. Right now you have a B+ in my class. However, the test from Monday is 20% of your grade for the semester. Missing that one test has dropped your grade from a B down to a D — that's what it’s gonna be after I enter in your score of zero over this upcoming weekend."
Yep, Carmen felt bad about all of that. She may not have been the student with the highest scores in her school, but she liked getting good grades. Her hope was to go to college after graduating.
He noticed the look of disappointment on her face. "Now I'm willing to make an exception for you. We have Saturday school tomorrow morning starting at eight. If you can make it here 8 o'clock sharp, I'll let you make up the test — even though it's against policy."
Her eyes brightened up with a quickness. “I can be here at eight sharp, Mr. Pittman. That's the for real truth. I promise you that."
She flashed him a smile and stood up to leave at that point.
"Before you leave, Ms. Flood, don't forget what I told you about not allowing a rotten apple in the bunch to ruin your entire future. Okay?”
She knew he was talking about J-Dog. She nodded her head. "Okay."
Three Months Later:
Carmen walked over to the large walk-in closet in the apartment that she now shared with J-Dog. The day she’d first gotten into his car at school, she’d become his number one chick. He’d even gotten rid of his side chicks for her — or at least he’d told her he had.
She'd moved out of her mom's place a month ago. She really hadn't wanted to do it. But seeing that she’d gotten tired of her mom's live-in boyfriend trying to push up on her for sex on the sly tip, she’d decided to go ahead and leave.
Carmen had been fighting off the advances of her mother's men ever since she’d sprouted hips and breasts at twelve. She was tired of it.
She had a brother who was two years younger than herself. But she never let on to him what was going on. That’s because she hadn't wanted him to catch a case behind no mess. Therefore, Carmen had pretty much learned to just stay out of her mother's boyfriends’ way. She'd learned to make herself as quiet as possible in the house — almost invisible.
She pushed all of those thoughts of the life she'd been living at home from her brain. Then she began getting dressed for her and Lisa’s ladies night out on the town.
Carmen pulled up in front of Lisa's apartment complex in the Lexus that J-Dog had given her. She blew her horn to let her girl know that she was out there. Carmen had grown up in poverty, so it felt good being a high school senior rolling around in her brand-new luxury whip. It felt good sporting the nice clothes and shoes that J-Dog kept her in, too.
Lisa wasn't the type of friend who was jealous of her girl. She was happy that Carmen was being well taken care of. She was even happier about the perks that she herself got from being Carmen's bestie. Now that Carmen had hooked up with J-Dog, the two seventeen-year old girls shopped wherever they wanted to, and went to eat at whatever restaurants their little hearts desired. J-Dog had plenty of money from his hustle in the streets. And he liked to keep his woman looking and living nice.
Lisa flashed her bestie a smile as soon as she got into the car. “Hey, girl...where we rolling to this evening?”
Carmen shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, but you said that you were hungry. I ain't ate yet either. Wanna go to Luigi's? You in the mood for Italian?"
"That's fine by me. I’m kinda surprised you got the time to come pick me up tonight. I figured you and J-Dog would be going somewhere or something. It is Friday."
At the mention of J-Dog’s name, Carmen frowned for the first time since her girl had sat in her car that day.
Picking up on her bestie’s facial features, Lisa said, "Oh… I sense trouble in paradise."
Yeah, there's trouble alright, Carmen thought to herself. She shook her head. "J-Dog been stressed out lately… That's all. Gucci and his homeboys are crowding in on his territory. Gucci got more foot soldiers than J-Dog do. That mean Gucci winning.”
"So I guess that means that J-Dog is stressed out?"
Carmen sighed. She nodded her head.
As they came to an intersection, Carmen looked to her right to check for traffic and Lisa noticed for the first time that her girl had a black eye. She’d put concealer on it trying to cover it up, but it hadn't been completely effective.
"Oh hell naw! That nigga been hitting on you, boo?!"
Carmen didn’t feel like talking about what had gone down in the apartment that she shared with J-Dog earlier in the day.
