|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.39(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Today I was born. My name is Carta — well, actually Cartalena, but everyone calls me Carta. It's rare that I remember what I dream about. Even after I wake, I don't quite feel like the dream has ended. My dream world lingers, and soon it feels as if life becomes a continuation of the dream. Why is this my life?
They say money can't buy happiness, but I'd like the option to see for myself. I've never had money, so I don't know whether I would be happy with it. I know it would fix a lot of the issues that I have now. At least if I was depressed and had money, I could pay to get treatment. Let me tell you — if you're broke and depressed, you're just screwed. I already know if I ever win the lotto, I will have a house built that could accommodate everyone who lives here now so they can have their own room, and maybe I'll have a little side house for Sarta and her family. Sarta is my younger sister. I was so used to calling her my little sister, but since she is grown now with a family of her own, she's my younger sister.
Sarta was my own personal living baby doll growing up. Don't get me wrong — everything was not daisies and roses. She got on my nerves plenty. But for the most part, I loved having her around. She had this little red wagon that I would pull her around in. Whenever we would take family trips to the park or to the store, I would pull her around in her little wagon, before she started walking and then later, when she wasn't old enough to keep up with the others. I would give her baths and wash her hair.
Sarta's dad is half Caucasian and half Jamaican, and since Big Momma already had Native American–type hair, Sarta's hair was soft and pretty. My friends in high school used to refer to Big Momma as the original Pocahontas because of her long, beautiful hair. Sarta has never been afraid of her talents and does not mind showing what she can do. I have always envied her that. I'm so reserved and afraid of failing that I will not try things just because I don't want people to look at me funny, and I don't like to lose or fail. Sarta is very poised and headstrong. She is not afraid to fail and therefore not afraid to try.
Do you know how your parents would always try to show you off to their friends by having you perform meaningless acts that they deemed cute because they were just so proud of you? I would never perform on cue. Not in my house, not with a mouse. Not over here, not over there. I did not like to perform on cam. I did not like that, Sam I Am. Sarta, on the other hand, loved it. She would perform over here. She would perform over there. She would perform in the house. She would perform with a mouse. She would perform for the cam. She loved to perform, Sam I Am.
Sarta's fearless nature got her accepted in to a performing arts high school, where she studied opera singing. She has the voice of an angel. Sarta went to the same school as some of the country's most famous stars. One guy she graduated with is very popular in the movies. I love when I see someone from my old neighborhood make it big.
Since we were always been self-sufficient as kids, I would pack Sarta on New Jersey transit with me and drop her off at her school; then I'd head on to my school. I would pick her up from school, and if I had something going on that I had to go back to my school for, she would just hang out with me until it was time to go home. Big Momma knew that as long Sarta was with me, she was being well looked after. All my friends knew not to mess with her too. They knew I would break someone's arm off if anyone ever tried to mess with my little sister. No one ever tried to mess with her, though. To know Sarta is to love her. Even now, people I am still friends with from back in the day ask me how Sarta is doing when I talk to them. Sarta's real name is Sartagnan, but we call her Sarta. I know. I don't know what my parents were thinking when they named us; I am sure they don't know either. We also have an older sister whose name is Marteline, and we call her — yup, you guessed it — Marta.
I cracked a smile at the thought of how I share our names with people and then explain that our parents swear they did not do that on purpose. Marta and I have the same father, but Sarta has a different dad. That doesn't mean she is any less my sister. In fact, I've always felt closer to Sarta than I do to Marta. Even though Sarta is nine years younger than me, we share a resemblance to our mother. Looking at us, you would think that I share two parents with Sarta instead of Marta. Marta has been at war with me since we were little. We are only one year apart, and she has felt the need to compete with me every day that I have been alive. She swears that I am everyone's favorite and that she is the black sheep of the family, but the truth is that she isolates herself with her "everyone is out to get me" attitude.
I am refusing to even think about her right now, so I reach over to the nightstand and grab my phone. I am still determined to not get out of bed until that alarm clock goes off, so I guess I will scroll through social media and see how everyone is posting every second of their life. I already have some birthday wishes posted to my wall; I guess I should like them, or no one will ever wish me a happy birthday ever again. My thoughts are interrupted by Travis, who comes through the bedroom door with a squeak that sounds like an old staircase that has seen one too many climbers. One of these days, I am going to get some WD-40 for that door. I say that every time I am trying to sneak out of my room in the morning and go to work without saying to goodbye to the entire household; that takes too long. There are seven of us in this house; saying goodbye to everyone is a chore in itself.
