AT FIRST, MONI BADMUS thought she needed to get her forty-year-old eyes checked because surely her vision was failing her. Either that or she was hallucinating. She shut her eyes tightly and opened them again. Her vision was not blurry, and her mind was as sharp as the blade of a chef’s knife. That was her daughter, Shekinah.
Dressed in the too-tight camouflage pants she was supposed to add to the Goodwill pile, Shekinah was standing outside the strip mall with a group of teens. Moni recognized some of them as Shekinah’s classmates. Her eyes widened at the sight of their multiple tattoos and piercings.
Long, gold braids piled on top of her head, untied hightop sneaker laces trailing behind her, Shekinah did not look like she was dressed for school. In fact, Moni knew she was not dressed for school, because she had been wearing a completely different outfit when she left home that morning.
Moni stepped out of her car and took rapid steps toward the little group. She willed Shekinah not to turn around and see her. She wanted her to nearly throw up as she herself had almost done when she heard Shekinah’s unmistakable laughter.
She thought Shekinah was going to faint when she turned to see who had given her a light tap on her back. “Mom!”
Since she was only five feet two, Moni was forced to tilt her head. Her blood pressure shot right up when she saw Shekinah’s heavy kohl-lined eyes and bright red lips. She and Miss 15-going-on-30 just had a talk about not wearing heavy makeup to school. Did the child listen to anything she said?
“Let me guess? This is a field trip and any moment now I’m going to see a teacher?”
Shekinah bit down on her lip, smearing her teeth with the ridiculous lipstick she was wearing. Even in the frosty Brampton cold, Moni thought she saw beads of perspiration forming on her forehead. That’s right be afraid, Moni thought. I need you to be afraid of me or we’ll never get out of the cycle of rebellion.
“We’re allowed to leave the school grounds during our lunch hour.”
Shekinah’s friends began backing away from them. Soon, they were alone.
Moni raised an eyebrow. “You’re several blocks away from your school.”
“We just came to see someone working here,” Shekinah said as she looked around her.
“Your friend works at a tattoo parlor?”
“No.” The scowl on her face was identical to her father’s. “Mom, you’re embarrassing me.”
“I’m sure your lunch is over,” Moni said. “I’ll take you back to school.”
For a minute, she thought Shekinah was going to run after her friends. Instead, she stormed off toward their minivan.
Moni took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten as she hurried after her. If Shekinah knew what was good for her, she would keep any complaints to herself.
“Who were those kids?” Moni asked, pulling her seatbelt around her. “I don’t even recognize most of them.”
“That’s because you don’t pay attention to anything that’s not work-related,” Shekinah replied rudely.
“Excuse me.” Moni snatched her head back. “I don’t pay attention? How could I not pay attention to you? You’re like a neon sign at a cheap motel. Who could miss you?” Moni, a soft answer turns away wrath.
She ignored the familiar voice in her head. It would be easy to give soft words if the child had not developed an allergy to the word “no”.
“Well, Dad isn’t wearing makeup and you don’t pay attention to him either.”
“And who told you it’s appropriate for you to talk to me like that about my marriage?”
Shekinah had been facing the window, but she turned to her and looked her squarely in the eyes. “I live in the house, too.”
Moni realized she did, and a cold house it had become. But still, that did not give her the right to mouth off and be disrespectful. “Your father and I will work things out.”
Shekinah guffawed before saying, “Good luck.”
Moni was going to scream at her to stay out of grown folks’ business, but the tears that welled in her daughter’s eyes stopped her. They were familiar tears. Moni was struck by the fact that this was her child and she was not even sure if they were real anymore. Shekinah turned on the waterworks every time she got in trouble. But Moni knew she could not just let things go because her daughter appeared to be hurting.
“When did you start changing in the middle of the day?” She did not get a response. “Do I need to make random visits to your school to check out your clothes?”
Shekinah shrugged. “Dad doesn’t have a problem with my make-up and clothes.”
Good Ole’ Daddy Sam. Of course, he would support his daughter’s marginal choices since she could do no wrong in his clouded eyes. “I’m not going to let you ruin your life on my watch.”
“You just like making my life miserable.”
Moni shook her head. “If not getting your way is what’s making you miserable, you can consider this practice for adult life.”
Shekinah rolled her eyes upward. Moni realized that had not come out quite the way she wanted it to. Her bitterness over the state of her marriage had leaked into her conversation with her daughter. Not good. “What I meant was, you have to learn that you can’t always get what you want. Believe me, not everything you want is good for you.”
Lips pursed, Shekinah turned away.
Moni turned the key in the ignition. She had to get back to work.
When they arrived at the school, Shekinah got out of the vehicle and slammed the door. What had happened to the precious child she had fasted and prayed for years for, Moni wondered as she watched Shekinah’s tall, lean figure march off. It was as if someone had broken into their home, stole her real daughter, and left an angry, defiant teenager at their doorstep.
MONI DRAGGED HERSELF UP the carpeted staircase. The afternoon’s incident with Shekinah had cost her time as she had been unable to stay focused despite the urgent deadline.
She paused in front of Shekinah’s bright purple, bedroom door. Hopefully, she was asleep and not surfing the web on a school night. It was too late for another fight, Moni thought as she headed down the hallway.
Seated in her rocking chair, Sam looked up from his laptop when she walked into their bedroom. “Hey, how was your day?” he asked.
Moni dropped her purse on the dresser. “It was brutal. I hope you got my message?”
“Yes.” Sam put the laptop down. “Were you able to finish the presentation?”
“No. Thanks to your daughter.” She unclasped her bracelet. “Did Shekinah tell you about her educational visit to the tattoo parlor?”
“She said you lost your temper in front of her friends.”
Moni snickered. Their daughter knew how to tell a good story. “I can assure you that given the circumstances, I was very well-behaved. I don’t understand why she is fixated on getting a tongue ring.”
“It’s really no big deal,” Sam said as he reclined back in the chair. “Quite a number of the students in my class have piercings.”
Sam’s calm countenance made her clench her hands in frustration. “Is that what you told her?”
“Of course not. Listen, I don’t think she will get one. You know she gets queasy at the sight of blood. If you don’t nag her on the issue, she may just drop it.”
Moni flexed her tense shoulder muscles. Sam’s words made sense. She just was not in the mood to hear them. “I’m going to take a shower.”
“I know something else that might help you relax.”
She recognized the look on Sam’s face. Don’t even think about it, Moni thought as she escaped to the bathroom.
Moni came back to the room to find Sam sprawled on the bed. Stripped down to his boxers, he had Charlie Wilson’s “Without You” playing through the surround sound speakers.
Sam meant business, so did she.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked.
Moni feigned a loud yawn. “I’m sure an uninterrupted night’s rest is what I really need.”
She mumbled a quick prayer of thanks before getting into bed.
“Babe, you don’t how much I’ve missed you,” Sam whispered as he reached for her.
Moni swatted his hand away before pulling the comforter up to her chin. “Sex is not on my agenda for the evening.”
“Well ma’am, how about you pencil me in your schedule?”
Sam said in a tight voice. “Or do you need my people to call your people? Moni, it’s been two whole months. I don’t want to cheat on you.”
Her words were clipped and bitter. “It wouldn’t be your first time.”
You can purchase your copy of Secret Places in the following stores:
-Patabah bookstore surulere
-Fountain of Life Bookshop Illupeju
-Glendora Bookstore Ikeja
Ebooks are also available on Qreeda app, Amazon and Okada books.