"It was just a misunderstanding, Lisa."
Lisa shook her head. "Misunderstanding my ass! That nigga hit you, boo."
"He was stressed out… That's all. Like I told you, things been getting kinda bad out there on the streets for him. Gucci and his boys knocked off two of J-Dog’s top goons last night. They stole about twenty-five grand worth of cash and product from him."
Lisa frowned. "Sweetie… After all that shit your mama went through with men putting their hands on her, I thought you were never gonna get yourself in a similar situation. At least that’s what you used to say."
Carmen had figured that exact same thing. She'd always told herself that the second any man put his hands on her, she was walking. However, after the nice lifestyle she'd gotten accustomed to living with J-Dog, she wasn't ready to go back to poverty. Plus, she’d actually messed up and caught real feelings for J-Dog. She was only seventeen, but she knew she was in love. J-Dog had been treating her like a princess up until today.
Lisa placed a hand of concern on Carmen’s shoulder. "I thought you weren't gonna live like that, boo."
"I don't wanna talk about it anymore, Lisa. He apologized for what he did and promised never to do it again. I believe him." She smiled. "Aren't you the one who’s always talking about giving people at least one second chance?"
Lisa sucked her teeth. "That don't apply to no nigga putting his hands on you, Carmen. You know that." She shook her head. "And don’t even start talking that shit about how you love him. Love don’t give you black eyes, boo.”
Carmen frowned. "Like I said, let's talk about something else, Lisa."
Lisa didn't like the situation, but she didn't feel like falling out with her bestie. I'm gonna have to talk to her ass later on. She ain’t ready to hear me right now. But I don't see how any of this is gonna play out right.
Conceding defeat for the moment, Lisa placed a tiny smile on her face. "Alright...new subject. Prom’s in two months. You decided what color you gonna be wearing, yet?"
Carmen smiled. "Yeah. If I can get J-Dog to agree to wearing purple accents, I'm going with gold and purple."
In her brain Lisa said to herself: Hopefully in two months from now, she won't even be dating him...living with him or nothing. Hopefully J-Dog will just be a bad memory for her ass. A freaking has been.
Carmen had enjoyed her girls night out with Lisa. Instead of going to Luigi's for Italian food like they’d initially intended on doing, they'd picked up another two of their girlfriends and hit up Greenview Center — which was a mini amusement park of sorts. They'd had a good, clean time.
She walked into the apartment that she shared with J-Dog around eleven-thirty that night wearing a smile on her face.
"Hey, Bae," she said to J-Dog as soon as she’d closed the front door behind herself.
J-Dog didn't return her smile with one of his own. Instead, he frowned. "Where your ass been, Carmen?"
Carmen frowned, too. "I was having a girls-night-out over at Greenview Center with Lisa, Chardonnay, and Keisha."
He shook his head. "I don't like your friends. They thots. I don't want you hanging out with any of ‘em anymore."
Yep, that pissed Carmen off alright. She rolled her neck and held out her hand, palm facing forward. "Hold up, wait a minute, boo boo. You don't tell me who to be friends with. I don't tell your ass who you can hang out with. That shit should go both ways."
J-Dog’s eyes got the cold look to them that he usually only reserved for his enemies. "I done had a bad night, Carmen. I don't need to be coming home to my woman popping off at the mouth at me."
"Ain't nobody popping off at the mouth, J."
"Yes you is. You doing it right now. And this is the last time I'm gonna warn you about it!"
Carmen shook her head. Then she sucked her teeth. "Boy, please."
She turned around and began walking away. She was totally unprepared for J-Dog grabbing her by the hair. Less than a minute later, she had a left black eye to match her right one. She’d tried fighting back, but J-Dog was stronger than her. Blood was dripping from her lip as she staggered away from him.
With fire shooting from his eyes and breathing heavily, J-Dog barked, “Now get your ass in the bathroom and clean yourself up. You betta have your ass laying butt naked in the bed in ten minutes. I got some pipe to lay.”
