3 Gemma didn’t see her mother when she got home but she could hear her voice when she got into her bedroom. She was in the back yard directing the construction of a Marquee. Gemma looked out through her curtains to make sure Marilyn didn’t have a portable phone in her hand before she picked up her own extension and started dialling. It was picked up after the first ring.
“You get in trouble?”
“Nah she fixing up for the party. I don’t think she realise I was late. Besides I know what I will say if she ask.”
“Gems yuh cah keep saying is meetings. She go figure out them clubs you belong to don’t exist.”
“How? She don’t listen to me when I tell her nothing. Only daddy will figure it out and he not going to check. He don’t doubt anything I say.”
Gemma felt a tinge of guilt then. She didn’t care about lying to her mother but her father was a different story.
“Reggie let’s drive up to the beach tomorrow. I feel like a swim.”
“Gems you real reckless yes! When you wet up your hair and ting how you going to explain that?”
“Let me worry bout that.”
“Nah I go keep worrying cause when they come and give me jail for being with Hollis Richards’ daughter. You know they not going to hesitate to lock up a boy from Diego.”
Gemma hated when he talked like that. What was the different between the two of them? It was just a socio-economic thing. As far she was concerned they were two Trinidadians who had fallen for each other. His skin was the same shade as hers, his eyes the same colour, the breathed the same air. Why should money and location dictate their feelings for each other?
“I am seventeen years old Reggie. Four months from eighteen. What they going to lock you up for? Stop talking foolishness.”
“Is no worries. Don’t work up yourself babe. Listen, go let your ma know your home and gimme a ring later.”
She sighed, reluctant to come off the phone.
“You have to go?”
“Yeah meh shift starting in 10 minutes. Just call me usual time ok?”
Gemma lay back on her bed and listened to the sounds of the builders. She wanted to be with Reggie. She wanted to go back an hour or so to be sitting in his car eating the chicken dinner he had brought her and listening to his stories. Between his family, his job and his friends he always had a funny tale to tell. Reggie made her feel important. He thought she was intelligent, and beautiful. He treated her like she was something special. None of her other boyfriends had ever treated her like that before.
The phone rang and she reached for the receiver.
“Shawn 5 foot 7 is not short.”
“You shorter than me.”
“What you want?”
“I wanted to warn you. I’m coming over in an hour.”
She jumped off the bed.
“What! How? You in Trinidad already?”
“Well I’ve been here since Monday.”
“Shawn! Dats two days now! You eh call or nothing! Ma go be vex.”
“If she hear you talking like that she go be vex. “
They both laughed, knowing that their mother insisted on them speaking well not ‘Trinidad country talk’ as she called it.
“You by Ayana, you sneaky bastard.”
“Yes and she coming with me tonight.”
“Shawn maybe you should tell Ma first. You know she don’t like surprises…”
“She go live short stuff. I bring some things for you and Zelly. So I’ll see you guys later.”
Gemma ran down the hall to Hazel’s room.
“Shawn come back early. He coming here in an hour.”
“Stop lying Gemma.”
Hazel looked up at her sister and realised she was telling the truth.
“Ma going to be vex.”
“He bringing Ayana with him too.”
“No way! This house going to be drama tonight.”
The two sisters looked at each other then laughed.
“Well this house need some drama. Ain’t nothing happening except this thing Ma organising.”
“And she know Shawn don’t like no big fuss. Wait a minute, you just come in?”
“No. I’ve been in a while.”
“Yeah right! You and Shawn like to live on the edge yes.”
Gemma didn’t even acknowledge her sister. Hazel was the good child. She was willing to stay locked up in Cayenna and mingle with its people. Gemma knew there was a world outside these gates and she felt like the outsiders were more trustworthy than those inside. There were too many false smiles and hidden agendas in these hills.
“You lucky your boyfriend just round the corner. You could see him whenever. I can’t”
“You know Steven like yuh right? He always asking me about you.”
Gemma screwed up her nose
“No way. So he can go slumming? Everybody know Mrs Bartley don’t want hers sons with no black people. .” She stopped when she realised what she was saying. “Zel you know what I meant. I mean everyone know Mark like you real bad. You two cool…”
“But Mrs Bartley don’t want me with her son right? Gemma you just think everyone does think like you or Ma. Not everything is colour you know.”
