Jayd needs time to recoup from her dramatic school year, but time is the one thing she doesn't have. She's said yes to becoming a debutante, and now she has to deal with her girl Mickey's jealousyon top of babysitting, hair braiding, cheer camp, and a summer writing class. With the stress of Jayd's hectic schedule, strange visions, and insomnia, luckily Mama returns from her vacation in time to help Jayd and her crew avert real drama. Mama's convinced something sinister is at play, and they both need a plan to get Jayd her swagger back before it's too late. . .
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THE MELTDOWNDrama High, Vol. 13 Super Edition
By L. Divine
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 L. Divine
All right reserved.
The men all pause / And they all sung the same old tune. —Klymaxx
Rah and Nigel must've texted and called me fifty times on the way from Nigel's hood in Lafayette Square to my mom's apartment in Inglewood. It's not a long drive because both areas are off of Crenshaw Boulevard, and it doesn't require much thought to get here. I understand their concern and sent them a message as soon as I pulled in a few minutes ago. I'm glad to have my mom's space to park in so I don't have to worry about walking down the block by myself late at night. Making it to the front door and up the stairs from the sunken carport is challenging enough.
"Hey, girl," my mom says, surprising me as I open the multi-locked front door. What's she doing here so late? Usually she'd be with her man, Karl, especially after spending the day with us at Mama's house. Maybe he had dinner plans with his mom for the special day.
"Hey, Mom," I say, closing the door behind me. From the looks of it, my mom came home to restock her clothes. She took the jar of quarters from her dresser and put them in one of the three laundry baskets on the living room floor. I guess she's finally run out of clean clothes. Although knowing my mom, she probably ran out weeks ago and just bought new ones to wear for the time being, which I'm sure got a little expensive.
I plop down next to my mom on the cozy couch, putting my purse on the coffee table and removing my sandals. I pick up my spirit notebook from the end table and flip through the pages. I should write down today's events, but I'm too tired to relive the drama. Besides, my notes are in the car, and there's no way I'm going back downstairs this evening.
"It's unprostitutional!" my mom says, shouting at the television in front of us. Tiger Woods and his hoes have been all over the news for months, and personally I'm tired of the shit. If his wife wants to deal with his trifling behavior, who am I to question who and what he does?
"Mom, is that even a word?" I ask, flipping through my spirit notes and trying to concentrate on the task at hand. I have a lot of work to catch up on, not to mention the personal things I want to focus on even if I still can't think straight. But with my mom yelling at the television and sitting on the small couch that doubles as my bed, I doubt I'll get to sleep anytime soon.
"It is if I say it is," my mom says, reaching for the pretty gift basket my cousin Jay gave her for Mother's Day and pulling out a bottle of lotion. I feel for him not having either of his parents around. Even if Jay's mom, my aunt Anne, did call earlier, it's rare for her to talk to Jay or Mama. Mama's always silent about what happened between her and her youngest daughter, but I know she thinks about Anne a lot and so does Jay.
"So," my mom says, lathering her ebony skin with the fragrant cream. "How long do you plan on hiding the truth from Mama?" Her gift sure does smell good. I wonder if she'll share.
"As long as I can. You know she's going to make me give your powers back, if there's even such a thing." Stripping them away is more like it. Mama doesn't believe in me having more than my fair share of our gift of sight right now, limiting me to my dreams. But I believe that the ancestors—mainly Maman Marie, my great-grandmother—are trying to tell me something different.
"You know it's not going to work for long, Jayd. The only reason she hasn't detected them yet is because she's so distracted with her initiations and my stupid-ass brothers. You know she does a ritual to keep other people's madness out of her head while she's involved in the process. But as soon as she takes a break, she's going to hone in on your new development, and when she does, God help you."
Why does my mom always have to be so theatrical with her shit? I guess that's where I get my acting skills.
I reach for the large, gold basket on the table and claim a small bottle of lemon oil to sample. All of the products look and smell delicious. Jay gave Mama the same thing plus flowers and a card. He sure can pick a nice gift.
"Mom, you worry too much. Like I said, I'll keep your sight in my head for as long as I can," I say, massaging my hands and feet with the intoxicating liquid. I know Mama and Netta have the baddest beauty line available, and my novice products aren't far behind theirs, but it's nice to try something different. "Once I master it, Mama will be so proud of me she'll have to let me hold on to your reclaimed powers."
"Are we talking about the same Mama?" my mom asks, snatching the tiny glass container away from me. "Mama doesn't have to do a damned thing. You know it and I know it. Hell, the whole damned world knows it, Jayd." My mom rises from the couch and walks toward her bedroom. "You're playing with fire, little girl, hiding this from your grandmother. She's not going to be happy at all when she finds out you've been sitting on this for so long."
