"I absolutely love Vanessa's unique writing style. She is one of a kind." --Mary Monroe, New York Times bestselling author
Teen sisters Sahara and Crystal Nichols are acting up, and their risqué behavior is more than their mother can handle. Enter the girls' 75-year-old churchgoing grandmother, Ma Ray, who takes charge of the young women. She's determined to turn their lives around--and knows more about being a bad girl than either sister bargained for. And when they learn of their grandmother's former rebel antics, which were wild enough to rival their own, they begin to appreciate her present-day passion for leading a more productive life--via family, love, and faith. . .
"There are enough tears, hugs, and lessons learned to appease readers, young and adult, who like a good dose of faith with their fiction." --Publishers Weekly
|Product dimensions:||6.60(w) x 4.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
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Ray of Hope
By Vanessa Davis Griggs
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Vanessa Davis Griggs
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThere shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Joshua 1:5
Rayna "Ma Ray" Towers had fallen asleep on the couch in the den. She'd called herself staying up to watch The Tonight Show, but in the end, it appeared some other showmutedwas watching her. Still, at age seventy-five, Ma Ray's senses were keen. That's why she heard sounds of someone breaking in. A few folks she personally knew had had their homes broken into just this year alone. Her granddaughters, Sahara and Crystal Nichols, were staying with her for the summer. Ma Ray quickly got up and went to the hall closet where she kept a twelve-gauge, double-barrel shotgun. She quietly loaded it.
A man who appeared to be around eighteen years old, dressed in washed-out blue jeans and a black Sean John shirt, started up the stairs. She pointed the gun, then pulled back the hammer, causing it to make a metallic clicking sound. "Freeze," she said. "Don't take another step. Put your hands up, or I promise I'll blow you away!"
Six steps up, the young man stopped and raised his hands. "Lady, please don't shoot." He glanced back, looking like a deer caught in headlights. "Please put that down."
Ma Ray glanced out of the side of her eyes toward the table with the telephone on it. She needed to call the police at this point while making sure he didn't somehow manage to escape. "Turn around ... slowly," she said, repeating what most associate with a good law-and-order-type show.
Standing at five foot five in her stocking feet, a blue flowered cotton nightgown, and a baby blue satin scarf wrapped around her roller-filled head, Ma Ray raised the twelve-gauge shotgun even higher, aiming it squarely at the young man's scrawny chest. A woman who had shot her share of snakes, Ma Ray wanted to be sure that, should she have a need to pull the trigger, she wouldn't miss this target, either.
The young man raised his trembling hands higher. "Lady, are you crazy?" he said. "Look," he said, sweating so hard Ma Ray could now see clear beads forming on his forehead before a few drops began to slowly make their way down his face. "If you'll just put that thing down"he nodded toward the gun"I'm sure we can straighten all of this out in no time. I know we can."
"Ma Ray, don't hurt him," seventeen-year-old Sahara said as she ran and stood at the top of the stairs dressed in light blue skinny jeans and a see-through, black-laced shirt. "Please, don't hurt him."
"See, lady," the young man said. "I'm not here to hurt nobody. Listen to Sahara. Listen to your granddaughter"he began to stutter"sh-sh-she'll vouch for me." He glanced up at Sahara as though he were now mentally pleading for her to fully back him up. "Sahara was the one who told me to come here like this. Tell her, Sahara."
"Ma Ray, please ... just put the gun down." Sahara walked toward the intruder.
"Yeah, Ma Ray. Please put the gun down." The young man pleaded with his hands still high in the air. "This is all just one big misunderstanding. You'll see."
Ma Ray motioned with the barrel of the gun for him to step down to the floor; he obeyed. Lowering the barrel of the gun, she pointed it at the floor. Cautiously, he lowered his hands. Sahara made her way to the bottom step, looked at Ma Ray, and stopped.
"What's your name?" Ma Ray asked him.
His voice squeaked when he spoke. "B-Man." Then again, but stronger. "B-Man."
Ma Ray lifted the gun back up slightly, pointing it at his shoes.
"Bradley," he said hastily, his eyes fixed on the long, steel barrel of the shotgun. "But everybody calls me B-Man."
Ma Ray lowered the gun again. "Bradley, huh? And did you happen to come with a last name?"
"It's Crenshaw.... Bradley Crenshaw."
"I take it you're not from around these parts," Ma Ray said.
"No?" she said, clearly indicating she had a problem with his answer.
"No, ma'am," Sahara hurriedly added, looking at her friend to clearly let him know he didn't need to do anything more at this point to provoke her grandmother.
"I'm talking to him," Ma Ray said, nodding at Bradley. "No, ma'am," he said. "I live more in the city."
"You say that like you have a problem with the country or something." Ma Ray tapped the gun several times with her trigger finger.
"No. I mean, no, ma'am. I was just saying that I live more in the city, that's all, ma'am. That's all I was saying." His voice sounded like he was on the verge of tears.
