I'd left Beth at home a drunken mess and both the twins in their cribs screaming mad. My mother was on her way to their house to save the day 'cause I was speeding down the highway toward the hotel J.T. was staying at. If Beth thought I was going to be the type of wife who allowed her husband to cheat and fuck around with floozies, she'd pegged me all wrong. I wasn't about to keep sitting at home pouring my sorrows; naw, my dad was a go-getter and I was more like him than anyone could ever know. After letting Beth tell too much of the Schultz family secrets, I put two and two together knowing without a doubt Jay was cheating too, and had been since before the day we got married. And, I wasn't having that! I didn't need Jay, he needed me. Matter of fact, the entire Schultz family needed the Dilbert family in order to thrive. My father had the power to have them wiped out completely and if I caught Jay in the act like my gut told me I was getting ready to, he could kiss me, the kids, and his small fortune away.
“Yes, I'm Marie Dilbert. My father called you on the way over.” I approached the manager with a calm but devious smile.
“Oh yes, madam, here you are. Would you like an escort?”
My father made everyone in the city dance like a puppet. I didn't know why Jay thought he was gonna be able to get away with this.
“No, thank you.” Heading toward the elevator, I thought,
James Theodore Schultz IV had better be on his best behavior, for his sake.
“I'm sorry, sir; we weren't able to save your friend. The consumption of alcohol mixed with the medications caused her already-weak organs to shut down. We did everything we could do.”
“I'm sure, I'm sure.” I nodded, wanting to cry for Shawntay but really feeling horrible for myself. I'd dug a grave for her that might not be too far from me filling myself.
“Were you able to get in contact with her next of kin, her daughter? The hospital has a social worker who can help with bereavement issues, counseling, anything that might aid both of you in recovery.” The nurse tried being more compassionate. She probably didn't remember me but she was the same lady who swabbed me and Shannon over twenty years ago.
“No, I've been calling but not getting a response. I'll take the social worker's number.” I graciously accepted her offer. I didn't know the true extent or severity of Shannon and Shawntay's relationship but I was sure she was gonna break down once finding out her mother had died.
As the nurse scurried off to get me the social worker's card and a few pamphlets, I took a seat staring out into the heavens trying to piece together the start of this morning. Beth was scorching pissed, along with Sally, but what was different?
My cell rang, interrupting my train of thought. “Hey, son, it's about time you called me back. Marie called your mother and me; she's livid.”
“Tell me something I don't know. She's on the other side of my hotel room and the stripper I just started fucking is locked in the bathroom.”
“Aw shit, son!” Jumping up, running out of the hospital, I didn't have time to double back to get the information the nurse was yelling behind me with. My son was in trouble and needed his father to have his back.
This was some straight bullshit! Locked in this bathroom pacing back and forth, there was no way out of this drama white boy had me in. I would've been better off taking my chances going home. At least I knew the territory and what Isis was working with.
“Marie, take your ass home with the twins! Get from down here!” I heard Jay screaming. “I'm going to have hotel security escort you downstairs.”
“You cheating son of a bitch! Open this door. I am hotel security!”
I didn't blame her and would've done the same thing if I ever got a man. I guessed my run with him had come to an end but that was the name of the game.
There were five maybe six knocks at the door.
“Butter baby, it's me. I'm sorry about all of this; here's your clothes. I can't leave her out there forever and something tells me she won't be leaving without a fight. I'll try holding her down so you can make a run for it. Can I call you when this all blows over?”
“You just better. You've been busting nuts in me all night and morning; I might just have some news to share.” I kept it real then held my hand out.
Rolling his eyes but smiling, he reached into his wallet, handing out a few hundred for all this trouble. Jay wasn't a stranger to tricking; he wasn't new to the game. “I'll be in touch. Now hurry up and get dressed.”
Pulling the door back closed, I regretted not having on sweats and gym shoes just in case she wanted to get gutter. I didn't know how white women fought but around my way we didn't fight fair.