Yeah, she was more than afraid now. She understood that it was in her best interest to do exactly what he’d told her to do. She quietly made her way to the bathroom in the master suite. In pain and crying, she hung her head and looked down at her own blood dripping into the sink. When she glanced up in the mirror at her face, all broken and bloody — which looked just like her mama’s after a fallout with one of her many boyfriends — something in her snapped.
With a crazed expression in her eyes, she ran out of the bathroom and into the closet. She reached into a drawer in there, then marched back out into the hallway.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
As soon as she fired the shots, she dropped the gun onto the hardwood floors with a loud thud. Then barefoot and still bleeding, she ran out into the night.
Carmen woke up with sweat beading on her forehead. She shook her head and looked around the darkened interior of her cell at Metro State Prison. She'd been having the dream again. The nightmare about what she'd done that had gotten her locked up seven long years ago.
J-Dog hadn’t died when she’d shot him — although he’d come close to it. Seeing that she hadn’t had the money to hire a defense attorney, she’d had to rely on a free public defender. In Carmen’s eyes, her public defender had only done the bare minimum necessary in representing her. Consequently, she’d been sentenced to nine years for attempted murder.
Despite the fact that there were plenty of signs that she’d been abused by J-Dog — and she’d only been seventeen at the time — she’d been tried as an adult and convicted.
She pushed the covers off of herself and got out of the bottom platform of the bunk beds that she shared with her cellmate, Atlantis. She reached into her stash and pulled out the tiny flashlight that she’d had her mama to sneak into the facility for her. Then she grabbed her Bible from under her pillow and threw the covers over her head for privacy — because they weren’t supposed to have any lights in the room after dark. Her newfound faith in God had been the only thing that had gotten her through the last seven years in lock-down.
“Hey Carmen,” Atlantis whispered from the top bunk.
Carmen frowned. “I didn’t wake you, did I?” she whispered back.
“Naw. I been up about an hour. You excited about leaving tomorrow?”
Carmen frowned. “Yeah. I am. But I’m a little scared, too. It’s been almost a decade since I been on the outside.”
“You reading that Bible of yours, ain’t you?”
Carmen smiled. “Yeah. You know how I roll… Can’t make no moves without God being a part of it.”
Carmen figured that the best thing that had come out of her whole incarceration was finding Christ once she’d gotten two years into her confinement. It had been the many positive changes that being saved brought in her life that had made her eligible for early release. She’d been given a mandatory nine-year sentence. For good behavior, she was being let out on parole the following day — which meant only seven years served. The only condition of her release was that she had to live in a halfway house for six months.
Atlantis laughed. Then using a low voice so that the warden wouldn’t hear, she said, "You'll be okay, Carmen. You already know this is my third time coming through here." She nodded her head. "I can tell the ones who ain’t coming back. And I can tell the ones who is. Jailbird, you ‘bout to be sprung from this cage, and I ain't never gonna see your face around these here parts ever again. But I ain’t mad atcha. You deserve to be free."
As Carmen walked out of the facility the next day as a free woman, she had Atlantis' words on her mind. Lord, I pray that she's right. Somewhere deep within herself, she knew that she was.
An hour later, Carmen was stepping out of the back of the corrections vehicle that had just dropped her off at the halfway house she'd be living in for the next six months. The place was called Halo House.
The middle aged man who’d been driving the car gave her a smile. "I don't want to have to give you this ride again, you hear?"
Carmen smiled right back. "I hear you loud and clear." Then she slung her lightweight bag over her shoulder, closed the car door, and went to meet her destiny.
She was nervous when she stepped into the large, two-story, colonial-style home that had a big wraparound porch attached to it. She didn't exactly know what to expect. But she was happy that at least it was pretty on the inside of her new digs. She could tell that the place was well taken care of. And she could smell home cooked bread. Her stomach began growling in response to that. It had been so many years since she'd set foot in such an environment.
“Hey, honey. You must be Carmen.”
