Authors: Barbara Clanton
Tags: #Coming of Age, #Fiction, #Lesbian, #General
By Barbara L. Clanton
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The characters, incidents and dialogue herein are fictional and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
ISBN 978-1-935053-98-9 (eBook)
eBook Conversion November 2011
Cover design by Donna Pawlowski
Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
4700 Hwy 365, Suite A, PMB 210
Port Arthur, Texas 7764
Find us on the World Wide Web at http://www.regalcrest.biz
United States of America
Thanks to everyone who read and commented on various drafts of Devon’s Story, in particular Sheri Milburn and Dejay from my writer’s group whose advice I cherish. Another big thanks go out to Valerie Bernardin and Susana (WildLX) my French language specialists. Thanks to my other readers Deidra Mitchell, Shirl the girl Wright, Angela Perkins, Tameca Woodall, Lori Hood, Chantal Roy, Diana Schnitzer, Joan Nelson, and Yvonne Vassel. Thanks again Mary Phillips and J. Robin Whitley at Regal Crest for another enlightening editing experience and to Donna Pawlowski for her wonderful cover designs. Again, I must thank my ever-supportive family, my parents Paul and JoAnne Clanton, my older brother Paul Clanton, Jr. and his wife Kim Thuon and their two children Ian Clanton-Thuon and Adria Clanton-Thuon, my younger brother John Clanton and his wife Melissa McCurley, my “in-laws” Joe and Mamie Weathers and their son Joey Weathers. You all know that you are with me no matter how far apart we are. And thanks, finally, to my anchor, Jackie Weathers, who continues to help me learn to chill out and “worry as needs be.”
For my brothers, Paul and John. With you two strong guys on either end, it was easy being the middle child. Thanks for being so supportive when I confided in you about the “phase shift” that life dealt me. Your support way back then helped me gain solid footing as I began my life’s journey. You’re the best goober brothers a sister could have.
Barbra L. Clanton
I COULDN’T FIGURE out how Missy still looked so good. I think my big sister cried as much as I did, but she still looked fresh and fabulous like the models in her
magazines that she left lying around our room.
My face did that scrunched up thing which meant I was about to cry again. Through a haze of tears, I saw Mrs. Bordeaux barreling right for me. Damn. I must have stayed in one place for too long.
“Devon, my dear,” her jiggly arm slid around my waist, “I’m so sorry for your loss. Mildred, er, your grandmother was such a wonderful person. I know how close the two of you were.”
I nodded, but held my breath hoping she’d go away. Why couldn’t everybody stop trying to console me and leave me alone?
Mrs. Bordeaux held on. “Mildred always talked about you at bridge. She was so proud of you and Missy, her two favorite grandchildren. Missy off at college, and you doing so well in high school. In fact, just last week she was saying...”
I couldn’t listen anymore. I didn’t want to hear what my grandmother was doing just last week because three days ago she was alive and breathing. I focused all my energy on holding it together while Mrs. Bordeaux rambled on. Thank God Missy, my favoritest sister in the whole world, rescued me. Sometimes I couldn’t believe that we were sisters because she was so pretty, and I was so, I don’t know, boring. Missy’s long hair— she would call it chestnut—was clasped behind her head with a barrette that Grandma had given her forever ago. My hair—I would call it wet cardboard—hung lifelessly just below my shoulders. I never would have been able to pull off wearing a little black dress like the one Missy wore. I was boring and plain with my black pants, button-up white shirt like Dad wore to work, and black dress shoes that pinched my toes.
“Devon,” Missy grabbed my hand, “I need you in the other room to look over some papers.” To Mrs. Bordeaux she said, “I hope you don’t mind if I steal Devon away for a minute.”
“Of course not, dear.” Mrs. Bordeaux released me and moved on to another victim. I almost laughed out loud when she zeroed in on my dad. I’d have to tease him about that later, if I could ever figure out how to breathe without crying.
Missy led me to the front hallway where they kept donation envelopes for places like the ambulance corp. They took Grandma away last Sunday in an ambulance. If I had any money I would have made a donation, but I didn’t.
“Hey, Squirt.” Missy’s voice was heavy with concern. “Mrs. Bordeaux had you cornered, didn’t she?”
“Yeah.” I would have said more, but my voice wasn’t working too well. The only thing I could add was, “Thanks.”
“No problem. Listen, if you need to get away from all of this, go down that hallway.” She pointed to a narrow dark hallway I hadn’t seen before. “I saw a private bathroom and a water fountain down there. I don’t think anybody knows about it, and you can be alone for a few minutes.”
I nodded again. Missy could read me like a book. We were both juniors, but she was a junior at Plattsburgh State, while I was a junior at Grasse River High School. She had to drive home from college for the wake, but I got to stay home from school. Any other time I would have loved a break from the grind of school, but a wake wasn’t my idea of fun.
