Authors: Eboni Snoe
WHEN EVERYTHING’S SAID & DONE
When Everything’s Said & Done
Cover & Photo Design: Eboni Snoe a.k.a. Gwyn F. McGee
Copyright © 2013 Gwyn F. McGee
All rights reserved. The reproduction, transmission or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented is forbidden without permission. For permission, please contact Eboni Snoe at
To my parents, Willie Williams and Ruby Thomas Coleman Williams.
I thank you for giving me physical life.
I thank you for giving me all the love you could give. Love lasts an eternity.
^^God couldn’t be a woman. If He was, He wouldn’t have created old age and menopause.” Cynthia ran her hand over her loose belly as she danced. “I can’t stand getting old. Every time I come over here to visit Mama, and I see that old woman who lives next door—” she thumbed toward an adjoined apartment —it reminds me of what I can look forward to. That woman looks like something that belongs in a tomb.”
“Say what?” Erica laughed.
“You know I’m not lying.” Cynthia stopped danc
ing. “This Florida sunshine must have been hell on her complexion. So you better watch out, Erica.” She nudged her sister, Sheila, jokingly. “Because you’re the oldest of the group at thirty-nine, soon to see the big four-o.” Cynthia gave Erica the eye. “I’m already on the job at the tender age of thirty-seven, using every cream known to man. And I’m educating Sheila here, because she’ll be thirty-seven next year.”
“Don’t worry about my skin,” Sheila replied. “And
you better not let Mama hear you say that about that woman. You know she likes her.”
“I know.” Cynthia rolled her eyes. “She’s been living in this apartment for five years and she’s always talking about what Nubia said, or whatever her name may be. Some of that stuff—” Cynthia waved with disbelief. “You know that woman is lying. But Mama eats it all up.”
“I know,” Sheila agreed. “Like that story about the folks who used to live in this building. She told Mama some diabetic woman in a wheelchair who owned this building, she and her pregnant daughter had it out with some gangsters in one of these apartments.” Sheila’s voice rose with incredulity. “This was a black woman who she claimed owned this building back then. But of course Mama believes every word of it. She was talking about how brave the people were.”
The women laughed.
“And then she had the nerve—” Cynthia shook her head “—^to say one of the daughters ended up living with some tribe in the Amazon, or something like that.” They started to laugh again but a husky voice interrupted them from the dark porch a few yards away. “You’re talkin’ about the Robinson family. Laura Robinson did own this building. Her mother willed it to her. A white man that she had a long-term relationship with bought it for her.” When the voice stopped even the air seemed still. “And Cora didn’t go to the Amazon. She went to Africa. South Africa.”
The women stopped laughing and tried to see through the darkness. Seconds later the clouds parted overhead, transforming the moon into a giant spot
light that focused on a figure in a rocking chair.
“I’m sorry, Miss Nubia. We didn’t—”
“It’s Nebia,” the thin woman replied.
“I mean Miss Nebia.” Sheila put her hand over her heart. “We didn’t know you were out here.”
“So you meant to talk about me behind my back?” “Why no, ma’am.” Cynthia struggled with the right answer. “We just—”
“Why did you stop your dancing?” Nebia ignored her answer. “Dancing is a good thing to do on Midsum
mer’s Eve. When I was younger I used to always dance when the summer solstice came. Sometimes Cora would join me. She was the only one of the Robinson girls that would.” Nebia paused. “Perhaps it was because she was born on a Midsummer’s Eve. Yes. Midsummer’s Eve has always been special to me.” The sound of the rocking chair against the wooden porch grated with a steady rhythm. “That’s one reason I knew Cora would be special. But there were other reasons. One in particular. You know where the Vinoy Hotel sits now?”
Cynthia looked at Sheila and Erica out of the corner of her eyes. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Back then some of downtown St. Petersburg looked a lot like it looks today with The Pier and all.
There was water as far as the eye could see, but there was also a wharf.”
“Really?” Cynthia rolled her eyes.
“One day when Cora was ten years old she fell off into that water. And Cora couldn’t swim, and neither could me or Miss Laura, her mama. So when she went down for the third time and didn’t come up, we was all in a panic. Then Miss Laura saw Big Willie coming to
ward us, and we screamed for him and told him Cora was drowning. I swear it was at least five minutes before he pulled that child from that water. We all thought she was dead. Back then we didn’t know nothin' about no CPR.” Nebia nodded her head as she spoke. “Well I tell you, all on her own Cora laid up on that wharf and started coughing and spitting until she cleared her lungs and opened her eyes. And it wasn’t long before she was able to talk again, and then Cora told us she was all right. I knew then she had been blessed by Yemaya, the goddess of the water, and that her life would flow just as freely as water flows on this earth, turbulence and all.”
The porch went quiet.
“Uh-huh,” Sheila finally said as she gave Nebia an uncertain look. “Well, we didn’t mean to disturb you. Miss Nebia. We’ll just go back inside.” She moved toward the door. Erica and Cynthia attempted to do the same. “I’ll turn the music down so we won’t disturb you.”
“And I also knew that Cora’s appeal to men would
also be strong,” Nebia continued as if she didn’t hear her, “because Yemaya is also the goddess of sexuality and fertility. It can be a positive thing to have men love you like that, but it can also be a burden.”
“What do you mean?” Just the mention of men turned the tide of Cynthia’s attention.
“When the Yoruba Orisha, Yemaya, is strong within you, it makes you a very generous, sensuous woman.” “Yemaya...” Cynthia repeated the name. “The way my luck’s been running I think I could use a little of that!” she said teasingly.
“I know that’s right,” Erica chimed in. “Finding a man has been tough. Finding a good one that’s crazy about you is nearly impossible.”
