(Author's Note: This chapter takes place 10 months after Chapter 1. Comments are most welcome and thank you.)
Good Times, Chapter 2
Someone was banging, not knocking, on the door to the Evans apartment, and if we were to go by sound, it would be of extreme urgency. Thelma, JJ and Michael were at school and Florida was at the market. James, after his midnight janitorial shift at a building that was 2 bus transfers away from home, had -just- gotten to sleep.
This better be good, he thought to himself, tying his robe belt tightly and storming to the door.
He threw the door open and rolled his eyes. "It figures, it's the Rona Barrett, the Galloping Gossip of the Ghetto." He gave Wilona, who stood before him, a chilling look.
Wilona would generally back off in the face of such an angry...face. But her lips were pursed tightly and she shook her head as if to say No.
"James Evans, how could you," she said, walking past him, and sighing in disgust. She walked to the kitchenette and continued to shake her head.
"How could I ..what?" Blinking and more than a little concerned with that unfamiliar tone and look of disdain.
"Father an outside child with trash. James..this will KILL Florida, just kill her. And what sort of example are you giving JJ? He runs around with all the girls..do you want him to make you a Grandfather so soon? James, of all the men I've ever known, I'd have never expected this from you."
The best way to describe the look on James' face would be utter horror. He couldn't deny it..he had no words. He was speechless for a long moment. Finally, he stammered, "T-tell me what you know."
"I know you fathered a baby with a white girl, James. And a stripper, no less. And she's been coming around the building looking for you. Seems she's out of money, and asked around, to find you. God have mercy on your soul, James Evans. How could you do this."
James was now in a cold sweat. Obviously the Lord didn't hear his prayer, he thought...or He did hear it and decided to punish James for his misdeed. He crumpled onto the living room chair, forearms on thighs and looked up at Wilona. It would be one of the very few times that she'd ever see fear in his face.
"What am I gonna do," he asked her quietly.
"What are you gonna do about what?" Florida asked, walking through the apartment door with a bag of groceries in her arms; a door that James had inadvertently left open when Wilona entered. A rarity occurred: Wilona herself had no words.
"I-I'ma get goin' myself, I'm late for the boutique," Wilona said quickly, beating a hasty retreat.
James looked at his wife, dressed in her threadbare winter coat and with concern in her eyes. Sweat still poured from his forehead and when he opened his mouth, no sound came out.
"Honey," Florida asked, eyes huge and tone low.."What is it? Are you sick, James?"
He was. He nodded, ran to the bathroom and the contents of his stomach emptied violently. He continued to dry heave well after his gullet was empty.
He leaned over the toilet bowl, hands on the top of the tank to steady himself as Florida was in the doorway, wringing her hands.
"Baby," he said, gasping, and eyes closed.."It's bad."
"Honey," she said, putting a washrag under the faucet, then dabbing at his forehead with cool water, "Whatever it is, we'll get through it."
Those words that brought him comfort so many times, through many ups and downs, felt hollow to him. He was one of four fathers in the entire -building-...Hundreds of families under the project roof, and only four fathers. How was he going to tell her that he'd added another child to the roster?
"Baby..I don't feel so good. I need to..I need to...Well, hell, I don't know what I need to do." He forced himself to a shaky standing, and went to the basin, to continue the cleanup job Florida had started, as well as to brush his teeth and rinse his mouth. He was physically and emotionally exhausted, and on the verge of broken. He'd not had a single drink, not even a glass of Musketel in his own home, since that night.
"James, please honey, please tell me what is it"
"Please, Florida, please let me find the words."
He walked past her, back to the bedroom to get dressed. He needed air; the apartment's walls were closing in on him, or so it felt. Wilona knew..it was only going to be a matter of time before Florida did, but he knew he had to be a man and tell her himself.
James emerged from the bedroom, and looked at Florida, who'd barely taken her eyes off him. "I'll be back in a little while, baby." He kissed her cheek and stepped out of the apartment. He walked to the elevator and leaned on the doors as he waited for it, the cool metal soothing his forehead.
When the elevator finally reached the 17th floor and the doors opened, he was met by Otto, the one whose bachelor party was the host of the event that came back to haunt him this day.
"We got to talk, man," Otto said, as James got in. The jerky motion of the elevator car, plus the continued opening of its doors on other floors for other residents didn't make it an optimal place to talk. They rode in silence and neither man said a word until they got into the street.
"What the hell's goin' on, Otto?" James asked, in a pleading voice. "Please don't tell me this is true."
"It is, man. Well, far as I could see, anyway. Baby got your eyes."
James stared at Otto. "Negro, PLEASE. You know how many people in this world got dark eyes?"
"No, man, it ain't like that. Course you can get the blood test..you're gonna have to, man...Candy wants you to support the baby so you better do the right thing and get the test, so's you're sure you ain't supporting no other man's baby..but she look like you."
"She do?" James asked...thinking of how Thelma as an infant looked like him, too. But this baby was interracial, there was no way she could look -that- much like him.
"She do. Pretty little thing, I got to say. So much misery for you though, in that pretty little thing. Candy's trouble, man. I got a feelin' that if you don't give her money, she's gonna give you and your family a hassle."
James nodded grimly. "But let me ask you this, man. How she find out where I live?"
Otto blanched. "She...look, James. I'm sorry. She don't work no more..she spent all her strippin' money and don't have her body the way it was, from havin' the baby. She used the rest of her money and got herself a lawyer, who came around and started in on me. That he was goin' to name me as a--" Otto struggled for the word.."Litigant? If I didn't tell him who you was."
James understood. The law was something that many in the community had to contend with in unpleasant ways, and some shark in a suit would've come across as threatening. While James couldn't say with certainty that he'd have caved like Otto did, he understood.
"So now what, man," James asked, hands in the pockets of his coat.
Otto reached into his own pocket and retrieved a business card. "This is the lawyer's card. Get in touch with him, before Candy get in touch with you at your house."
James said thank you, quietly, and went back upstairs, slowly. This was not going to be good.
To be continued..