Walking into the small, stone house felt surreal. Gelia and her mom Glenda lived there from the time she was twelve until she left for college at seventeen. Actually, for her last two years of college because Gelia graduated with an AA degree two days after graduating high school. She was never sure if Glenda was proud or not because Glenda wasn’t given to saying but she had always pushed her to excel. Glenda graduated high school and immediately started working, doing laundry and cleaning rooms at the Hilton. She never aspired to higher education, she was a party girl who worked hard and played harder. Getting pregnant with Gelia at twenty-seven didn’t stop her but it slowed her down.
In the earlier years, Glenda took care of her daughter by working and the largesse of Genia’s paternal grandmother and a succession of boyfriends; at thirty-nine, and Genia twelve, she bought the small stone home. It was in a community with homes just like it and across from the housing apartments they lived in before moving. It was Glenda’s neighborhood and she didn’t aspire to moving. It also formed Genia as a person who loved who she was and where she was from.
Genia moved as soon as she graduated college. She was offered a job with a growing tech company, she was twenty and brilliant in 1996, and the world was waiting. Ten years later, she fell in love, married and rarely came home during those years. Malveaux didn’t like where she was from, though he was from a worse place. His education and her money made him better than where they were both from, and she had been so in love then... but now Glenda was gone at sixty-seven, and Malveaux was her ex-husband and this little stone house, all twelve hundred feet, was hers. She could live anywhere she chose, but in this season, she needed and wanted to be there. The housing projects was long gone across the street and was now a park and many of the homes were either still inhabited by the original owners and lovely or filled with their children and in differing states of repair but it was home...
Walking through the house she was filled with memories...
“Genia, you can do and be anything you want to as long as you work hard and don’t get caught up with the wrong man...” Glenda said the night before Genia flew to Seattle.
“Mom, I’m not thinking about that. I’m trying to have a career and travel...” Genia said lightly. Everyone seemed worried about her getting the wrong man. What was it about her that made them think that?
“But you will be. I see you and men watching you and I see the men you watch and are drawn to... they’re all handsome as sin and not living up to nothing but pleasure and the streets. You’re better than that. It took all I had to keep you safe... but you’re on your own now.”
Genia didn’t quite meet her mom’s eyes because Glenda knew her. They had in common the attraction to the men her mom just described. The difference was Genia was also driven...
“I know mom, I know...”
Shaking away those thoughts, Genia walked from room to room, deciding what and how to transform the house and her life... she was forty, childless and never had to work again unless she chose to...
After decorating her home mentally and writing out a list, Gelia’s stomach rumbled and she realized it was almost seven p.m. and she was starving. She wondered if Verna’s Restaurant was still open.
She knew Ms. Verna was dead, but her daughter supposedly had taken over and refurbished it. She was going to drive there and find out. Her plan was to stay in the hotel a couple of days until she could get some work done on the plumbing and get furniture delivered. When she left Seattle, she had sold her home, furnishings and car before buying a truck and driving southeast.
Getting out of her car, Genia smiled when she saw the sign still read Verna’s Restaurant, but the stone building was painted white rather than its standard gray stone color and an outside eating area had been added with an awning and several table and chairs. Several people were outside eating and the scent of smoked meat filled the air. Several eyes met hers and she nodded in greeting before walking inside. It was still a simple restaurant with tables and booths and the cooks were behind a glassed-in desk cooking. There was also a huge jukebox. A young woman greeted her and took her to a table near the middle with a view of the door.
“Welcome to Verna’s. Are you new here?” the young woman asked.
“I was born and raised around the corner but I’ve been gone for a long time. I want smoked wings, sweet potatoes and cabbage.” Gelia said and the young woman smiled and strutted to place her order. Looking around, she took in the relaxed atmosphere and felt glad to be home. It made her remember bringing Malveaux home to meet her mom eleven years earlier.
Gelia, we aren’t staying at your mom’s, are we?” He had asked with that disdainful air he had about him. That was part of what attracted her to him and his astonishing chocolate, good looks. Malveaux had reeked of bad boy in a suit the day he came to work at the firm as a graphic designer. She was a senior designer by then and worked on the penthouse floor but was known for mixing and mingling with all levels of employees.
Once Malveaux knew who she was, he made a play for her and in a short time she was smitten by his attitude, the way he said things she only thought and his sexiness… Malveaux was a master at lovemaking and Gelia loved that.
“I guess not. She wants us to…” Gelia said. “But we can stay at the inn.”
“Let’s. I don’t know why your mom still lives here, can’t you help her move?” He asked.
Immediately Gelia felt attacked because she had offered to purchase her mom a house elsewhere and Glenda always refused. Gelia had done extremely well working in Silicon Valley and wanted to share but Glenda wasn’t having it. She admired her mom for it. In other ways, she made Glenda’s life as comfortable as she could.
“We will stay at The Inn, Malveaux.” She said. They spent three days there, most of which Malveaux spent at the hotel while Gelia visited with her mom. She recalled the conversation with Glenda the night before leaving.
“He ain’t shit, Gelia. That boy thinks he is better than others and he will let you pay for him to be better. If you marry him, you will pay for everything and do everything and he will walk around like a cock, taking credit.”
Gelia hadn’t listened and it all turned out to be true. Gelia earned ten times as much as Malveaux, who earned a good salary. At first she was okay with it and thought their marriage was a good one. But over time she discovered Malveaux downplayed her accomplishments and didn’t contribute to her betterment, not to mention their household. The final straw was when he told her he wanted to open their marriage to other sex partners. She had moved out that night and filed for divorce, she knew she hadn’t signed up for that and it confirmed her suspicions that Malveaux was already cheating. He had contested the divorce but she won it, gave him the house and retired from her job at forty and returned home.
When the waitress placed the fragrant food before her, she shook thoughts of Malveaux and the past from her mind, focusing on her food.
Her plan was to eat and rest, and start on her house the next day.