"So why are you so far from home this time of night?" Ma Ray asked him.
"I-I-I was bringing something to Sahara."
"Is that right?"
"Something that couldn't wait for a decent hour? It must be good, then. So you can give me what you came to give Sahara." Ma Ray took a step toward him.
His eyes widened. "Ma'am?"
"I said you can give me what you came here to give Sahara." She glanced down, peering over her wire-rimmed glasses. "And will you please pull your pants up! Walking around with your pants hanging down like that. I tell you that just don't make no sense, no sense at all," Ma Ray said.
He quickly grabbed his pants by the waistband and pulled them up.
Ma Ray nodded as she watched him hold up his pants to keep them from falling down again. "You need on a belt. Or maybe you should buy pants the right size to begin with. Okay, Mister Man ... now give me what you came to give my granddaughter."
"But-but nothing." She raised the shotgun once again, pointing its barrel at the hardwood floor in front of him instead of directly at him.
He quickly looked down at the gun, then back into her face. "Ma'am, I'm sorry for having come up in your house like this. I promise you I am."
"The correct terminology is breaking and entering. And honestly, by right, were I to have felt me or my family's life were in danger whatsoever, I would have been well within my legal rights to have shot you on sight, no questions asked, with my actions most certainly to be ruled as justified."
"Yes, ma'am. And I really am sorry, Ms.... Ma Ray ... ma'am. Now, if you don't mind, may I go? I really need to be getting on home. All of a sudden, I don't feel so well." The look on his face said it all.
"It depends"Ma Ray lowered the gun and softly put the hammer back in place, taking it off ready"on whether you intend to do anything like this again."
"Ms. Ray ... Ma Ray, ma'am, I promise you: after I leave here, you won't ever have to worry about seeing my face in your house without your permission again. Ever."
Ma Ray nodded. "Then I suppose you can go." She went to the front door, opened it, and escorted him out. "Young man, let me give you some good advice. You need to do something more constructive with your life. You got off this time. But the next time, you may not be so lucky. And I'm not talking about with just me. Bradley, folks don't play now and days. And ending up dead is nothing to play with. It's not like in the movies or those video games y'all play, where you press a replay button and start all over as though nothing has happened. Now, you chew on what almost happened and on what I just said."
"Yes, ma'am. And thank you, ma'am." Bradley stumbled off the wraparound wooden porch, stopping and throwing up in Ma Ray's beautiful flower garden. Holding up his pants, he jogged down the road where he'd left his car, not once looking back.
Ma Ray walked into the house, unloaded the shells from the shotgun, and safely put it back in the closet. Fifteen-year-old Crystal now stood in the den next to her sister.
"Ma Ray" Sahara said as she stood as still as a framed scene on pause.
"You and I will talk in the morning," Ma Ray said as she started to her bedroom.
"But, Ma Ray"
Ma Ray stopped without turning around. "I said, we'll talk in the daylight."
Chapter TwoOnly be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:7
"Ma, Sahara called me a little after two o'clock this morning crying, saying that you pulled a gun ... a gun on one of her little friends," thirty-eight-year-old Lenora Nichols Stanford said to Ma Ray as soon as her mother answered. "I started to call you after I hung up with her, but it was so late that I didn't want to wake you. Ma, you know you can't go around pulling guns on people like that. You can't."
"And a top of the morning to you, too, daughter," Ma Ray said.
"I'm sorry. Good morning, Ma. But did you hear what I said?"
"Oh, I heard you just fine. And for the record: when you're an old woman who lives in the country alone, it's perfectly okay to pull a shotgun on someone when that someone happens to be illegally breaking into your house."
"Oh, I guess Sahara left that little part out. And you didn't happen to put two and two togetherthe fact that she called you after two in the morning," Ma Ray said. "Well, that little 'friend' of hers broke into my house. But then again, in my defense, when I saw him sneaking up the stairs like some cat burglar, I didn't know he was Sahara's friend. I just knew someone had come into my house, uninvited, and whoever that person was, as far as I was concerned, they were a threat. And since I'd specifically told both Sahara and Crystal when they got here that there would be none of that sneaking out or sneaking anyone in while they were staying with me, I could only assume we were in danger of an intruder. I mentioned to you some months back we've had a few break-ins around here."
"I don't know, Ma. Maybe I made the wrong decision to let them come and stay with you for the summer," Lenora said. "Perhaps I should come and get them and see if their having been with you this week hasn't shown them that I'm serious about them straightening up and acting right."
"Lenora, who was the one that called here hollering and crying about how out of control Sahara and Crystal are? I believe your exact words were, 'Ma, I can't take this anymore! I'm about two seconds away from either strangling them or shipping them off to a boot camp somewhere.' That was you, was it not?"
"Yes, it was me. I admit that I was having a bad day, a really bad day."
"And I told you then, and I'm telling you now: I believe I can handle a seventeen-year-old and a fifteen-year-old just fine. I raised you and your brother all right, didn't I?"