His presence always calms me, and the times we have together are always few and far between. He works normal business hours, and I work a sort of middle shift. It is a whole lot better than when I was working a late shift, getting off at 11:15 p.m., and not getting home until midnight — some nights even later, if I was caught on a phone call. I still work weekends, so we do try to get away every now and then when we can, if only for a dinner or a stay at a hotel for the weekend. His facial expressions are always heavy with the burdens of the world and life without even trying. I find myself asking him what is on his mind more often than I should. I almost acknowledge that I see the look of distress on his face; however, I have my own thoughts to occupy my time right now.
I received a call from Karla's school counselor the other day about a disturbing conversation she had with her. Karla's fourteen years old, so it's about time for her to start going through her hormonal changes. Those changes coupled with her father's need for attention make for a dismal combination. I have her in therapeutic counseling every two weeks, which I think is helping, but her counselor suggested that I get her some kind of medication. I guess I will try that route first because I was really thinking about putting her into some kind of girls' home to help her with the attention that she wants and give her the help she needs.
I spent eleven years in the army, and the reason I was so good at being a soldier was because I can hang up my feelings and just get the job done. I have always had issues with empathy. I call them Fs and Es — feelings and emotions. I know that is a terrible thing for a mother to have to struggle with. When my children were born and while they were growing up, I gave them so much love by holding and kissing them all the time. Maybe I loved them too much, but I don't think there is such a thing as loving a child too much. I do think I sheltered them from the struggles of life. I intended for them to want for nothing and to have everything that I never had growing up, so that kind of made them a little bit unappreciative and entitled.
She has no idea of the struggle that I had to endure when I was younger. In defense of Big Momma, it was a completely different environment socially and economically. We didn't have all the technological advances that are available today. To complete homework assignments, I had to actually go to the library and use the Dewey Decimal system to look up a book for reference. I don't think kids these days even know what the Dewey Decimal system is; why would they when they can just pick up their iPhones and ask Siri?
I try not to meet Travis's gaze; I don't want him to notice the hamster running overtime on the wheel in my head. I have this delusion that if I don't acknowledge something, then it is not happening. My perception is my reality. So, in that same instance, if I don't acknowledge that Travis is looking at me, then he is not. I don't want to have to explain everything that is going in my head anyway. He is the writer and the poet, I can never express myself the way he expresses himself. When he asks me what I am thinking about, it always seems to come out garbled and I end up saying nothing. I know this frustrates him, it frustrates me too, sometimes I just want to give him a pass to look into my mind so he can see how jumbled up things are for himself.
To keep myself from looking around the room and catching his gaze, I look over at the clock and it says 7:54am ... welp ... I guess that will do it. Time to get up. I fling the comforter back and embrace the cold air, swing my legs over the right side of the bed and even though there is carpet on the floor I frantically search for my Nike slides since I am going into the bathroom and I don't want my feet to touch that cold floor. Once I find them I head to the bathroom to start my primping and prepping. I usually don't mind him coming in the bathroom while I'm in there because he always looks at me like a hungry dog seeing a juicy steak for the first time, every time. He thinks it bothers me when he looks at me like that, but he doesn't even know ... it is a major stroke to my ego. Especially when I am feeling bloated and think that I could stand to lose some weight. I stand 5 feet 9 inches tall and weigh in at 155lbs, and my weight distributes evenly through my body, which I am totally grateful for. I could be one of those women that are top heavy wearing triple "D" cups and having bad back problems.
Marta is top heavy; well she was, until she had her breast reduction surgery. She's also four inches shorter than me, so her weight doesn't distribute well and has nowhere to go. Sarta is what I like to call hippy. She is as tall as me but carries her weight throughout her hips. Me being the middle child I got the best of both worlds. I'm not sure where Marta received her height from; both of our parents are as tall as me. She was taller than me until I reached middle school, she then stopped growing and I continued to grow.