Carmen smiled at the middle-aged black woman who’d just walked into the very spacious foyer. “Yes ma’am. I am.” She stuck out her palm for a handshake.
The woman grinned at Carmen and shook the hand she’d offered. “I’m Mrs. Ridley. And I run this here place. Me and my husband."
The woman continued smiling. "The prison always sends over a portfolio for people who gonna be living here. I was really impressed with yours, Carmen. You had really good behavior while you were on lockdown. And you tried to be a positive advocate for the other inmates there with you — but in a good kinda way."
Carmen was pleased by Mrs. Ridley's compliment. She wasn't proud of being locked up. But she’d tried to make good use of her time in confinement — at least the last five years of it she had.
Mrs. Ridley continued speaking. "I'm sure your facilitator over at the prison told you you'd be able to live here free for the first thirty days… Then you’re gonna have to start paying rent."
Carmen nodded her head. "Yeah. They told me about all of that. They said it would be $100 a week. Right?"
“Yep. But don't worry about finding yourself a job. It's true that you have a felony on your record, but I have a list of places that’ll be willing to hire you...despite your past.”
That certainly was good to hear, because Carmen had been worried about that. Yes, she had faith that God would help her to find something. But there still had been a niggling worry in the very back of her mind.
"Well let me show you to your room. It's not very big — seeing that we had a contractor come in and put up a wall to divide all the bedrooms in this house in half. But I think most of our residents appreciate the privacy that comes with having a wall in place. Other than that, you’d have to share a bedroom with someone else."
Carmen had just gotten finished sharing a six foot by seven foot jail cell with various other inmates over the last seven years. She didn't care if her new digs was the size of a matchbox. If it meant that she finally had a room to herself, she was all for it.
"I'm more than sure that the room is gonna be fine, Mrs. Ridley."
An hour later, Carmen was lying flat on her back on top of the bed in her new bedroom. Mrs. Ridley had given her a tour of the home and Carmen did indeed like the place. It was true that the room was tiny, but she loved that too, because she had space all to herself.
Lying there on that twin bed, she began thinking about her mother. Her mama, Gina, had been to visit her only a few times while she'd been incarcerated. That's because somewhere during Carmen’s second year of lockdown, her mother had met and married some guy in the military. She'd begun living in whatever city he'd been stationed in. Right now, she was in Stuttgart, Germany.
Carmen frowned. When she'd first gotten locked up, Carmen had been angry at her mother. Carmen had honestly felt like it had been the domestic violence she’d witnessed constantly as a child that had caused her to snap on J-Dog like she had.
Running into Christ had allowed her to forgive Gina for her transgression. Seeing that her younger brother had grown up and moved away from home, Carmen didn’t have anyone who’d tell her the truth about whether or not her mama was still living in a domestic abuse type of situation. She certainly hoped she wasn’t.
She sighed and pushed all of those thoughts from her mind. Then she decided to take a her first little nap in a long time as a free woman. She’d only been asleep about twenty minutes when that nap was cut painfully short by a banging sound on the wall outside her door.
Wearing a frown on her face, she got out of bed and went to investigate the source of the disturbance.
Opening her bedroom door, she saw a man with his back to her crouched over a toolbox with a hammer in his hand. The back view of the brotha was real nice. He was wearing a white T-shirt and she could see the impression of the muscles of his back rippling through the fabric — and don't even get started on his powerful looking biceps. She shook her head to get those types of thoughts on his appearance out of her mind. I just got out of prison. My butt needs to be worried about getting my life together, not how good-looking some man is.
Now that she knew the source of the noise, she was about to retreat back into her room. He was obviously out there working on hanging some decorations on the wall in the hallway. That's all that was going on, it wasn't some type of catastrophe.
Right before she could get the opportunity to leave, homeboy turned around.
A look of recognition quickly came into Carmen's eyes. "Mr. Pittman."
The man smiled then said, "Carmen… Carmen Flood."
Carmen grinned right back. "In the flesh."
"You got early release."