"But let's be real: you were younger then. And Daddy was there to help you. Children are different these days. Some of the things they do are totally unexplainable. After I told Sahara and Crystal they would be going to your house to stay for a little while, I overheard Sahara asking Crystal what could you do that someone half your age couldn't." Lenora purposely left out the part Sahara had said about her having a college degree where their grandmother did not.
"I'll tell you what. For the time being, you worry about taking care of Kyle and Nia and leave your other two children to me, at least for the rest of the summer. We'll be fine. Between me and God, we're going to work this out. And you know how much I love Sahara and Crystal."
"And they love you, too, Ma. They love you a lot. But I keep telling you that teenagers are different now. They're not as respectful as we were back in our day. There's a lot more peer pressure on them. Sure there were things I had to deal with when I was growing up, but it's nowhere near the level that these kids deal with these days," Lenora said.
"Yeah, well. I'll give them that much. They do have things neither you nor I had to deal with when we were coming up. At least, not in the exact same vein. But you know what I always say."
"Yeah, Ma, I know. 'There's nothing new under the sun.' I know. But I feel bad that I can't control my own children any better than I've been able to." Lenora began to cry a little. "Let's face it: I'm an awful mother."
"You're not an awful mother."
"Okay, then. I'm a terrible daughter. I mean, what kind of a daughter pushes her delinquent-acting children off on their senior-citizen mother?"
"You're not an awful mother and you're not a terrible daughter. And I was the one who insisted that you bring Sahara and Crystal here for the summer. They used to love coming here to visit and spending time with me," Ma Ray said.
"Yeah, but that was when they were young. Now they don't seem to want to have anything to do with any of us, let alone hang around us for any extended period of time. I suppose we're too old fogey for them. We're not fun anymore. Ma, you know how teenagers are."
"Yeah, I know. You went through the exact same phase. You didn't want to be around me or your father. Every chance you got, you were off somewhere with your friends. There were times when you thought you were grown and you got a little too big for your britches. But we made it through all of that."
"We did. One might conclude that I'm reaping some of what I've sown. Talking back to you, staying out past the time you told me to be home. It's all coming back on me, big-time. But in truth, I was nothing compared to Sahara and Crystal. Nothing. And they won't admit it to me, but I'm pretty sure they're having sex. Granted, I did have sex when I was in high school, going totally against everything you told me, I might add. But at least it was only with Quinton, my boyfriend, and not with God-only-knows who or how many guys. And yes, I admit there were times when I did just what I wanted regardless of the consequences." Lenora let out a sigh.
"I also believe Sahara and Crystal are experimenting with drugs, even though I've spoken with them about this until I was blue in the face," Lenora said. "I've explained the dangers of sex before marriage, as well as the dangers of drugs. Sahara just throws the hypocrisy of me taking prescription drugs for my depression back in my face. My legalized 'uppers,' she calls them. I just don't know, Ma. Where did I go wrong?"
"Lenora, will you please stop beating yourself up. However we find ourselves now, the fact remains: we're here. And God is going to help us through this."
"But sex can be deadly in this day and time. When I was being rebellious, the worst I had to worry about was an unplanned pregnancy or contracting a venereal disease. Now that AIDS is on the scene, people hardly ever mention VD anymore. People now can get things that can kill them." Lenora's sniffling began to subside. "Kill them."
"Well, every generation has something. My generation dealt with shame, being an outcast ... sometimes ostracized"
"And Sahara's report card this past school year contained nothing but Ds and Fs," Lenora said, quickly moving on to a different topic. "She barely passed the eleventh grade, only because her Ds outweighed her Fs. I just knew she was going to have to go to summer school. Edmond and I told her she's never going to get into college with those grades. But she doesn't miss an opportunity to remind Edmond that he's merely her stepfather and she could care less what he has to say about anything. She doesn't care about her grades, since she wants to drop out of school, anyway. All she talks about is becoming a model. She thinks school is just a waste of her time. I don't know, Ma."
Ma Ray let out a slight chuckle. "Since she was knee-high to a grasshopper, Sahara has been playing dress-up. That child would get in my closet and find my Sunday's best and my high heels. Oh, that child ... she loves herself some shoes, even more than I do. And at what ... five eleven, she's certainly tall enough and pretty enough to be a model. Got those high cheekbones from the Choctaw blood that runs in our family. But regardless, Sahara needs schooling."
"I know this. The problem is getting Sahara to see this. And Crystal, who has always been a bit envious and intrigued by her big sister, is being influenced by Sahara's bad actions. So, of course, whatever Sahara is doing, Crystal wants to do it, too. I blame a lot of this on Quinton. He has been such a deadbeat father pretty much all of their lives. He hasn't helped either one of them with their self-esteem or their daddy issues."
Excerpted from Ray of Hope by Vanessa Davis Griggs Copyright © 2011 by Vanessa Davis Griggs. 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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