“James Theodore Schultz IV, you better open this damn door right now!”
“What did she just say? Who did she just call him? That was my father's name . . .”
“I told you not to let your trifling ways rub off on that boy. Now you've ruined your family,” my mother spoke into the phone. Ruthless to the day she'd take her last breath, she was never one to let me live down my mistakes.
“I don't know why I even called you in the first place. I've always been a disgrace to you, Mother.” I spoke the truth. Had it not been for her controlling ways, I would've righted my wrongs a long time ago. But this family was all about cover-ups. “Just call Marie and try talking some sense into her. Beth is too drunk to do any good.” As much as I wanted to handle the situation on my own, I needed at least one of them to help calm Marie. We knew what damage she could do to the Schultz name and lifestyle, so we were all supposed to act as one unit when it came down to it.
“I don't want not another thing to do with you all's mess. I'm on my last days anyway. Your father ran me into the ground. You've run Shawntay into the ground and Beth isn't far behind. But that spitfire Marie, she's gonna be the one woman to run y'all Schultz men into the ground. I hope my God lets me see the day!” This time my mother was the one who hung up in my ear.
Swerving into the parking lot of the casino, I jumped out heading toward the hotel entrance.
“Sir, where's your keycard? You can't go up to the rooms unless you are a guest of the hotel.” Security stopped me in my tracks.
“There's a commotion upstairs involving my son; you have to let me through.” I tried pushing past him.
“I can't, sir. But here's the manager to help you.”
A scrawny white man with glasses approached us. “Is there a problem?”
“Yeah, I need to get to room 9139; my son is checked into a room there and is having a problem with his wife.” Pulling out my phone, it was Shannon calling. “Hello, Shannon, please hold on; don't hang up. Sir, I need to get up to that room now!”
“I'll have to escort you to that room.” The manager held down security, then led me to the elevators.
“Shannon, we seriously need to talk. I have some really bad news.” Listening into the phone I heard nothing but screaming, fighting, and what sounded like gunshots.
“Shannon, are you there? Shannon?”
“A'ight, bitch, I said be quiet!”
“Gunshots have been reported in the hotel, take cover, code 911 on floor nine!” Voices loudly rang over the manager's walkie-talkie.
The unmistakable sounds of earsplitting gunfire were surely heard throughout the building.
“A'ight, bitch, I said be quiet!” I came out of the bathroom door, busting bullets to get their attention. I didn't care of the consequences or repercussions; I needed some immediate answers. My world was spinning, my equilibrium was off, wasn't nothing seeming right. Jay was on top of his wife holding her down and the plan was supposed to be for me to run past, down the stairwell, on with my business. But after hearing her call out my father's name, I completely snapped. I might've been a girl from the hood, a crackhead drunk's daughter who had the soul raped out of her, but a fool I ain't never been.
“Butter, what do you think you're doing?” Jay jumped up still holding Beth but behind him now. I couldn't see the image of my father I had glued to my membrane so maybe what I thought to be true actually wasn't.
“It's so over now, J.T. I swear to God when my daddy finds out about this your ass is going to be jobless and homeless!”
“I said shut up!” Shooting the gun into the ceiling again, I wanted the room to be completely silent when I asked my round of questions. “Now what did you say his name was again? And speak slowly.” I aimed my gun toward Jay's wife so she'd know I was serious in wanting an answer. “His whole government name.”
“James Theodore Schultz IV. That's your brother, Shannon.”
“Daddy?” Looking up seeing my father standing in the doorway, my heart started beating a million pumps a second. Did he just say what I'd pieced together minutes ago? Oh my God, this couldn't be true! Staring between them both, I was trying to fight this ghastly truth. The only thing strikingly similar was that they're both white; Jay must've looked like his mother. I couldn't believe I'd been crushing with my own half brother, my own flesh and blood!