Carmen didn't know how her old Civics teacher knew that she'd been released early, but she nodded her head and replied, "Yeah, I got sprung this morning. It was a blessing."
He answered her question on how he knew she’d gotten early release in his next statement. "I ran into your friend, Lisa, a few months ago. I asked her how you were doing, and she told me that you were petitioning to get out."
Carmen Flood had been one of Mr. Pittman's favorite students. She’d worked hard in both of his classes that she'd been in. He’d been sad to hear about what had ended up happening between her and her no-good boyfriend, J-Dog.
Carmen nodded her head. "Oh. Lisa told me that she ran into you the last time I talked to her. And once again, I wanna thank you for bringing my coursework to the prison when I first got locked up. It's because of you that I was able to graduate high school. I didn't get to walk across the stage, but I got a diploma. Thank you again for all of that."
"You're welcome...you were a good kid, Carmen. I wanted to help you in any way I could." His smile finally turned into a frown. "I followed your case. I don't think the sentence they gave you was fair."
Carmen frowned, too. "Me neither. That's why instead of just sitting around while I was locked up, I took advantage of the free college courses that they offered us in jail. I know it sounds crazy that a prison would allow inmates to take college courses, but that's what they did. I was studying law during my time on lockdown through a correspondence school. It was all online...on the internet you know?"
Mr. Pittman was impressed. "You were in school?"
Carmen nodded her head. "Yeah. I got far enough that all that's left for me to do is somehow pass the bar exam. Then I’ll be an attorney." Her frown deepened. "But from what I hear, it's hard for people who go the route I'm trying to take towards being a lawyer to actually become one. There’s a character test that you have to pass as part of the Bar Exam. Being a convicted felon makes passing that particular test difficult.”
“But not impossible.” His eyes met hers. “It sounds as if you've been walking a little closer with Christ since your incarceration, Carmen. Would I be right in assuming that?"
Carmen nodded her head. "Yep. It was God's grace that brought me through the last seven years. There's a lot of mess that can catch up an inmate — prison is a dangerous place. From drugs and feelings of hopelessness, to violence and fights that could end with a person losing their life. Tricks don't be playing up in there. But through all of that, God kept me."
He smiled. "Then you should know that all things are possible through God. Passing the bar and becoming a lawyer is possible for you, too, Carmen."
“Yeah. That’s actually been the only thing that’s kept me going in my pursuit of the seemingly impossible.” She pointed at the hammer in his hand. "Now on a different subject, what is a civics teacher doing in a halfway house hanging decorations on the wall?"
He laughed. "Mr. and Mrs. Ridley are my uncle and auntie. Sometimes they need help around here. They’ve always been good to me, so I volunteer to help out."
"I have to admit that I haven’t met Mr. Ridley, yet. But Mrs. Ridley is good people. I’ve only known her a few hours and I can tell that."
"Yes, she is. My uncle’s good people, too. You'll see when you meet him."
There was nothing else for them to really talk about, so there was an uncomfortable silence between them for a few seconds. Then Carmen finally said, "Oh, okay. I guess I'll see you around, Mr. Pittman."
“Right. See you around, Carmen—,” he cracked a smile and added, “—but what I really should be saying is see you around soon-to-be Attorney Carmen.”
She smiled. She liked the sound of that. “Yeah.”
Carmen closed her bedroom door behind herself. She knew she had a silly-looking little grin on her face. “Dang,” she whispered under her breath. “Mr. Pittman even finer than he was almost a decade ago when I was in his Civics class.”
She also realized at that moment that her crush on him hadn’t gone anywhere. She felt like she’d been taken back in time right to the twelfth grade all over again. She sighed and sat down on her bed. “It’s just a crush. I’m sure it’ll pass.”
Outside of Carmen’s room, Mr. Pittman was still staring at the door that Carmen had just disappeared behind. She done blossomed into a beautiful woman—, he thought to himself, —despite her circumstances, despite her trials and her tribulations. He directed his next words towards his heavenly father. Lord, she’s a good person. Please let things work out in her favor.
