Unedited excerpt. All rights reserved. Copyright by Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh
Re’ut Syracusa Kennesaw-Jones had been a Kennesaw far too long to be embarrassed by the shenanigans of her family. Watching as her family piled into the limos and speed off like they were being chased by Revenuers, she simply said a prayer for anyone in their way…and anyone who might try and stop them. While they had acted like an entire Amen corner and cheered for her like they were watching Tech whip up on Georgia in what Georgians referred to as a little bit of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” they didn’t even pretend they were going to linger after commencement.
Re’ut didn’t blame them. Southerners could only go so long without sweet tea. The only reason she was north of the Mason-Dixon Line in the first place was because that’s where the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)—which was only the best school of design in the universe—was above the Mason-Dixon Line.
“Gimme,” her momma demanded right before commandeering Re’ut’s shiny, new MFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing.
“I worked really hard for that,” Re’ut half-heartedly protested knowing there wasn’t a hope in hell she was ever going to get her hot little hands on that again.
“Did you push ten pounds of baby out of your vagina?” her momma asked.
“Really didn’t need that visual.”
“I really didn’t need your massive head tearing open my vagina.”
“I could’ve gone the whole of my life without hearing anything about your vagina, Momma,” Re’ut protested.
“And I could’ve gone the whole of my life without ever having experienced an episiotomy so how about that?”
Re’ut felt like a character in a Capcom® game and episiotomy was a finishing move. The only difference was that she didn’t crumple to the ground as her innards spilled from her body. She was down but not out. Looking her momma in the eye, Re’ut pulled out her trump card. “I’m telling Dad.”
“Daddy,” she called, and just like always he was there.
Throwing herself in his arms, she put on the sad face and then narced. “Momma’s being mean to me.”
“Are you being mean to my baby girl, Naomi?” her daddy asked in that smooth baritone that tucked her in each night and woke her up each morning.
“Yeah, otherwise she’d be a certified shithead since you don’t know any limits when it comes to spoiling.”
Re’ut didn’t know what her daddy said with his eyes but she smiled into his chest knowing from her momma’s sigh that he was telling her momma off. Ha ha, she sang silently.
“I’m so proud of you, Daughter,” he said as he held her closer.
“You say that all the time.”
“Because it’s true all the time.” Stepping back, he lifted her chin. “You’re the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished.”
And just like that Re’ut crumpled. She’d never had a moment to doubt that her daddy wanted her. He’d sung “I love you’s” with his lips in all of the languages that he knew. He’d showed her his love by giving over his whole life to insure her happiness. But to hear those words from a man who held two doctorates, four masters and spoke six languages broke her.
“I love you so much, Daddy,” she cried. While she wasn’t a hardcore Bible thumper, Re’ut knew there was a God because she’d been gifted with the Doctor Naomi Kennesaw-Jones as a momma and Doctor Syracuse Gallant Kennesaw-Jones as a daddy, and the people of Mid-NFW as family.
“What y’all doing to my grandbaby?” Grandmommy Grace said as she swooped Re’ut up in an all-encompassing hug.
“Spoiling her,” her momma said.
“Well good. She deserves it. The inferior grandmommas and I made you some pound cake, a cobbler, and some banana pudding.”
Re’ut did an internal cheer. There were certain perks to being a Kennesaw and high end spoiling was one of them.
“Thank you, Grandmommy but didn’t we have a talk about referring to the other grandmommy’s as inferior?”
“Yeah, but I ignore dumb shit,” she said. “Make sure you bring our containers back. See you in a few days. Don’t kill nobody because we ain’t in a hurry to come back north,” her Grandmommy Grace had said before jumping on her Cannon Cascade custom chopper and going who knows where. For someone who proclaimed she didn’t like being out of the south, Grandmommy Grace sure as shit didn’t stay put.
After that, there was a parade of hugs and a chorus of oohing and ahhing. Five minutes after that, her clan threw up two fingers, shouted “deuces” and hightailed it to Warwick’s T F Green International Airport where they’d board the private jet of billionaire vampire royal, and fellow Mid NFW resident, Ianikut Aleksandrovich, who was too fine for his own good, and party like it was 1999. Of course, since Ms. Belva and the grandmommas were there, they might be partying like it was the year 09. As soon as Re’ut tied up a few loose ends, she was going to join them and spend a month of Sundays getting good and spoiled.
Right now, however, she was going to catch her breath. Pushing the big 3-0, Re’ut couldn’t hang out like she could when she was eighteen. She’d tried to tell Saratoga that but her self-proclaimed best friend wasn’t listening to anything that went counter to what she wanted to do. Still, Re’ut couldn’t help but like the spitfire who reminded her so much of her self-proclaimed favorite cousin, Halima. Saratoga Brown was one of the main things that convinced Re’ut that the Rhode Island School of Design was the place for her.
Five feet ten inches and two hundred pounds of ‘No Fucking Way’ Saratoga was always searching for a place to kick off some ish that would land them all on some kind of list. Saratoga was the first person she heard day one at the open house sponsored by the Division of Graduate Studies. Heard—not saw.
“Dibs on the black chick!” echoed all across the hall. Not caring about the fine art of subtlety, Saratoga bum-rushed her way through the sea of bodies and latched onto her.
“Saratoga, your new best friend,” she announced. Announced—not said.
“Let’s ditch this shindig and go somewhere awesome.”
“A, you could be a serial killer. B, who is ‘Saratoga?’ C, you smell young…like you still have breast milk on your breath.”
