February, by Tyler Odeneal

            “We may have lost him.” She stared deep into the eyes of her deliverer. “We’re trying but there’s no heartbeat…There’s no heart beat.” He sighed and shrugged his shoulders. The doctor was finishing pulling a pair of latex gloves from a box, being sure to dramatically pop his wrists as he pulled them on. His large spectacles glowed in response to the monitor he was studying. No one said anything. No one. She looked up at the doctor in a panic, but the anesthetics and anesthesia were already engulfing her. Christine watched as tears rolled down the young woman’s face. She watched as the doctor flexed his fingers, and then reached up into the girls insides.

She heard him say something about a caesarian section. Emergency! A red light circled and flashed in her mind. Christine’s eyes shot up at the doctor. Oh, an emergency c- section. She turned to face the garbage, thinking she might throw up. She was hung over. Ruth thought about what she was looking at. She pondered the bloody gaping hole that had now culminated between Michelle’s big thighs. What…what the hell? And to think my son did all this. Her heart beat, fast. It beat for Michelle but more importantly it beat for the being inside her. If only he would come out to know everyone. If only her son would have come to the delivery room. If only Ruth could grant her beating heart to the baby.

And with Michelle, there were only maddening screams trapped, all in different colors, swiveling inside her mind. Her mouth could not let them out, and her heart gave a sudden, stern warning. Hoping death didn’t await her, she drifted away. When she left them, she could only feel the throbbing of her heartbeat.

Boom boom, boom boom, boom boom…


“Girl, don’t even worry about her. Her weak ass.” Carina sat down next to her sister. She was a senior, ready for graduation in a few weeks and couldn’t afford to get in any trouble. She kept her distance from her little sister. She was high on life as she’d once heard her mother say. How ironic, she thought. Humph, wouldn’t that be a great solution to all the cra-

            “I’m not worried about her! She the one keep bumping me Carina. I’m getting tired of her.” Her little sister’s agitated voice interrupted her thoughts. She tried to avoid even looking over at Ava but she could feel her snake like eyes peering over at their table. She peeled open her chocolate milk carton. Looking down at her sister’s feet, she tried to change the subject.

            “Why you wear those shoes to school? I would’ve saved them.” She was jealous of her younger sister’s new pink and white Nike’s. The box was sitting next to her bed at home.

            “Girl I wasn’t gonna wear these but Mavis wanted me to since he brought ‘em.” Carina looked up sharply at her little sister. The girl brushed a long strand of hair away from her face. She was beaming. Her grin was bigger than she’d seen in a while.

            Carina’s eyes darkened. She tried to suppress a groan. “Yeah, I bet. Have you seen Julius today?”

            “Nope,” she responded, glancing over at Ava’s lunch table. “You see she keep mugging me. She think I’m scared of her since she bumped me in S. Hall.”

            “What you doing in S. Hall anyway? You need to stay on your floor.”

“Girl, you know Mavis be walking me to class.” She smiled and stuffed a chip into her mouth. Ugh, Carina thought, probably aloud.

            “All I hear is Mavis this, Mavis that…” Then she stopped. At that moment, Carina stopped everything. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The splatter from the contents of the tray was drenched all over her, her little sister and all her other friends at the table. She watched in amazement as Ava and her clique marched by laughing, with Ava dutifully dusting her hands of the tray. They were laughing a phony, sarcastic, hysterical laugh, cavorting around the garbage, throwing their heads back and holding their stomachs. This meant war. She could feel her breathing grow heavy. And before she could even get up her sister was already in Ava’s face.

            She was speaking Spanish, maybe. And she was a magician. Who would’ve known? Her little sister was a Spanish speaking magician because she didn’t even see her get up from her seat before she jumped in Ava’s face. And she was talking so loud and fast she could barely understand any of it. She must’ve been Penelope Cruz, laughed Carina. Her mind was all over the place. She jumped up from her seat, pivoting around to try and do something. The room seemed perfectly still in that moment. Everything and I mean everything seemed to slow down except for Carina’s pulse. Her mind was racing furiously. Peace. Her cheeks were tight and her face, serious. Peace, be still. She could hear her grandmother as clear as she could hear her little sister cursing out Ava and everybody with her. Loose strands of her imagination conjured up a vision of Jesus walking on water. Why was she thinking about this?