Still massaging my silky hands, I get up from my comfy spot and follow her into her room. "I know, Mom. It'll be okay—you'll see," I say, claiming a corner at the foot of her queen-sized bed to sit on. I wish I felt comfortable sleeping in her room when she's gone, but I'd rather be in the living room in case someone tries to break in. That way I can hear them walk up the stairs and prepare myself ahead of time.
"I wish I could say the same thing for you, little one, but I can't." My mom looks at me, worried that I've bitten off more than I can chew. "Jayd, how come you didn't tell me about you retaining this power from one of your dreams, especially since the sight you now possess once belonged to me?"
I watch my mom sit down on her bed now and realize I've hurt her feelings. I didn't even know that was possible. She's usually so hard-core. My mom looks at me, her emerald eyes tearing up. Now I really feel bad.
"Mom, I just didn't think you were interested."
"Jayd, if it has anything to do with my baby, I'm interested. And besides, you can look in that book all you want. It's still not better than firsthand information when you can get it."
I never thought about it like that. My mom's got a good point, especially since there's limited information available in the spirit book on my mom's path because she stopped keeping up with her notes in high school. I jog back into the living room, retrieve my notebook and pen, and again make myself comfortable on her bed.
"Okay, what you got?" I ask, happy for the night tutorial session. I can study and sleep after she's gone.
"Memories and regret."
That's the first time I've ever heard my mom express regret about anything short of marrying my dad. I know how she feels: No matter how much they get on my nerves sometimes, I'd miss my dreams if I lost them.
"Exactly," she says in my mind. "Had I not been so hot-headed in the first place, I would still have my powers. I was just getting good at them, too." My mom eyes the disheveled room around her. When she left my dad seventeen years ago, she also left the house and everything in it.
"I'll help you keep my sight under one condition, Jayd. The next time you need help, ask. The last thing I want is you having a meltdown like I did."
"It's a deal," I say, smiling at my mom. She can be real sweet when she wants to be. But like Mama and the rest of the women in our lineage, cross us and nice turns to nasty real quick. After disrespecting the stove my mom and I bought Mama for Mother's Day, my uncle Kurtis is learning that lesson the hard way now.
"And you have to tell Mama," my mom adds. "Now that I know, I'm an accomplice and I can't lie to Mama about this. Promise me that you'll tell her, Jayd."
"That's two things," I say, watching my mom get comfortable in the bed she rarely uses. She pulls back the black and gold comforter, revealing gold satin sheets, and slides her dainty feet underneath.
"They go together, Jayd. And telling Mama sooner rather than later is of the utmost importance. Mama's got all kinds of tricks up her sleeve you know nothing about. I hope you never have to find out what happens when one of her daughters crosses her."
"I know, right. I'd hate to be Uncle Kurtis right now," I say, getting under the oversized blanket from the opposite end of the bed and sliding back so that I'm up against the wall.
"Mama can be as sweet as honey or as lethal as a rattlesnake when she wants to be. Listen to what I'm telling you, girl," my mom says, fluffing one of the larger pillows behind her head. "Don't push Mama too far or she will hurt you. It may be out of love, but a bite is a bite just the same."
"Okay, okay. I'll tell her," I say, reaching for the decorative accent pillows on the other side of the bed and propping myself up, ready to learn. "Now, tell me everything you can remember about your ability to chill a person's mind out. And if I haven't told you before, it's a dope power to have."
My mom smiles at my enthusiasm, and I'm glad to spend some time with her. Finally, she chooses time with her daughter over her man, and I'm grateful for it.
"The first thing you need to learn is that everything has side effects, Jayd. Read the label carefully, which in our case is the spirit book. When you retained my vision from your dream, you should have looked for stories about things that happened to me after I started using my powers, not just the ways I used them. For example, the night I almost killed your father with my eyes when I tapped into his mind, witnessing his premarital infidelity firsthand," my mom says, as cool as ice, "I scared myself I was so angry. My powers almost drove me crazy."
"You never told me about that," I say, writing as fast as I can. I should've got a tape recorder for this lesson.
"Because you never asked. You should be much further along in your studies by now, Jayd. Even I know that." She sounds just like Mama and Netta. I know I'm not on my game if my mom agrees with them. My mom and Netta have a tense relationship, but it's improved over time.
"But you know what a full plate I have, Mom. With cheer practice, the spring play, the debutante ball, and being president of the African Student Union, I haven't had much time for my spirit studies lately, but I'm trying to catch up."
"Like I said, everything has side effects."
My mom's right. Luckily the ball and the play are temporary. I'll have to find a better way to juggle the rest of my school activities with my personal life. My spirit work can't remain the ultimate sacrifice.
