STRANGERS - Part 2

Updated: Jan 7

BRIANNA

Clover Journesy


Brice and Charm walked closer to the table. “Brenda, let your father sit at the head of the table.” Brenda, since her father had left, has always sat at the head of the table, whenever she would come for dinner and other special occasions. Brianna blasted her mother, asking, “Why? — why should Brenda have to move? She has done more for this family than any of you, and especially you!” As she sneered at Brice. Coming here, waving that fake check around, acting all high and mighty.” Brice remained quiet. Charm lowered her head, taking in a deep breath to keep from losing her temper and saying, “Jesus give me strength.” Then raised her head again and asked, “Brenda, please.” Brenda nods her head in compliance and looks Brice straight in the eyes. She moves gingerly to the left of the head portion of the table. Brice timidly walks to the head of the table, stands, and says, “Let’s pray.”


Brianna reluctantly stands, rolling her eyes and mouthing something inaudible. Brice raises his hands and prays to Allah, which sends this church-going Christian faith-based family into another whirlwind. The body language of the girls was a signal for Charm to give the look…, stopping any comments in their tracks, by shaking her head no, at the girls. Brice concluded the prayer with, “Amin”.


Charm and the girls said,” In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Brice understood. Before prison, the family practiced Christianity and attended church on most Sundays, but while incarcerated, he converted to Islam. Another hurdle he will no doubt have to face, but for now, Charm felt overjoyed having her husband and the father of her children home and back in their lives. She will do all she can to help him establish his patriarchal role in the girl’s lives, as a loving and supportive father that he would have been- if things have been different. Charm knew it was going to be hard, but with God, all things are possible.


Brianna was two years of age when her dad went to prison, and she has no memory of him. He was seldom home because his life, as a musician, kept him on the road and away from home. Chaos and confusion have

plagued Brianna’s life, not having her father growing up. Bri's only reference to her father was that he died of a heart attack on a cruise ship, as told to her by her mom. It’s been challenging and for most of her adult life, it has been a sort of arrested development—and unable to grow into her full adult potential. The wild child or black sheep of the family is, Brianna. She marches to her own beat and listens to no one, and lacks social filters. And, although she adores her mom and sisters and would let nothing happen to them. Their relationship is an ongoing, tense, and rocky situation.


Brianna is employed as a counter clerk at the post office. Once, during the holiday rush, she found herself alone during lunch break. She shut down the intake counter because she felt the team was taking advantage of her. She made the customers stand in line, and until her team returned from lunch. Her saving grace, and only reason she was not fired, is that they were short-staffed and needed her. These and other antics were part of Brianna’s general makeup.


Brianna and the Early Years.


Brianna, growing up without her father, led to a turbulent existence. A demented sense of a good time, was her addiction. One cold and rainy night, Charmain received a call from the emergency room at Massachusetts General. Someone found Brianna in a downtown alley beaten, within an inch of her life, and remained in a coma for a week. Her mom and sisters were beside themselves, not knowing if she would live or die. When it was divulged, she was pregnant and had lost the baby because of the severity of the beating. It was the last straw for her mother. When she woke, her mom and sisters were present.


“Hey there, sleeping beauty. Praise God, you came back to us,” her mom said.

Still groggy, Brianna asked, “Where am I?”



Brenda, held her bruised hand and said, “You’re in the hospital, Bri. You scared the living daylights out of us. We thought you would not make it.” Brandy stood at the foot of her sister’s hospital bed and remained quiet. The condition in which Bri was found shook Brandy to her core. Seeing her sister’s swollen black eyes, busted lip and arms bruised. How does another human being inflict bodily injury to a woman and almost kill her? The thought of losing her baby sister from the bad choices she’s made was too real. And that she was pregnant and did not care to tell anyone, did not sit well with her.


“The doctors assured us, you will have a full recovery, but will, —” Charmaine interrupted. “Have to take it easy in the following weeks.”


” When do I get to go home?” Asked Brianna.”


Charmain said, “In a couple of days. They want to run a few more tests.”


“Test for what? I’m ready to go home.” As she raised, a stabbing pain cut through her body. She screamed, grabbing her stomach and fell back. Brenda on one side, Charmaine on the other, and Brandy still at the foot of the bed, staring and unmoved. “That’s why,” shouted Brenda, (not in anger), but out of concern. “You have broken ribs, Bri.” She brought her face close to Brianna’s, and with a stern voice said, “Look… You were badly beaten; you almost lost your life.” Brandy, no longer able to restrain her feelings.


Said, “You have not even asked about the baby.”


“What baby, Brandy?”


“The baby you lost. Our niece or nephew. I mean, do you even care—do you care about anything, but drugs?”


“Don’t do this Brandy, not now,” cautioned Charmaine.


“Well, I don’t know what you are talking about. A baby? Sh…,” a weak and dismissive Brianna snapped back. The nurse entered the room and announced, “Ms. Davis needs her rest; you can visit again tomorrow.”


Charmaine kissed her daughter on the forehead and spoke. “Bri., get your rest, and we’ll be back tomorrow.”


“Yea, sis… Do what the doctors tell you. We love you, and we’ll see you tomorrow,” echoed Brenda.


Brandy gave her sister an unsympathetic glance and said, “Bye.”


“Mother, I can’t believe her. She said, nothing about a baby to us?


“Brandy, maybe she did not know she was pregnant. We don’t know how far along she was… only that she lost the baby. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt,” said Brenda.