            “Hey, hey!” barked her cousin Julius who was a few tables away. She could see him pulling up his windbreaker pants trying to rush over. With his big frame he unconsciously knocked people’s lunch trays out of their unsuspecting hands and onto unsuspecting, neatly dressed individuals who were blatantly superficial. They were pissed, without a doubt. Carina shook her head. Then her mind began to race again. She kept thinking about Jesus walking on water. And something about Peter, or Luke, or another one of those Bible people. When her thoughts cleared up her eyes could fully see her little sister. She was beautiful, like their mother. She had skin that glowed and long, black hair. Carina shook her head. She couldn’t figure out why her mind was not fully allowing her body to intervene in the situation. By the time she snapped out of her trance she could see Ava lying between her little sister’s legs. Her face was red – bloody. And the fists and shoes continued to lunge into Ava’s light skinned face. She watched as one of her front teeth went bouncing across the lunch room floor. Carina cringed. What the hell just happened?

                        “Carina!” Julius was screaming her name, and had been for some time. The lunch room had somehow erupted. There were people everywhere, fighting anybody connected with Ava. Carina watched as lunch tables toppled and cracked in half under pressure. Julius looked at her with fear in his large eyes. The way he was saying her name – exhausted and exaggerated – let Carina know he’d been screaming at her for a while. A fat girl in a too-small t-shirt that spilled her gut had her little sister’s hair and refused to let go if she wouldn’t release Ava. Carina almost laughed at her little sister’s stubbornness. The smirk on her bruised face said she wasn’t loosening her legs anytime soon. Carina sighed. On impulse she punched the big girl in the face and from there it was all over. She felt it on the inside.

It was all over. Senior.

As she fought to fend off the girls from hospitalizing her younger sister, she began to think. Her mind began to race again without permission. She could see her class at graduation, in gleaming cap and gowns. She could see herself. She was smiling, grinning hard as she walked across the stage, the crowd cheering so loud she couldn’t fully hear her name being called. Someone took a picture – too close up! They took another…perfect! And everyone threw up their caps and she was taking pictures with family members and faculty and friends. And she was laughing and finally she was beautiful.

You’re a senior! She could hear the phrase condemning her long before she would ever step foot into the principal’s office. You’re a senior, Carina! You have a 3.8 grade point average! What are you doing? What the hell just happened? She’d escaped and opened her eyes for the last time fully. Two disheveled, out of breath police officers stood at either side of her. She looked down, her shirt bloody and ripped. She was already in cuffs. She could see and hear Mrs. Boatwright, her rosy cheeked principal asking her questions with bold frankness. Carina! She called her name. Carina! What in the hell just happened?


Mavis was ready. And he hoped she was too. As a matter of fact, he knew she was. He got up and grabbed his Cubs baseball cap from his wooden dresser. He was ready. And he knew his girl would be too. The keys flickered in the bright spring sunlight as, in a flash, Mavis was pulling out of his parents’ driveway and down the street headed towards Karol High School. His good looks and candy red Sunbird was exactly what most of his friends thought, a magnet for females, but at the moment he had his eye on only one girl. And ‘at the moment’ meant almost literally that.

            There she was. She was always right there waiting for him, next to a newly planted tree. Mavis wondered for a second if he could pick one of the fruit from the tree. He thought about all the others who had probably contemplated it. He knew she loved him. And he really liked her, too. She stood with a book in her hand talking to one of her female friends. And man, she looked good. She was the perfect size, with a big chest and nice, juicy thighs. And boy, when she turned around! Come to think of it, Mavis had most likely saw her backside before he got a good view of her face. The very sight of her made him want her even more. He bit his lip, and simultaneously checked for his box of condoms. As he approached her, he thought about how he’d used the same box with Ava. He was glad she was still young and wasn’t nosey yet. He thought briefly about Ava. Man, that’s a girl that’ll check something like how many condoms you used. Ha. He laughed to himself while opening the door for his angel.

            “Hey bae,” she said, reaching over and hugging him.

            “What’s up,” he said and kissed her on the lips. They had just recently started kissing on the lips. Mavis was excited about it. “How was school?” he questioned, their faces still inches apart.

“It was alright besides some petty drama. How was your day?” she reciprocated, staring at him. She brushed a long strand of hair away from her face.

“It was cool. I washed the car and stuff,” Mavis responded slyly. “What book is that?” he asked, trying to seem interested.

“Oh, uh ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’” She began, glancing down at the novel in retrospect. “It’s good so far but it’s was written with a strong southern accent. It was giving me a headache,” she laughed. Mavis gazed at the school building and sighed desperately.