Missy didn’t dare hug me because she knew I’d break down into a quivering mass of sobs if she did. She knew how sensitive I got about things. She just patted my arm and went back into the crowd of people. I stood alone in the hallway for several minutes, glad to be off Mrs. Bordeaux’s radar. I pretended to be fascinated with the donation envelopes and pulled them out one by one, barely seeing them. When I pulled out an envelope for the Grasse River Animal Shelter, my face scrunched up again. Grandma loved the animal shelter. We went there all the time. Just the two of us. We brought food and old towels for the cats and dogs, and we even walked the dogs sometimes. That was our special place. Grandpa always said we were two peas in a pod when it came to loving animals. Grandma and I wanted to adopt one or two or twelve dogs and bring them home, but my mom had bad allergies, so we had to be content with seeing the dogs at the shelter.
Now, Grandma and I couldn’t go to the shelter together anymore. That simple thought made the sobs start from deep inside. Deep inside my heart, I think. Through the sheen of tears distorting my vision, I found the shadowy hallway Missy had shown me. I shuffled down the hall, barely picking my feet off the plush red carpet. When I found the blessedly empty bathroom, I went in and locked the door behind me. I hoped no one heard me because the weirdest sounds started coming up from the depths of my soul. Every time I tried to catch my breath, I couldn’t. I buried my face in my hands and tried to muffle the awful noises. When I finally caught my breath, I grabbed for a paper towel to wipe the tears off my face. Thank God I didn’t wear makeup because it would have been smeared all over the place. That’s why I had no idea how Missy still looked so good.
I took a deep breath and splashed some water on my face in an attempt to look presentable. I was certain that my hysterical episode qualified me to proclaim that wakes sucked. What was the point? Just to make you cry? I can do that on my own, thank you. I’d rather not cry in front of a bunch of people, most of whom I didn’t know.
The bathroom door squeaked open, and I prayed the hallway would be empty. Luck was with me. I stopped at the water fountain and, before getting a drink, took another deep breath to make sure I wasn’t going to melt down again. So far so good. I pressed the round button and watched the water make a high parabolic arc. My math teacher taught us about parabolic arcs in eighth grade. My mind went to the weirdest places to distract me from my grief. Too bad it didn’t work, though, because, as I leaned down to get a drink, I realized that my grandmother would never get another drink of water again. The water I had in my mouth refused to go down the right pipe, and I started choking. I doubled over coughing trying to get air back into my lungs.
I felt a hand on my back. “Keep coughing,” the mystery voice said. “You’re okay. Just keep coughing.”
I kept coughing, but at the same time looked at the mystery woman’s shoes. Black heels. At least it wasn’t Mrs. Bordeaux. When I caught my breath, I stood up only to peer right into the most perfect pair of dark brown eyes I’d ever seen. They were the color of the inside of M&M’s. Her dark eyes matched the color of her skin, too. She was the most beautiful black girl I’d ever seen. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, period, but I’d seen her before. We were in the same French class. She sat in the front, and I sat in the back. I passed by her seat every day. Why hadn’t I ever noticed her before?
“Devon, right?” she asked me.
I nodded because I still didn’t have my voice on account of the fact that I’d just tried to inhale water and the fact that she stood way too close to me.
“I think we’re in the same French class. I’m Rebecca. Rebecca Washington.” She flipped her ponytail behind her shoulder and stuck out her hand.
I shook it and choked out, “Devon Raines,” which started another coughing fit.
Rebecca rubbed my back again. “Breathe, Devon, just breathe.”
Her hand felt so good on my back. Comforting. I couldn’t believe this amazing girl was paying attention to me. That was when I remembered she was just doing her job. Her family, duh, owned the Washington Funeral Home. It made sense. Rebecca probably helped out after school when someone’s grandmother died on them.
I started crying again, I couldn’t help it. I was such a ticking time bomb that the randomest things set me off.
”Oh...” Rebecca panicked. “Okay, okay, Devon. Look, here’s what I do when I can’t hold it together. Take a slow and steady breath. Hold it. Good, that’s good. Now exhale slowly. That’s it.”
I took another deep breath and held it. After a few breaths, I didn’t feel like I was going to lose it again. I’d melt down later, but at least I had myself temporarily under control.
She smiled at me and looked right into my red-rimmed and swollen eyes as I wiped the tears away. She said, “I have to breathe like that before every dance performance. I get so nervous.”
I gave her as much of a smile as I could muster under the circumstances.
“Atta girl.” Rebecca smiled at me. Her teeth shined white and bright against her dark skin.
Her glowing smile captured me like a willing prisoner. What would this amazing girl think if she knew I was gay? What would she think if she knew I thought she was gorgeous?
What would my grandmother think? I apologized to my grandmother because this was, after all, a gathering for her benefit, not a place for me to check out girls. Not that I ever checked out girls. Not really. I figured out I was gay about three and a half years ago at the end of eighth grade when I fell head over heels in love with Marcy Berger, but I never told her. I never told anyone. Part of trying to keep my two and a half-year secret included not overtly checking out girls.