“A, you’re right…I could be. B, I’m Saratoga. First name: Saratoga. Last name: Brown. Middle name is on a need to know basis. C, I may be one of the youngest peeps in the senior class but I’m old enough to go to federal prison if I embark on a killing spree. Wait, that doesn’t sound all that reassuring about point A, does it?”
Before she could agree that no it didn’t sound all that reassuring, first name Saratoga, middle name ‘on a need to know basis,’ last name Brown answered her own question.
“No, it doesn’t but I’m not a serial killer although I could be under the right circumstances.”
“What proof do I have that you’re not a serial killer right now for no good reason?” Re’ut asked just because she was accustomed to having these sorts of conversations with her cousin Jupiter “TRO—Temporary Restraining Order” Kennesaw-Jones.
“Well, the fact that I’m walking around all free and whatnot.”
“That could mean one of two things: A, you’re not a serial killer or B, you’re just a really good at not getting caught.”
“You’re right but if I was hypothetically a serial killer, you should be my friend so I won’t add you to my ‘people to kill’ list.”
Ah, Saratoga had her at the word ‘hypothetically.’ Re’ut was most definitely going to hang out with this chick but first she had to yank the young one’s chain a little bit. Starting shit was, after all, the Southern way. Finishing said shit one started was the Kennesaw way. “If you killed me would you eat me with fava beans?”
“No, I like my pussy alive,” Saratoga said without missing a beat.
Re’ut couldn’t help herself. She burst out laughing. Saratoga was a crazy something but being that she herself was from Middle of No Fucking Where, Georgia—an area comprised of the cities of Delice-Patrale, Enatavimus, No Trespassing and Kennesaw Territory, Georgia—but simply referred to as Mid NFW, she was accustomed to crazy.
“Ah, Saratoga. You’re too cute.”
“I know. You’re kind of hot yourself though I don’t do chicks. So, are you coming with me or not?”
“Being that you don’t do chicks I guess I won’t be coming anytime soon but if you have a hot brother or three…I might come with them.” she said.
“Eww and eww some more.” Saratoga made choking sounds.
“Remember that my wit is much more developed than yours next time you want to cross words with me…or swords.”
“Remind me of that after I finish vomiting in my mouth at the thought of my monastery-bound brothers.”
“Are they hot?”
“Of course being they look like me but that’s not the point. They’re all going to the monastery.”
“Your family’s Catholic?” Re’ut asked out of curiosity.
“No, my family is comprised of kung fu fans so my brothers are off to Tibet to learn the ways of the fighting monks.”
“Any particular reason?”
“Because I need a personal army and yeah, my grandmomma said they had to take care of me.”
“Ah, so you’re spoiled.”
“Of course. Now are you coming or not. People are starting to look. Soon, they’ll try and talk to you thus horning in on my time,” she said loudly. Snarling a bit, Saratoga turned to one woman who’d gotten a little too close for her taste and gave her a warning. “Hey, get your own black chick. This one’s mine. I found her first.”
Grabbing Saratoga’s elbow, Re’ut steered her away from people (and thus trouble). “Okay, you’re obviously not a serial killer being you have no clue on how to be low-key, discreet and all that. So where are we going?”
“To get some real food,” Saratoga said.
“Oh, we’re going on a road trip to the south?” she asked.
“Um, no,” Saratoga all but turned up her nose.
“Oh, I know you’re not acting like something is wrong with the south,” Re’ut said.
“No acting is involved. Something is definitely wrong with the south.”
“Southerners primarily. I like my racism with a little more subtlety and my crazy a tad more refined.”
“I would expect something that ignorant from people who drink their iced tea without sugar.”
“Well at least northern liquor doesn’t all have the word ‘shine’ somewhere in the title.”
“Northern liquor also doesn’t have any alcohol anywhere in the ingredients either.”
“There is nothing wrong with an elegant Pinot Noir,” Saratoga said.
“Nothing at all if you don’t have taste buds.”
“You’re lucky I don’t like Pinot Noir or I’d have a whole lot to say about your dogging it.”
“Mmm hmm. When you’re about four inches taller, fifty pounds heavier and can buy cigarettes without getting carded then I might listen to your ‘whole lot to say.’”
“Okay, I’ll hit the gym and bulk up for a fight, then slide into some stilettos before I bring it.”
“You’re going to fight me in stilettos?”
“No, I wouldn’t fight you in stilettos. I’d tell you off in stilettos and direct my personal army of soldiers to fight you.”
“The fact that you are in need of a standing army hasn’t clued you in that you might need to change your life?”
“All great leaders need a standing army. Do you have wheels?”
“Of course I have wheels. Why?”
“Because I need to stop by the sports store before I take you to eat.”
“So let me get this straight: you basically kidnapped me and now you want me to do errands for you before you take me to eat?”
“How are you planning to convince me to take you to the sports store?” Re’ut asked.
“I’m going to play the ‘my favoritest grandmomma’s birthday is coming up soon and I need to get her a present.”
“You’re getting your grandma something from sporting goods store?”
“Yeah, that’s where I always get my grandmomma’s presents.”
“Do they sell orthopedic shoes there?”
“Don’t know but they have steel-toed boots there and that’s what I’m getting my grandmomma.”
And that was the bit that stopped Re’ut in her tracks. Sure, she got her grandmommy Grace Ellen something from the gun and ammo store each year and Halima got her something from the adult store, but that was neither here nor there. Regardless of whether or not she got some decent food was irrelevant…okay not really that irrelevant but seriously Re’ut needed to see the grandma who rocked Tims…and put her on the watch list that all the grandmas in Mid NFW were on. Them chicks was dangerous.
“Get in,” Re’ut said as she programmed her GPS.