He always dreaded dropping out of high school but he’d never admit it. He was working on his G.E.D. That’s good enough, he’d thought. But he felt in his heart that it wasn’t. He didn’t want to think about this so he turned on the radio. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” blasted from the rigged speakers he’d set up and his girlfriend joked that he’d been listening to this all day. They laughed as he quickly turned the dial to “Hip Hop Hooray” and proceeded to sing along with its catchy chorus. They pulled up to the next stop sign – the one where everybody crossed – and Mavis went ahead and spoke to a few of his old buddies.

“When you gone come get double crossed?” laughed Calvin, a tall, second-year senior who was headed for the basketball court.

“Not today, I’m chillin’ with the Mrs.” Yelled Mavis back, laughing. “I’ll catch y’all later!” They sped off down the street, with Mavis making a left on Wright way, towards her house.

“Don’t even say it!” she cried out as they drove up Wright way towards her house. Mavis faked a shocked look.

“Say what?” he responded playfully. “Point out the fact that you gotta go left on Wright way,” they said, almost in unison. He smirked.

“Ha ha, you always make that corny joke,” she said reaching down to tie her shoe. “I need some new shoes,” she sighed.

“I know, but you like it,” he said, gently pushing her. “And didn’t I tell you don’t worry about that. I saw these shoes I want to get you,” he continued. “They’re kind of like mine.” She sat up and glanced down at his all-white Nike’s.

“They better be a different color,” she said, giggling.

“Just shut up,” he said, grinning. He had his head tilted, gazing out the window like a dog panting in the breeze. His eyes shot from the road to every inch of her body. He was pondering tonight.

Mavis zipped up his pants and flushed the small toilet, stepping toward the outdated, porcelain sink. When he looked up, he stared at the man looking back at him. The person in the mirror was a lot of things; sexy, smart, energetic, young and charismatic. Mavis smiled, careful not to show teeth. In that moment he thought of his father. Those lifeless eyes glaring at him, almost paralyzing him as he walked. His father’s dark, emotionless face condemned him before he even had the chance to do anything. He held his breath, continued, then exhaled. Then he thought of his mother; she was the true definition of beauty, inside and out. He remembered her reading to him from the large fairytale book his grandmother had given him, and consequently his advanced vocabulary and reading abilities in elementary school. Mavis never told his mother how much that meant to him. He never told Ruth how much she’d helped him. He took off his hat, critiqued it, and ran his hand over his freshly cut hair. Then, after much avoidance, he gazed into his own, real eyes.

He looked away, pondering how his mother must’ve felt when he dropped out. He part resented her. He resented everybody. He was trying to find someone to blame, but when he went down the list he couldn’t find anyone. He couldn’t find anyone but the person looking back at him now.


There was a dry sigh, and out of nowhere he felt his chest rumble. He felt his eyes beginning to water. He took a deep breath, and held back whatever crazy emotion was happening to him. It damn well better not be tears. He could see his father’s face. There was blackness, glaring down upon him with pity. Disgust.

The sun had just begun to go down and the house was dark. And as usual Ms. Christine was at work or somewhere. Mavis pulled his girl in closer to his waist, in between his legs. She didn’t reject his touch. He moved down and kissed her neck, and then climbed on top of her. Slowly he removed his t-shirt and then her shorts. Her troubled eyes gazed into his. “I love you,” she whispered. Her brown eyes searched his. Suddenly Mavis’ mind began to ricochet all over but he couldn’t escape her glance. I love you? Well, if it meant getting what he wanted – what they both wanted – then lying wouldn’t hurt anyone. It never really does, does it? He sighed and kissed her lips. “I love you, too.”


Somebody help – wait, no. No. No. No. Hell no. I’m a grown woman. I’m about to kill this bitch! Quinta punched mercilessly, dodging a steady, unrelenting stream of blows herself. Her nose bled and she didn’t mind it dropping down on the little slut’s face. She grabbed a large handful of the slut’s hair, and pulled her into the street. By the time she let go there was a gaping hole and scalp showing. And it was her blood this time. The truth was, she had been taking a beating and she was tired of it.

                “They were near the curb, screaming and yelling and things were getting intense. And that little girl from next door! Ooh, I know she’s some kind of crazy. But that damned lady was too big to be fighting that girl.” The old woman let out a sigh. Officer Thomas looked intently into her eyes. He could still see fear. Blatant fear.  She was nervous, almost trembling. Her face displayed dried, vertical lines from earlier tears. She sat, gazing out from her porch into the street where the altercation had occurred. The scene was now filled with squad cars, flashing red and blue lights. An officer used yellow tape to section off the area in the middle of the street. She shook her head in disbelief, and then placed the ice pack back on her lip.

                “You sure you don’t want to press charges, miss?” beckoned the officer, concerned about the old woman’s swollen lip.

