A Day Late and a Dollar Short
the kitchen. I didn't hear them come in. I walk down the hall to her room, and as usual, her door is closed. Because she's not allowed to lock it, out of courtesy and respect for her privacy I always knock. For some reason, tonight I ease it open. I don't know why I'm not shocked when I see George sitting on the edge of Shanice's bed with his hand pressed on top of hers pushing up and down inside his black pants. His eyes are closed peacefully, but Shanice is scrunching hers so tight I can tell it hurts, because she's biting her bottom lip the same way I am. An inferno invades my whole body, and then, suddenly, feels like a block of ice. George's eyes open wide and he looks frightened. Shanice drops her head. In a split second, I look at these walls, which I can't even tell are yellow because they're plastered with magazine photos of probably every hip-hop singer and rapper on the planet. Four pair of sneakers are lined up under her bed. They should be in the closet. Why aren't they? I'm tempted to do it, but now I'm sinking in water so deep I can't move. I shake my head back and forth, trying to get to the surface, but it's sealed tight. I try to take a deep breath and leap, push, but I'm stuck. This fucking room is too small. Stuffy. And suffocating. Why'd we put her in here anyway? And why's it so noisy? Why's that stupid music blasting so loud all of a sudden? Who turned it on? I wish those kids on the walls would stop singing and rapping. "Shut the hell up!"
    George is trying to zip his pants and stand up at the same time, but it doesn't matter. He has to get past me. I have been spared. I have thawed out. I don't need air to stop him. Which is why I grab the halogen lamp from the desk near the doorway and walk toward him and stop. We are eye to eye. He opens his mouth to say something, and maybe he does, but I don't hear a word of it. I start pounding him over the head with this lamp until the sight of blood and Shanice's screaming stops me.
    "I'm sorry," he screams, trying to flee from the room, holding his head.
    "You get back here, you sick motherfucker!"
    "Mama, stop it!" Shanice yells.
    "I'm really sorry," George says again, and runs out the door. I hear him heading downstairs.
    "Fuck you, George."
    "I swear it."
    "She's my baby."
    "But I never hurt her."
    "You should leave now."
    "But this is my house."
    "Fuck you and this house!"
    "I want to explain."
    "I said get out! Now!"
    "Can I at least take something with me?"
    "You've already taken more than enough. Now, get out of here before I call the police! Oh. I forgot. You tire the fucking police!"
    Now I'm shivering and can't stop. There's blood on my hands and wrists, and I realize I'm still gripping the lamp as he heads toward the garage. I could kill him. I should kill him. But I don't move. I listen as he starts up the car and the Genie lifts and then the garage door closes shut. I stand in the kitchen for the longest time until, finally, I open the door to make sure he's gone. My Easter stuff looks stupid out there. I should stop doing this silly shit. I really should. Nobody cares anyway.
    Shanice's cleats are on the top step. They look worn out. All she ever wanted to do was run track. Break records. Fly. Like they say on those Nike and Reebok ads. She pushes herself so hard. Harder than I've ever pushed myself to do anything. Maybe that's why he wanted her. Because she's young and beautiful and can still fly. But I used to be her. Stop lying, Janelle. You wish you were her. She knows what she likes. What she's good at. She's more focused at twelve than you are at thirty-five.
    Why didn't I see the signs? When she stopped giving us both good-night kisses? That was over a year ago. Now I'm confused. I have to think back. I have to replay the last year or two in my mind. But now I'm wondering just how long he's been doing this shit to my baby. And what if he's lying? Wha t i f lie's touched her the same way he's touched me? Why didn't I see it? Why wasn't I

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