Brina and I started having a tug-of-war over the phone and I almost accidentally knocked her upside the head with it before I wrestled it away from her. “No, Zoe! You can’t call the police! He’ll kill me, Sis!”

I hesitated for a brief moment, letting the words sink into my head, and then I replaced the receiver on the cradle. My voice suddenly went from a holler to nearly a whisper as I sat down on the bed beside her. “Kill you?”


She started sobbing, and I got her a tissue off the nightstand. “Brina, has he threatened to kill you?” No reply. She blew the mucus out her nose and pretended she didn’t even hear the question. “Where is he anyway?”

“Dempsey caught the bus home to Alabama for the weekend. It’s homecoming at his alma mater.”

“Oh!” I didn’t know what to say. I was worried about Brina, and at the same time I wanted to kick her ass my damn self for being so stupid as to stay with him. Part of me wished I knew a voodoo priestess I could call and arrange for Dempsey to be fatally bitten by an Alabama black snake. That would have put an end to it all.

“Zoe, gurl!” She jumped up from the bed, walked over to the dresser, and looked in the mirror while she applied some lipstick. “Let’s just get out of here and enjoy ourselves. It’s a beautiful day out, and the kids don’t need to be cooped up in here.”

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I picked up the phone again and started dialing. “Zoe, I thought I asked you not to call the police. I’m denying whatever you tell them, so it’s a waste of time.”

“I’m not calling the police. I’m calling Jason at the country club and telling him to come pick up the kids so I can take you to the hospital.”

The line was busy, so I pressed down the reset button and started dialing again. “Zoe, I’m not going to the hospital either.”

While it was ringing, I got pissed off for real. “Listen, Brina, you may have convinced me not to call the police,for now,but your ignorant behind is going to the hospital if I have to rope and gag your ass to get you there.”

I had Jason paged and I was waiting outside Brina’s apartment building when he pulled up in his hunter green Land Rover. After we got the kids buckled in, Jason followed me back up the walkway to the entrance so I could fill him in. He was more anxious to get his hands on Dempsey than I was, but I told him the trick had beat Brina’s ass and run like all punks do.

We kissed each other good-bye, said I love you, and I watched him pull off with the kids before I went back inside to get Brina.

“So, where are Jason and the kids going? Home?” We were in my car en route to the hospital, and Brina was trying to discuss any and everything but the matter at hand.

“No, he took them to Family Adventure Fun Park, that place over in SW that has the balls to jump in, crawling tubes, arcade, and all that.”


The sun was irritating my eyes, even with the sun visor down, and I was nursing one hell of a migraine. “Brina, you do realize you have to end the relationship with Dempsey, right?”

She rolled her eyes, smacked her lips, and turned the radio volume up to a ridiculous level. “Can we just talk about something else, please?”

“Hell no, we’re going to talk about this!” I turned the radio completely off. “That fool has got to step. He’snothing but bad news. When does this all end? When he uses you as a punching bag one time too many, fucks around, and kills your ass?”

“You’re trippin’ hard. You just don’t understand my life, Zoe.”

“Then enlighten me!Please!”

I almost ran a red light but was able to screech to a halt just in time. Good thing, too, because there was a police car right behind me. “You and Jason have this fairy-tale life. You always have had. Shit doesn’t come easy to me like that. A good man is hard to find.”

“And you think Dempsey’s a good man, Brina? Chile, please!”

“He may not be perfect, but he’s all mine, and he loves me.”

“How can you come out of your face and say he loves you when he gives you a beatdown whenever the hell he feels like it?”

“Think what you want, Zoe. He loves me, and I love him back.”

The entrance to the emergency was dead ahead, and I could see the flashing lights on an ambulance that had just pulled in. “You need help, Brina. Serious help, and I don’t mean the physical kind either.”

I pondered over Brina’s situation as well as my own while I waited for her in the crowded waiting room in the emergency wing. It was flu season, so people were hacking and sneezing all over the place. They almost sounded like a snot chorus. It was disgusting, not to mention unhealthy.

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