Gemma didn’t bother to argue with her. Hazel was naïve. She and Mark were working for now but let them try to get too serious. Gemma knew exactly what was going to happen, her sister would have to experience it to understand.
“Anyway Shawn want to surprise Ma, so keep your mouth shut.”
“I ain’t saying nothing. Is good he back huh?”
“Yeah. I cah believe it myself.” Gemma was ecstatic her brother was back. He had always been the one person she could share everything with. After six years of phone calls and emails she could now just curl up on his bed and talk to him like the old days. And right now she needed him more than ever.
4 Hazel loved her mother but she did not understand her. She knew that despite the smiles, the polite conversation and the compliments, that her mother did not like Ayana. I was nothing obvious in her manner but anyone who knew her would be able to tell that she wasn’t happy. Everyone in the room except poor Ayana knew. Hazel didn’t understand why. She thought that she was beautiful. Her clear smooth complexion and expressive eyes made Hazel like her straight away. She had not hesitated to hug her and Gemma when she came in. She laughed easily and talked in a sweet singsong manner. She was wearing a pale yellow sundress that flowed to her ankles and a light green shawl that matched her sandals. She was darker and a lot curvier than the girls Shawn used to bring home but she was beautiful. It was obvious to Hazel why Shawn liked her. Gemma came over to her and whispered.
“She’s pretty eh?”
Hazel nodded in agreement. She could see that her brother was happy. His eyes were practically twinkling.
“Zelly, short stuff, allyuh don’t want to know what I buy?”
“You eh buy nothing Shawn. You come here empty handed.” Marilyn glared at her daughter but Gemma didn’t look her way.
“Well you better not come outside with me then, since I didn’t get nothing…”
He laughed as his sisters pushed past him to the front door. You wouldn’t believe that they were sixteen and seventeen because at that moment they were squealing like five year olds
“Girls stop screaming. Remember the neighbours!” Marilyn looked at her son.
“What did you get them Shawn?”
“A barrel full of clothes Mrs Richards. You should see how many things are in there.” Ayana had joined her at the door to look at the spectacle in the driveway. Hazel was hanging off Shawn’s neck and Gemma was just jumping up and down. There was indeed a barrel in her driveway.
“How Shawn get that thing in the driveway?”
“My cousin owns a truck so he dropped it off when we came here.”
Marilyn didn’t know what to think about this girl. Yes she was attractive in a simple country way but she was nothing like what her son usually liked. Marilyn had great plans for her son, and a girl like Ayana could not be part of it. She had invited Michelle Campbell and Rosa Hospedales to the party tomorrow. These were the women who would take him to great places. This girl and Shawn’s early arrival made Marilyn very, very uneasy. He was not acting like the son she knew.
Later when Hollis came home she left Ayana and the girls with him and pulled Shawn aside in the kitchen.
“Why are you sneaking into the country? What if somebody saw you? I told everybody that you’re coming in tomorrow!”
“Ma calm down.”
“Calm down? And who is this girl? Shawn look at me.”
“You’ve been introduced Ma. I told you her name. It’s Ayana.”
“You were staying with her these last few days?”
“Yes with her and her father. Ma last time I checked I didn’t have to do no roll call.”
He wasn’t standing still and talking to her. He had his head buried in the fridge and this was making her angry.
“Shawn would you just stand up and talk to me!”
He closed the fridge door and looked at his mother.
“Ma what you want to talk about? You does get upset when you not in control. When you not running everything…”
“Don’t talk to me like that!”
“Get used to Ayana Ma. She not going anywhere. She going to become part of this family, even if you don’t like it…”
“The only thing you can do for me right now is give me some information about my father, so I can go and find where he is.”
Marilyn had to lean against the counter in order to keep standing. What was wrong with her son? Why was he talking to her like this?
“Why do you want to know where he is? He’s never been in your life Shawn. Hollis is your father.”
“Hollis knows I love him. He has no problem with me finding my father. The only person with a problem is you.”
They looked at each other for a minute then he walked out of the room. Marilyn could hear her heart beat thumping in her head. Everything was suddenly spiralling out of control. What was she going to do?