Charmaine pulled her handkerchief from her purse, wiping her eyes and said, “We have to get Bri., some help. I cannot keep doing this, she will be the death of me.” Brenda and Brandy closed in around their mom hugging her and said, “Mom, we will get her the help she needs, it’s going to be OK, don’t cry. My insurance coverage includes: Intervention for drug abuse. I will call Monday and see what we need to do.” Brenda said.


The intervention was rough. Brianna refused to cooperate and confront certain issues that helped catapult the negative events of her life: The therapist asked Brianna to tell her. "How do you feel about your father, not being in your life?" What she got from Brianna, was a defiant attitude, folded arms and crickets. She then asked her, "Do you feel he abandoned you on purpose, even though he died?" Crickets... This went on and on for the first two weeks, and then a breakthrough happened. The therapist asked, "Do you feel you attract narcissistic partners, who cannot love, value or treat you with respect?"



This was the trigger, the magic turn-style. They are all in combination. And, Brianna’s tears, anger, hurt, and pain flooded the room. There was blame placed on everyone, enough to rebuild the pyramids.



Tempers flared and relationships were put on pause because Brianna came forth shooting with both barrels, aiming for the heart, and taking no prisoners. She had held years of pent-up anger and jealousy at her sisters, because they had a relationship with their father. She was hurt by her mother's insistence. "Why can't you be like your sisters, respectable?"



Brianna paced back and forth, pointing her finger and waving her arms wildly, turning to the therapist and firing. " You - you want to know why I am like this? It's because of them. Uh ha, that's right. I am never good enough, sub-par, wild, not dependable drug addict! Well let me tell you something. I take drugs because that is the only way I can cope, living in a house full of self- righteous do-gooders."


In a highly emotional state. She grabbed her sweater from the couch, screams, "Ahhh! " She violently opened the door. The force slammed it into the wall, tearing a hole the size of the know. She did not return until late that night.


However, after the thirty days, Brianna began to soften. She admitted to being lonely, feeling unloved, unsupported, and abandoned. She was embarrassed. The kids at school would tease her, because she did not have a father to attend the dance, like the other girls.


The family infrastructure was mended and the bridges fortified. She realized; it was her carelessness and self-indulgence that was tearing the family and her support system apart. The one she’d known all her life. She promised to stop using cocaine and smoking weed, and she did. However, she still drinks, within limits.



Present day.


Brianna had a death stare on Brice as the dinner progressed. Her mind inundated with thoughts, blaming her father for reasons she did not understand. Why, and what, was this lust venture she desperately sought from men? She wanted the love not afforded her from the elusive father missing in action. If I had known my dad was no good too, I would have chosen better. I could have gone to college instead of dropping out of school. I would have married a good man, had children, a pleasant home, and I would not have abused drugs, and almost lost my life in a dark, garbage-ridden alley.

“Bri, pass the green beans, please. Bri.!” Brenda caught her attention. Bri, snapped back to consciousness from the dark abyss of negative thoughts.


“I’m sorry. Here,” Bri said, passing the platter. Brianna now back from her dark abyss and still staring at Brice while holding her half-drunk glass of wine.

Brice handed his plate to his granddaughter, Cinnamon. She took his plate and said, “Here you go, Pop Pop. And get some buttermilk biscuits. Nobody can make them like Bri., they melt in your mouth.”


Brice, looking at Brianna, smiled and said, “I will, Cinnamon. I can smell how good they are from here.” Brice knows it may be Brianna, who needs the most reassuring in order to build a solid father—daughter relationship. Cinnamon, having wisdom far beyond her years, knew it too and said, “You’re welcome.”


Brianna looks at Cinnamon and says, “Pop-Pop, really? He has been here less than two hours and yawl treating him like he’s been a contributing member to this family… The father of the year. Damn!”


Brandy says. “Will you chill Bri? If my daughter wants to call her grandfather Pop–Pop, she has every right too. Come on now, this is a celebration on two accounts. Let mom enjoy her birthday?


“Whatever.” says Brianna, rolling her eyes, as she takes another drink before slicing into the chicken. Charm looks at Brice, with a nervous smile. He nods his head with a reassuring grin, signaling things will get better.


For a time, there was silence, except for the usual sounds of chewing, humming, and drinking. Everyone is eating and enjoying the savory, delicious food. Charm knew this was the quiet before the storm. As she looked at her daughters, grandchildren, and Brice and reflected.


It has been forty years since our entire family sat around the same table for every special occasion, with one member missing. Thank God, we are whole again. I pray to God, for his blessings and that the girls will forgive our forty-year lie.



The sisters and children had finished eating and were clearing the table. Brenda and Sophia entered from the kitchen, carrying a three-tier chocolate cherry, chiffon cake with two lighted ‘70’ candles and singing “Happy Birthday.” Brice stood up and walked to where Charm was sitting. He held out his hand, helping her to stand. She took his arm, and he placed his arm around her waist and joined in singing, “Happy Birthday to Charm, happy birthday to you.” Mr. Debonair leaned over and placed his lips on Charm’s forehead. The only way to describe the look Charmaine gave to Brice, was one of enduring love. Brianna at that moment realized her mom loved this man and had waited for him all these forty years-only to be reunited. The other girls took notice, as their eyes misted over with admiration for their mother’s happiness.


References: https://www.rwjf.org/en/blog/2021/06/reclaiming-the-narrative-of-black-fatherhood.html https://www.rwjf.org/en/blog/2021/06/reclaimingthe-narrative-of-black-fatherhood.html

https://theblackwallsttimes.com/2021/06/20/editorial-black-fathers-matter-today-and-every-day/

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