“Oh-h-h.” Nebia stopped rocking for the first time. “You’re only thinking about how good it would be.” “Why not?” Sheila replied. “If it’s going to help me have it like that.” Then she spoke under her breath, “Not that I really need the help.”
“There she goes,” Cynthia mumbled, “and here every one of us is over thirty-five, and alone.”
“There is nothing wrong with that,” Nebia said softly. “But in some women the feminine energy is extremely strong. And if it strikes one man here—” she touched where her heart lay within her bony chest “—and it is the same man that has touched the hearts of your blood sisters, it is not so good. ”
“I can believe that.” Cynthia looked at Sheila.
“Cora had sisters, too.” Nebia acknowledged the direction of Cynthia’s gaze.
“I guessed as much,” Sheila said. “How many sisters did she have?”
“There were three of them just like you.”
“I’m not their sister,” Erica announced.
“Erica’s not our blood sister.” Cynthia motioned. “But we’ve been close friends for more than twenty years. So she’s just like a sister.”
“I can imagine,” Nebia replied. “There were three Robinson girls,” she continued. “Brenda was the oldest. She was a good-looking girl who always had her head in a book and had an idea where she wanted to go, but Brenda thought she knew what was best for everybody else. And then there was Annette, the youngest.” Nebia tugged on one of her gray, spongy plaits and stopped rocking. “Dear, sweet Annette. If everybody saw the world the way she saw it, we would have what the Chris
tians call heaven right here on earth.”
“You’re not a Christian?” Erica asked.
“I think I am. Still, some folks may not agree with me. But I believe in God, and eventually Cora believed, too.” She began to rock again. “We grew quite close through the years, Cora and I. You see, she was the middle child. But she came into this world looking at things differently from her sisters; still, that don’t mean they weren’t close. They were mighty close, at least in the beginning,” Nebia said, breathing in and out slowly.
“But I don’t mean to take up you all’s time with my ramblings. Go on back to what you were doing. Go on.” Nebia became quiet, but continued to rock.
“No, it’s all right.” Sheila pulled a chair closer to Nebia’s side of the porch. “This sounds interesting, considering Yemaya and all.”
“It really does,” Cynthia agreed. She sat on top of the rail that divided the porch with wide toothed slats. “Mama told us this stuff happened pretty recently.” “Yes, it wasn’t that long ago,” Nebia agreed. “It wasn’t that long ago at all.”
The steady click of a metal fan in the window added a unique beat to the gospel tune playing on the radio, but Laura Robinson didn’t hear it. She heard the singing, alright, but she didn’t hear the ticking. She was too accustomed to hearing it to hear it. What she was aware of was the sound of her daughters moving about upstairs as they prepared for Sunday service, and they weren’t moving fast enough for her.
“Brenda,” she called, “you all aren’t ready yet? It’s almost a quarter ’til.”
Laura walked into the kitchen and turned off the oven that held the roast she was cooking for Sunday dinner. She moved the black, crusty roaster aside to make room for the pot of okra and tomatoes, and the macaroni and cheese she had baked earlier, so the food would keep warm until they returned from service.
“Annette and I are ready. Mama, but I told Cora she can’t wear what she’s got on to church,” Brenda an
nounced as she walked down the stairs.
“What did you say?” Laura asked as she shifted the pans. Her words mixed with the heat and tempting smells from inside the oven. Satisfied, she straightened up and wiped her hands on her apron before she un
tied it and hung it on a nail. Afterward, she went into the living room. By then Cora and Annette were standing beside Brenda.
“Cora! What’s got into you, girl? You can’t wear that see-through dress to church without a slip. I can see every bit of your underwear. ”
“But it’s so hot outside. Mama. And it’s even ^ hotter in that doggone church. Need to get an air- conditioner,” she mumbled.
“Don’t talk about the Lord’s house like that, Cora Robinson. And I don’t care how hot it is. No daughter of mine is setting one foot outside dressed like you’re dressed today, and especially going to church. Now get back upstairs and get a slip on. Right now.”
Cora did as she was told and returned downstairs solemn-faced.
“Now—” Laura walked over and patted Cora on the cheek “—^you look absolutely beautiful. Let’s go.” She herded her daughters out the front door.
“It’s a shame people can’t be above that kind of thing,” Annette proclaimed for Brenda and Cora’s ears only as they walked down the stairs. “Why do people have to look at things in such a bad way? They all know we wear bras and panties.”
“Yeah, Cora.” Brenda buddied up to her younger sis
ter. “I gotta tell you, you did look kinda sexy. And although Mama won’t let us have a boyfriend, I bet that boy, Dennis Thomas, would have liked it. ”
But Cora remained sullen as they walked out onto the sidewalk.
“Good morning, Nebia. How you doing today?” Laura called as she spotted her long time tenant hanging flowers and herbs upside down to dry.
“I’m just fine, Laura.”
“We’re on our way to church. Care to join us this morning?”
“Nope, I wouldn’t.”
“I knew you’d say that, but I thought I’d ask anyway,” Laura replied with a smile, never breaking her stride,
Brenda and Annette waved, but Cora just looked re
proachful as they continued down the street toward Ebenezer Baptist Church, their white, blue, and yellow dresses reflecting the bright Florida sun.
With unhappy eyes Cora looked at Nebia and their gazes held. Finally, Nebia tilted her chin skyward and gave Cora a reassuring look. Cora responded with a weak smile.
“There goes Warren,” Brenda pointed as the boy rode his bike toward them on the opposite side of the street. “He must have gone to the corner grocery to get some eggs and bacon for breakfast.”