I had only spoken to my future mother in law on the phone, so I really had no idea what to expect from our first face to face meeting. What I did know was that, meeting her for the first time and stating my intent to marry her daughter all in one sitting was just plain dumb. But I was forced to respect my girl's wishes. Mycah kept me a secret for our entire relationship and I really didn't know why. But as soon as I arrived, I realized that coming here without Mycah was a huge mistake.
Hell, I didn't even make it to the front door of their home in the small gated community of Chauvin Plantation Estates before I was intercepted by her eldest brother, Dustin a.k.a Dirty Red.
"You're supposed to be smart College. Mike told me you were smart."
They all called Mycah "Mike." I never quite cared for it. But she didn't mind so it didn't matter. I paused and stared at Dustin with an annoyed sense of questioning behind my eyes.
"You here to talk to Angele about marrying Mike right? Gonna go in there and talk to her face to face, one on one right?"
I wasn't sure what the guy's angle was but he was standing shirtless in the middle of an asphalt driveway on an absolutely blistering day in
"You're supposed to be smart College. You need to show my daddy the respect he's more than earned. He's the man around here. He'll accept you way before she will. Believe that. You don't ever want to be caught alone with Angele. You hear what I'm saying to you College?"
I heard exactly what he was saying but he was working a nerve calling me "College."
"Dustin, I would never disrespect anyone in Mycah's family. I was asked by Mrs. Perriloux to come out here today. I just assumed that........"
I damn near jumped out of my skin when that voice came from behind me.
He came out of nowhere balancing what looked like a bushel of sugar cane stalks over one shoulder. The man gave new meaning to the phrase "black don't crack". He had to be at least in his early fifties but he had the body of a thirty year old athlete. He was shirtless as well but unlike Dustin who was probably going to have a serious case of sunburn, Mr. Perriloux's skin color was more like burnished copper and far more tolerant of that kind of heat.
"Mr. Perriloux ..uhm yes Sir."
I glanced at Dustin from the corner of my eye before speaking.
Dustin folded his arms and snuck me a wink of approval.
"You been schoolin him huh Red? I wish the rest of them chaps felt like you feel about this old man. C'mon out back for a spell D'Andre. Let's talk abit before you go in to see Angele."
I followed him praying that there was anything that even remotely looked like shade in the backyard. I was starting to sweat out my crisp new linen shirt. When we turned the corner I realized that there would be no reprieve from the heat whatsoever. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but sugar cane and more sugar cane. He tossed the bushel off his shoulder with such casual strength that I had to be impressed. The man had to have found the secret to immortality. He made quick work of shucking one of the stalks and offered a piece. I gladly accepted. When it came to sugar cane I was as country as anyone else even if I was from the east bank of the
As I bit down into the juicy sweetness of the cane,
"So you love Mycah Jean huh D'Andre? Love her enough to make her your wife. Love her enough to take better care of her than she been cared for."
I swallowed as he made the last two sentences statements rather than questions. But before I could answer or acknowledge...he continued.
"You think you got what it takes to love a woman like Mycah son? You gotta have a special kind of love to marry that kind of woman D'Andre. You know the kind of love I'm talkin about boy?"
There was a distinct pain and hurt in his words that gripped me by the throat. He didn't give me a chance to do anything but listen as he continued to speak.
"You think you can love a woman so much that you stop being a man? You think you can close your eyes to things so obvious to you that you look the part of the fool and accept it? Think you can love so hard with your heart that it blinds your eyes? You think you got that kind of love in you son? If you do; you marry her and do whatever it takes to make her happy. But you take that gal away from here D'Andre. You hear me? She deserves a man who can love her like I tried to love Angele."
He didn't even wait for my response. It's like he knew my heart.
"Come on. Let's get you into the house so "we" can make your intentions known."
He said we. He said it like it was a decree from God himself. Dirty Red was leaning against the side of the house watching us the whole time.
"Did you talk him out of it Pepper?"
When Dustin called him Pepper; the name
"You got a brother in law to break in Red. He's gonna need us. We're all he's gonna have in this family outside of Mycah."
Red huffed under his breath. "Don't be so sure he can count on Mike once Angele gets to her."
They spoke of Angele like the woman was some unearthly force that commanded absolute control over her family. And when we entered their home and she sauntered down that staircase it all became clear.
She was absolutely the most elegantly beautiful woman I'd ever seen in my life. There she was: The woman who gave birth to my Mycah. And don't get me wrong; Mycah is stunningly beautiful. But Angele was a Goddess. She looked like a Creole Queen. There was an air of majesty about her. She certainly looked like perfection sprouted from her womb. She was absolutely flawless. Her long black curls flowed like satin, framing a face that would rival Aphrodite herself. I had forgotten where I was but then it dawned on me that she was half naked.