The halfway house that Carmen was living in was a ten-bedroom coed facility — meaning both men and women lived there. Later on that afternoon, she met a few of her housemates.
Janelle Bryce, a pretty light-skinned girl with long dreadlocks, gave Carmen a smile as they worked together on cleaning up the kitchen. "I've been here for months. I came straight over from being in lock up at Metro just like you, Carmen. It feels kinda weird living with men again, don’t it?”
"Yep. In my section over at Metro, seeing a man was a rare thing — we mostly had female security guards or whatnot. On visitation day, there were some men around though… For the ladies who decided they were okay with having male visitors."
Janelle looked at Carmen with an expression of curiosity in her eyes. "You a pretty girl. You didn't have a boyfriend or something visiting you at Metro?"
Carmen frowned. She shook her head. "Naw. I didn’t need no man coming to see me."
"I ain't trying to be nosy — all up in your business — but it sound like you got locked up for something similar to why I was locked up. I stabbed my husband. He wouldn’t keep his hands off of me. Always roughing me up. One day I snapped."
Carmen nodded her head. "Yeah. I ain’t proud of it, but I shot my ex cause he started putting his hands on me."
Janelle sighed. "I did fifteen years. Missed my two babies growing up and everything. After all of that, I really don't feel like dealing with no man — well, not in a relationship type of way." Then she smiled. “But that nephew of Mrs. Ridley. He sure fine enough to make a sista kinda want to change her mind.” Her eyes met Carmen’s. “You met him yet?”
“Yeah. He used to be my Civics teacher back in high school…not in lockup, but on the outside.”
Janelle’s grin got a little bigger. “That musta been interesting being in his class. Did you sit up front? You know, so you could get yourself an eyeful?” Then she laughed.
Carmen smiled. “Naw… Well yeah, I was on the second row.” She laughed, too, at that point. “All them heifers in my class with me were almost fighting to get all the way to the front. It was crazy. Now I wasn’t one to be fighting over being up in no man’s face though — I didn’t care how fine he was. Same thing applies today.”
Janelle skimmed her eyes over Carmen real quick. I wonder if she down with the girl-on-girl thing, she thought to herself. Carmen fine as she wanna be.
Carmen noticed the way Janelle had just looked at her. She gave the woman a slow smile and shook her head. “Sorry, Janelle. I ain’t about that type of lifestyle. Now I ain’t knocking you for how you living, but that ain’t me.”
Janelle grinned. “That’s cool, Carmen.” Then she winked her eye and laughed. “But if you ever decide to switch teams, give me a call. Okay?”
Lesbianism was against the saved lifestyle that Carmen had decided to live. Therefore she was pretty much sure that she wasn't gonna be giving Janelle that phone call. Since she knew that people weren’t perfect, she wasn't gonna judge the girl she’d just met because of her chosen sexual orientation either Judging is up to the Lord, not me.
Carmen continued about her day. Later on that night, after she'd said her prayers and laid her head down on her pillow, she began thinking about Janelle and her proposition for hooking up for sex and/or a relationship.
Prison had been rough and Carmen had indeed gotten lonely and sexually frustrated while she was on lock up. She wasn't proud of herself, but she’d tried a girl on girl relationship during her first few months of being incarcerated. Being with a woman had never felt natural to Carmen, so it hadn’t taken her long to call things off with her prison lover. When she'd decided to follow Jesus about a year after all of that had gone down, she'd repented of her sins. She'd turned a new leaf in her life.
She sighed. Then she reached over and turned on the lamp on the nightstand by her bedside. She couldn't help the smile from materializing on her face. As she picked up her Bible to read, she couldn't help but think: It sure feels good being able to turn on a light anytime I want to. Thank you Lord for this little blessing.
She studied her word for the next half hour or so. When she finally turned off the light and closed her eyes, a picture of Mr. Pittman's handsome face flashed up in her mind. Janelle is right...he sure is fine as he wannabe.