                “No, I’m fine. I know what comes with breaking up a fight. What’s important is that those young ladies are alright,” she paused and thought for a minute. “It’s just a shame though. That woman looked like she was about thirty fighting that fourteen or fifteen year old girl.” Officer Thomas peered over at the squad cars, thinking about the fate of the women. He tried to be optimistic but then a whirlwind of realism set in and his mind resorted to the worst. They were going away for a while.

                Ahh! Ahh! Quinta almost laughed as the lowlife screamed. Let go of my hair. Let go of my hair! She was victorious, but in the back of her mind she hoped someone would come out and break it up. The girl somehow got loose and sprang to her feet in a move Bruce Lee couldn’t have even attempted. Then Quinta felt her head plunge downwards. It bobbed for a while, and she realized it was from the hits she was taking – some to the face, others to the sides of her head. Her knees ached as she dropped down to them, an apparent reaction to being kneed in the stomach. The same knee met her face as she dropped. She watched as one of her front teeth went bouncing across the faded gray pavement. Her blood began to boil.

                Then, suddenly, somehow she was winning again! The little tramp had let up only to be pulled into a chokehold. She watched angrily as the girl flailed her arms, rocking back and forth. Huh! Huh! She was gasping for air. She made starved attempts at grabbing Quinta’s arms but she was small. It was time to let her ass know. You might as well give up unless you want to keep getting beat. Her heart beat faster. Bitch! She added. Quinta’s saliva met the young girls face. She smiled and watched her pant. Again. Then again. She spit a few times, and then slapped the life out of her panicking face. That’s when Mrs. McCall ran out onto her tattered porch.

Get off that little girl! Get off that little girl ‘fore I call the police on you! She was yelling, screaming, pleading. Her arms were flags waving in the air. Quinta glanced over at her. She smiled sarcastically and belted out a victorious siren of No’s. No! No! No! Mrs. McCall continued to scream. She ran back into her house and grabbed the telephone. She’d warned her. No! No! No! Quinta decided she’d switch it up. Nope! Hell no! This little slut needs to learn to stop messing with Ava! Then she felt it. The pain was sharp and intense. What was this feeling? Had she been stabbed? She had, actually.  Again. Then again.

“She started stabbing her, over and over again. With a big kitchen knife. That’s when I got scared for the older lady.” She paused and sipped tea from a faded, once decorative mug. Slowly she eased the icepack back to her lip. “But more scared for that little girl.” The old woman’s face lit up in fear as if she were seeing the events over again. “It was probably the craziest thing I’ve ever seen…” her voice faded as she sipped tea from her cup again. She shook her head and continued to stare at the bloody spot in the middle of the street. There were no cars. No cars anywhere. There wasn’t one other person around to intervene. Proudly, she gazed into Officer Thomas’ serious eyes. “God made sure I was there.” So when the elderly woman made the choice to go into the street and grab the young girl she knew it would be a major risk. That’s when she felt the girl’s elbow collide with her quivering lip.

                Haha! The small girl was laughing now. It was gruesome. After a bloody struggle, Quinta began fading into unconsciousness. She gazed down at the blood running down her legs, but she knew the girl didn’t care. She continued to stab her with the kitchen knife, its red handle gleaming in the sun. Through the pain she thought about if she’d be able to ever have sex again. Thoughts of her boyfriend, and later her children, popped into her head. She thought about if she’d be able to ever give birth again. There had been some serious, gruesome damage done between her thighs.

Once she’d felt the blade go so deep inside her stomach that at that moment she asked God to take her home. She thought about if she’d live. She thought about the afterlife. Ouch! Ouch! She couldn’t even let out a sound anymore.  As her vision faded, and police surrounded her she had one final request. If she was going to die then she wanted to take someone to heaven with her. Heaven, she thought casting out her doubts of otherwise. The sound of police sirens drained in and out of her ears. And she thought: Lord, I hope I killed that girl’s baby.


The bars for her cell flung open and before she looked up, she hurriedly dried her tears. “Towns, you have a court appearance today. Get up.” The older officer spoke with no fluctuation in his tone as if he were giving military orders. She glanced up at him from the dirty toilet bowl, then back down at the dark water. He had thick glasses that helped him identify her and his blank stare strangely never left the cell’s back wall. She tried to stand, but as she did a thick spill of vomit poured from her mouth, only part making it into the toilet. The officer didn’t budge and his eyes did not leave the back wall. Instead, he repeated exactly what he had said – down to the very diction of each syllable. She looked up at him and wondered who was crazier.