"ANGELE, what the hell are you wearing? You knew this boy was coming over here to talk to you!"
Dustin grumbled something under his breath behind me as I turned to face the door. The woman was wearing what could possibly pass for a negligee. And she was wearing it Well. There wasn't a blemish or wrinkle or even a ripple on her body. She was ageless.
Dustin was far less than enthused and even lesser surprised at her appearance.
"Damn right she knew he was coming over. That's why she's dressed like that."
"Look uh...maybe I came at a bad time." I offered as I reached for the door to leave.
"Actually lil nigger boy, you're the only one who IS supposed to be here. Don't leave now."
I don't think I had ever been called a nigger before in my life. If I did, it didn't sound like that. It was the way she said it. She could have been wearing a hooded white sheet and had a mouth full of tobacco spit, and I still don't think she could have said with as much acerbic gall.
Her voice was nothing like her appearance. There was no beauty in that voice. There was nothing angelic, elegant, or flawless in the sound of it. It was caustic, bitter, and cold. The moment I heard that voice I hated my future Mother in law. I had to bite my tongue. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for them,
"That is no boy Angele. That's the man who has asked for the hand of our daughter in marriage and he did it properly and appropriately. Can't say the same for the way you're dressed!"
"Who did he ask Pepper? He asked you? He asked for Your blessing? What say do you think you have in this?" She came down the stairs. I could hear her heels clicking against the marble steps and floor.
"Don't you dare do this now Angele."
I could hear the old man breathe out the words almost in desperation. It was almost as though he was afraid of her. I wanted out of that house immediately but I couldn't just abandon him. Something wouldn't let me do that.
"Don't do what Pepper? Don't expose you?"
"This is the man who is going to marry Mycah. You best accept him."
"Who are you to tell me who's gonna marry My child Pepper? You ain't got no say in this! Do you hear me Pepper? You ain't got no say in what ANY of my children do. Not one syllable. And you know why Pepper? Do you?"
This was not going the way I had planned. I expected some resistance from her, but I had no idea of how deep her hatred went. The woman was living and breathing evil. She was on the verge of emasculating her husband right in front of me.
His voice was even softer. He was ashamed of her appearance and her obvious intentions. He was ashamed of what she was about to reveal in my presence. He was ashamed of his lack of control of his woman.
"Angele what??!! You walked in here all big and bad Pepper! Let's put it all out there for your new son in law! Let's put it All out there on the table."
He found his voice again and his strength came back to lift its head yet again. I almost applauded the old man.
"Angele I am a MAN!! I'm the Man who took care of you and these kids! I am a damned good father to these chaps! You gon respect me!"
She laughed in his face.
"You might be a Man Pepper. You may have even been one hell of a father. But you aint never been no Daddy!! Not to anything that came out of My womb!"
Dustin erupted with rage. He screamed the words that I would never use openly. But they didn't go far.
"You miserable BI............."
In my peripheral vision I caught a glimpse of Dustin being slammed up against the door.
"Don't you EVER raise your voice at your mother again. Do you hear me Red? Don't you shame me like that. Not you. Don't you Ever shame me like that! I'll kill you before I let you low rate your own mamma. I swear I'll kill you where you stand before I let that happen."
I watched Dustin's face become tortured at the thought of causing the old man any more pain and humiliation than he was already subjected to. It was obvious that the last thing he wanted to do was hurt
"What were you gonna call me Dirty Red? You love him more than you love your own mamma boy?! You can love him all you want. You can lay your stupid ass in the back of that truck under the sun all you want. You can work in that cane field beside him from sun up to sun down for however long you want you dirty lil red bastard. You can tan your skin till it be as black as Mycah's lil nigger boy over there. But it won't change the fact. It won't make him your daddy. It aint gon ever make him your daddy! You know who your real Daddy is. Don't you Dirty?"
I didn't even look at her. If I would have I would have said something that would have done irreparable damage to whatever relationship I might have with this family. Both
I had to say something. I reached out to place a hand on
"Look, I'm sorry I came..."
Big mistake on my part.
"DON'T YOU SAY IT!! DON'T YOU APOLOGIZE FOR LOVING THAT GIRL!! DON'T YOU LET NOTHING TAKE THAT AWAY FROM YOU!! YOU SAID YOU HAD THE RIGHT KIND OF LOVE BOY!! BE A MAN OF YOUR WORD!! YOU HEAR ME??!!"
He pushed both me and Dustin out of the house forcefully. The old man was stronger than he looked. And he looked pretty damned strong. Both of us slid across the slick porch struggling to maintain our balance. The heavy doors slammed closed behind us and there we were. What do you say after something like that? I didn't have a clue, that much was a given.
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