Playing by the Rules: A Novel

Playing by the Rules: A Novel by Elaine Meryl Brown

Book: Playing by the Rules: A Novel by Elaine Meryl Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elaine Meryl Brown
slow to recover. Trust was something she didn’t know if she would ever find again. For her, itwas an object as deep as buried treasure and she was doubtful if her shovel could expand long enough to reach it.
    Now that she and Medford had been seeing each other for over a month and he was acting strange, Louise was beginning to think getting serious was a mistake.
    She went to her drawer and pulled out her Afrobabies sweatshirt, the one with the short brown stubby cartoon character holding a talk sign that read “Keep On Trucking” on the front side, and the word “Peace” on the back. It was obvious that she and Nana had a different interpretation of what it meant to dress casual and if her grandmother thought that yesterday was informal, then she would probably describe today as being downright shabby. Sliding into a pair of Landlubber bell-bottom jeans, she thought about how clothes had never meant much to her except as a means of covering up her private parts and keeping warm. How anyone could make such a fuss about wardrobe other than for going to church was beyond her. She attributed her detached feelings to the fact that when she was twelve years old and her parents died in that horrible car crash, she’d had more important things to deal with than apparel. At an age when most girls were beginning to care about how they looked and what they wore because of boys, for Louise it just wasn’t a priority. At the time, death had become her obsession, and she was trying to manage the best way she could to handle the worst pain she hoped to experience in her entire life.
    Standing in front of her bathroom mirror, Louise untwisted the four big braids in her hair that she made each evening to prevent it from getting tangled in the morning. Using a plastic pick with a Black Power fist carved into its wooden handle, she proceeded to comb her hair and spray on a little Afro Sheen to make sure all was in order. Then she headed over to Nana’s to get someChristmas leftovers and whatever else Nana had in mind to give her.
    She found her grandparents relaxing in the living room. Saint was curled up on the floor, taking advantage of the heat generated by Nana’s slippered feet. Nana was working with yellow yarn to complete the baby sweater and booties she was making to add to her hope-chest collection of clothes for the grandchild she was praying would come along one day. Knitting was what she did to take her mind off anticipation. In fact, with the variety of clothes she was creating in the event of a pregnancy, she felt she had enough inventory to easily maintain stock in the Montgomery Ward mail-order catalog. Granddaddy was reading Black Scholar magazine with Ebony and Jet stacked on the floor, dozing on and off, while the afternoon movie on the TV was playing in the background.
    After kissing her grandparents on the cheek, Louise went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. As she began to place the large Tupperware containers with the leftover food on the counter, Nana came into the room.
    Carrying a small hardcover book, Nana handed it to Louise. “I told you I had something for you. I found this on the bookshelf upstairs in your room. Now does it look familiar?”
    Louise read the title on the cover. “ The Correct Thing to Do, to Say, to Wear , by Charlotte Hawkins Brown.”
    Nana pointed to the book her granddaughter was holding. “Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a famous teacher who founded the Palmer Memorial Institute for Negroes back in 1902. She was a woman with great pride in herself and her people. Because she was in education some folks say that she might have been related to us, but she was from North Carolina and they got the Great Smokies, not the Blue Ridge, but it’s all part of the same mountain chain, like one big long fence, and who knows the way everybody is all spread out and connected, we could have kin down there too.” Nana looked at Louise to make sure she was taking it all in, still

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