“Marie, come back! I had no idea I even had a half sister! Dad, are you fucking serious? You hid this from me? Does Mom know? I can't believe this shit; I've probably gotten my sister pregnant! I couldn't have even dreamed up nothing nastier.”
James was speechless staring at us both. As we locked eyes for the first time in years, I felt myself grow even dizzier. It was like I was seeing a ghost. I was confused. I couldn't think. Falling to my knees, the ties I had with my past, present, and future collided at the same time. “I need my mommy.” The room started to spin as my vision grew increasingly dark.
“âIf anybody asks you where I'm going to, I'm going up to yonder. I'm going up to yonder. I'm going up to yonder. I'm going to yonder to be with my Lord.'” The soloist was singing her heart out and there wasn't a dry eye in the church.
My heart skipped beats all morning as regret furled in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't believe my mother was dead. I clutched the obituary in my hand along with a box of Kleenex staring at Shawntay in disbelief. Resting peacefully in a shiny cream and gold casket with a yellow blouse, cream dress suit, and the Bible she grew to love in her hands, you couldn't tell Shawntay lived the hardcore life that she did. Through the years, I'd stored up a tremendous amount of hate for my mom. Even when she got right, I still turned her away. I'd never have another tomorrow, another chance, or another mother. My cries, sobs, screams, and breakdowns couldn't be contained.
“Momma, come back. I'm sorry, please we can talk. Wake up,” I screamed, then sprung from my seat. The small crowd that was gathered to pay their respects for Shawntay gasped as I threw myself damn near into the casket with her. “Take me with you, Ma. Don't leave me here. I ain't got nobody.” I was sure my screams could be heard miles away.
The pastor tried offering me prayer but I was too much of a lost soul. I pushed him off and continued to kiss and hug on the woman who birthed me. Damn, I fucked up. I needed her back. I needed to hit the reset button on life.
The entire congregation joined the soloist in singing “Goin' Up Yonder” and it stirred my emotions more. I was sure they knew about my mother's darkest sins, which meant they knew about mine. God's folks were always trying to save sinners by turning them into saints. And this was no different. They wanted me to feel the pain so maybe I could change. Shawntay's spirit was definitely in the room. I wanted to do something different. As sad as it was to say, I didn't want to end up like Shawntay.
“Come on, Shannon, it's going to be okay. Let your mother rest.” James wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me away. “You've got me now.”
I got weak and collapsed into my father's arms. I didn't know if his words were true and if they were how he intended on sticking to them. But I was crossing my fingers like a kid praying he wasn't just pacifying me. I hadn't seen him since the embarrassing ordeal at the hotel when I found out my mom was dead and my lover was my brother. But none of that mattered at the moment because James was the only person giving me life. I wanted his lifeline to be real. I buried myself into him as they closed her casket and spoke the final words. My breathing was becoming sporadic as they prepared Shawntay for her final ride. I couldn't stand to watch her carried out so James rushed me outside.
“Listen, Shannon, there's so much to talk about and over twenty years of making up to do. But the first thing I want to help you with is mourning. I meant what I said back there; I'm here for you.”
“I'd like to believe that. But with the crazy shit me and J.T. got ourselves into, I think that would be a little weird.” I wiped at my tears then sifted through my purse for the rolled joint I had to calm my nerves. This was the second person I'd buried this week.
“That you guys have. But as brother and sister, the relationship must be mended. Beth and I are divorcing, Junior's begging his wife to come home, and you and I will be going to counseling. This secret has torn our family apart, not you. If I would've been man enough from day one, neither of my children would be in this awful position. I'm sorry, Shannon. I truly am. Let's make the change together. You don't want to run out of time trying to right your wrongs.”
Looking up as the church doors opened, I saw the pallbearers starting to proceed. “Naw, I guess not.” I looked up into the heavens, smiling. “I guess you got what you wanted after all, Momma: peace, forgiveness, and for me to have my daddy back.”
“That she did,” James spoke up then ushered me into the car. “Shawntay always had a way of getting what she wanted.”