"The second thing you need to know is that cold things tend to be slippery, which can be both good and bad. When you want to easily access someone's mind and cool his or her thoughts immediately, it's a very good thing. But when the mind is too hot, it can make your cool boil, causing a mental meltdown of sorts, and that can be very dangerous," my mom says, pulling the comforter tighter. "I've literally almost drowned in someone else's negative thoughts before. I don't wish that feeling on anyone." She shudders at the memory.
I'm shaking and I don't even know what she's going through, nor do I want to. "Is that why women in our lineage are afraid of water?" I ask, continuing my fervent note taking. If I had known things would become this clear, I would've talked to my mom a long time ago.
"Partially, and also because we have a healthy respect for nature's power to build and destroy. Any type of drowning isn't fun," my mom says, yawning loudly. It's getting late for both of us.
"I hear that." I took swim lessons at the YMCA when I was ten years old and nearly drowned. Lifeguard or not, you won't catch my ass in deep water again.
"Those two lessons will go a long way when deciding whose thoughts to probe and who to stay away from. Be careful who you try to help and when because as with Mickey's labor, the experience can turn on you like a pit bull. If you had known then what you know now, you would've never jumped into your friend's mind when you did." My mom's right. I have a lot to learn about her powers and my own. And with a few more sessions like this between me and her, a sistah will be back on her A game in no time—good sleep included.
My mom left late last night after we stayed up talking most of the time away. I fell asleep soon after and am grateful for the dreamless rest. I never did get to wash my hair last night, so I woke up early this morning to get a quick wash and blow-dry in before my school day begins. I'll be damned if I go another moment with Sandy's handprint in my crown.
I turn the hot knob to the right and then turn the middle one to full blast, welcoming the steam. Showers wake me up every morning.
Stepping into the shower, I slide the glass doors shut behind me. I lather the shampoo, scrubbing my scalp good before massaging it through my hair. It always feels good getting a clean start in the morning. Rubbing the mango-scented lather up my tresses, my fingers suddenly feel like jelly and my head feels cold. Am I dreaming? My fingers continue moving up my hair until I can no longer feel anything. Instead, my hair is feeling me.
"Aaah!" I scream, opening my eyes, allowing the soap and water on my face to cloud my vision. The fingers in my hair continue to walk their way down my scalp and around my neck, stifling my scream. Without the use of my hands, I'm defenseless against my strangler. If this were a dream, I would try to wake up or at least have Mama somewhere around to help me out of this madness. But I'm wide awake, experiencing this nightmare—alone.
"Water, Jayd. Use the water to rinse your eyes," my mom says into my mind with panic in her voice. This shit feels too real to be a regular vision.
Near fainting, I turn around and rinse my face off in the water. As my sight clears, the feeling slowly returns to my hands. I push my hair back and feel around my neck to loosen the ghostly grip, but I can't. The steam seeps up my nostrils, clearing my airways and melting the fingers around my neck.
"That's it, Jayd. Inhale and then exhale. It's not real, baby. Mind over matter," my mom says, helping to calm my nerves.
Finally free, I reach for the metal knobs to turn off the water, ending this nightmare on Larch Street, but not before I lose my footing and fall flat on my ass, hitting my head on the back of the ceramic tub.
"Ouch!" I rub my head in the same spot where I hit it falling on black ice in one of my dreams a few weeks ago. It's already tender from that experience, and now I've reopened the wound. What the hell is really going on?
"It's like I told you last night, Jayd. You're holding on to the residual negative emotions from your clients. You have to get rid of it before it drives you crazy, and Mama's the only one who can tell you exactly what to do." I hate it when my mom's right, and I'm suffering the consequences in the midst of her revelation. "You have to tell Mama, Jayd. Now get yourself up and shake it off, or you're going to be late for school."
"Can a sistah get a little sympathy?" I ask aloud, picking myself up and grabbing the towel from the back of the shower door to dry off. I guess I'll be wearing my hair wet today with some leave-in conditioner since my shower was cut short.
"Hell no, you can't get any sympathy. You asked for it and here it is. I know it sounds mean, Jayd, but I'm telling you the truth. There's so much more to our visions you don't know about, and that ignorance alone can harm you. Tell Mama today. Bye," my mom says, checking out and leaving me to my Monday.
I'll tell Mama about this one as soon as possible, but I have to get through the rest of the school day first. I'll see Mama at Netta's shop this afternoon when I go to work. Until then, I'll have to deal with this madness on my own.
School has been pretty relaxed so far, except for drama class. It's fifth period and we're in full rehearsal mode. With both Nigel and Chance in the spring play, it's sure to be a lively production. Both of their girlfriends have been tripping about their men spending too much time with the Drama Club members lately—mainly me. Lucky for Nellie and Mickey, they're my girls and I know this routine all too well. Once the play is over, their jealousy will quiet down until the next time it rears its ugly green head.
Excerpted from THE MELTDOWN by L. Divine Copyright © 2011 by L. Divine. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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