We have a standup shower with a door made of glass. While I'm in the shower I like to pretend that I can't see Travis looking at me with the water running down my body and allowing it to cover my entire head while I'm pushing my hair back. I've been natural for four years and thanks to big momma and her ancestry my hair is conducive to natural hair styles. When I pull my hair back into my infamous ponytail I get the waves, curls and big puff. With my complexion and my hair, I am constantly asked if my ancestry is Native American. I'm sure there are some Native Americans as well as Caucasian somewhere down the line, but I just reply that I am black. When I finished showering, right on cue, Travis asks if he can dry me off. I give him a side eye and quick grin. Although I like when he dry's me off, I don't have time right now. I have to get ready for work. I like to prop my leg up of the tub when I'm putting lotion on, I'll take a quick glance over at Travis and of course he is rabidly staring at me. I like that because my legs are long and it usually take a while for me to moisturize the entire leg. Then I switch and do the other one.
I have a beautiful caramel complexion that has been blessed to not have any blemishes with these long legs and not a one bunion on my 11-year military combat boot wearing feet. I take great pride in that and yes sometimes the narcissist in me peeks her head out, why shouldn't she ... I am beautiful. That's what I hear ... so it's only natural for me to believe it. Although when I look at myself, I see all of the flaws that no one can see from the outside. My knees are too big, I have cottage cheese thighs, I don't stand up straight (from years of carrying a rucksack), since I have had the kids I've got the dreaded stretch mark curse. It took me years to come to grips with those. I will never again be able to wear a bikini, but they are over-rated anyway.
I finish getting dressed and put on some eyeliner because that's about all of the make-up that I know how to apply. Sarta is the make-up queen, when we get together I make sure to get a beauty beat down from her for whatever occasion we are celebrating. Sarta lives in Atlanta with her husband Phillip and her newborn son. I love my nephew to life. I could just eat him up he's so chunky and cute. He reminds me so much of Sarta when she was a baby. Sarta's complexion is a tad bit lighter than mine, so if I'm caramel then she is more of a butter pecan and PJ is the same complexion as her even though Phillip is more of a light chocolate. PJ's real name is Cameron but I like to call him PJ (for Phillip Jr).
I'm already feeling sour because I have to work on the day I was born and it falls on a weekend for a change. Travis took me out the night before to one of our favorite restaurants and I was able to get that steak that I had been thinking about for the longest. I'm never quite sure about the difference in steaks when they ask me if I want the 6oz or the 9oz, aren't they both the same once they are cooked? Will I really be able to tell the difference with those extra 3 oz.'s? He also gave me my gifts last night which consisted of some clothes, some more bras and a red purse that would put any Michael Kors to shame. Before I or Travis leave the house we always give each other the three-peck kiss. I don't' know how or why that started, but it's a nice way to let each other know that we love each other without having to say it all of the time. I try to say I love you to Travis when the mood calls for it, but I don't think people should say I love you all the time to each other otherwise it would lose its effectiveness.
On the drive to work that's my time to relax and reflect on everything else that my mind can't seem to stop thinking about. On an average day, with no traffic, it takes 45 minutes to get to work. If there is traffic it could easily take an hour to an hour and a half. I turn on the music on my phone and sync it with my car so it's blasting in my ears. Every song that comes in seems to remind me of a time in my life that something significant has happened. Right now, I miss Drew.CHAPTER 2
He was taken from me a year and a half ago. I say he was taken because I did not give him up willingly and the only reason Antwann (his father) fought for custody was so that he wouldn't have to pay child support. The first thing he did when the court granted him custody was, before he even left the court house, went down to the child support office and dropped his child support suit and filed against me.
I wasn't even the one that filed against him to begin with. When I got out of the Army and moved to this new city, I wasn't making the money that I was in the Army so I had to file for state assistance and Medicare for the kids. Since I filed for assistance, the state filed for child support for me in an effort to get some of their money back. Believe me, if it was up to me I would not ask for a dime from that man. When we went to court for child support and they took his income and my income and came up with the total support payment, he acted a fool.
At that time, I was only working part time and he was making three times as much as I was with no one else to take care of but him. Antwann told the mediator that the amount they came up with "astronomical" ... his word. The mediator tried to explain to him that his income was triple mine and I had three children to take care of. His reply to that was, "I don't think it's fair that I have to pay for her other children, they aren't mine." What a douche bag!! His whole basis for his custody battle was that I was unable to take care of Drew because I had so many other people in my house to take care of and I wasn't able to give him the attention he required. Riddle me this, if I wasn't able to take care of him because I had so many other people to take care of, then why did his sorry ass file for child support from me? It has never been about caring for my son when it comes to him, it has always been about the money.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Scalene Mirror"
Copyright © 2018 Shina Carter.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.