                The sun was blazing as the officer and she made her way to the courthouse. It was a long and tedious journey – she couldn’t stop vomiting. “Morning sickness,” said the strange officer, finally looking at the young girl. She looked at him, her lips slightly parted but nothing coming out. “It must be morning sickness, you throwing up like this. How many months? Weeks?” he asked, his tone still the same as earlier. His gaze was fixed on something down the street. The girl wanted to ignore him, but feared what might happen if she did.

                “I don’t know. Probably nine weeks,” she answered him, her voice low and shaky. She had recently discovered her pregnancy at a doctor’s appointment a few weeks earlier. She remembered being in disbelief. But even the home pregnancy test her boyfriend had bought confirmed the inevitable. Most of all she could remember the look on Mavis’ face when she showed him the white stick. It was obvious that their plans to eventually get married were out the window. She could feel her heart beating, fast. As she sat on the small toilet looking up at her boyfriend, she thought her heart had broken.

                The officer unnecessarily decided to turn on the siren as they drove from the woman’s correctional facility down the upper end of Right way to the court. She gazed at him from the back seat. She knew he was purposefully trying to embarrass her. And it was probably what she deserved. They passed people, all of them staring because of the police car’s blaring siren, and she could make out a few faces. She moved her head as far down as possible. Her head still ached from the hair she was now missing. Her lip was swollen and her eye black and puffy. She had failed herself as a person and woman. The t-shirt she had on itched horribly as they approached the stairs of the courthouse. Then she was angry, but not for long. She spit on the ground as the officer helped her up to her feet. The fall didn’t hurt as she dropped on the stairs leading up to the court’s doors. But she’d thought she had done enough harm to her baby already.

                The whole court room was a blur. All she could remember were the doors slamming open as she entered, thanks to the dramatics provided by her escorting officer. Then she was sitting in a wooden chair, still cuffed and listening as people in suits talked about her as if she weren’t there. The judge centered in on her. It felt like a frame from a Spike Lee movie. Her eyes were dark, almost creepily so. And she watched the young girl. The contempt and discernment on her face made her look as if she might vomit, too. She blinked a few times and grimaced as if the young girl smelled. And the people in suits, with the same looks on their faces, poured over her.

                Let her go. Send her. She needs to be punished. LaQuinta Fuller almost died your honor! A poor mother of three almost lost her life due to the recklessness of a wild, promiscuous young girl. Might I add something your honor, she’s eight or nine weeks pregnant. She is fourteen, your honor! Att…He attempted to catch his breath…Attempted murder! Filth. Ghetto. Scoundrel. And that poor old woman. Thousands in reconstructive surgery. She doesn’t deserve to see the light of day.

             She doesn’t deserve to live amongst civilians.

Attempted murder.

Attempted murder.

There was an objection. The judge, looking exasperated, studied the young woman. Michelle. The judge called out to her in the midst of her confusion. Do you have anything to say for yourself? And with Michelle, there were only maddening screams trapped, all in different colors, swiveling inside her mind. She struggled to pull herself together. Your honor, that woman attacked me. The tears began to flow. Come on! A person in a suit yelled out. The judge ordered he contain himself. She came to my house and pulled me out of the doorway. I was simply trying to protect myself. She could remember the moment it happened exactly, as Whitney Houston’s version of “I’m Every Woman” played on her mother’s stereo. I’m so sorry for the damage I’ve caused. Michelle was nearing unconsciousness. She could feel vomit arising in her stomach and creeping up her throat. There was no holding back. Bluahh!

The judge’s eyes were glued to her. She had almost no concern for Michelle, but she realized Michelle had not even realized her own destiny just yet. She didn’t realize that the child she was carrying could be the next…president. She knew it was unlikely but she didn’t doubt God. She closed her eyes as it was her turn to make a decision. Either she could send her to prison, where she would bore her child, or she could give her probation and a stern curfew. She contemplated these things and sighed.

“Michelle,” said the judge, glancing over at the young woman. She sighed. “God is with you today. If it had not been for…”

When February came, the young woman was happy, regardless of the circumstances. No one could take away her smile. As she, her mother Christine and her child’s paternal grandmother Ruth walked into the hospital, she breathed deeply and kept her eyes on above. Then she came rushing back like a salmon to its birth spring. And with Michelle, there were no more maddening screams and the different colors were no longer swiveling inside her mind. She began to cry salty tears of joy as she beheld her newborn child. At that moment she promised herself she wouldn’t name it after Mavis. And when she was finally able to hold her spawn, she drifted away. Later, when everyone had left them, she could only feel the throbbing of her and her son’s heartbeat.

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