Instructions: Read the short story and once you’re done (scroll to the end of the story) VOTE on whether this story should be turned into a novel or novella. And if you don’t think the author should keep going, we have a choice for that too.
“Ms. Jessie’s Girls”
Cynthia leaned over and stirred her pot of greens with a vengeance, the smoke, adequately clouding her wire-frame glasses.
“I know Frank has his issues but come on, there are too many dogs out here for you to be nit-picking every single thing about that brotha.” She came to the defense of her best friend, knowing how long it had been for him to get over his first love and even go out with Rudy.
Rudy slammed her hazel eyes Cynthia’s way while dicing up the prime cut of lamb on the wooden cutting board.
“You would say I’m nit-picking cuz you been in love with Frank forever. You can’t see his shortcomings, even with those big ol’ bifocals you be wearin’.”
Cynthia’s head whipped over and Vanessa stepped in between them. Firstborns tended to always be the mediator.
“Now y’all. Don’t do this,” Vanessa pleaded. “We gone’ have a nice family dinner today. Drama-free!”
The youngest, Kat, just shook her long flowing locks while munching on a piece of celery. She pushed around the salad in the bowl with a pair of tongs and checked her Instagram.
“She the one startin’ it, Vanessa. If I was in love with that boy, why the heck would I hook him up with you? Huh, Rudy? You tell me that.”
Rudy’s face crinkled into a sly smile. “Cuz. You know you can’t get him. And you know he been after me since we was in diapers.”
The stove called her attention like a newborn, spouting loud gurgling noises and Cynthia took a deep puff, trying not to let her snotty little sister affect her mood. “Yea. You right. He been after you. Because he know you an easy lay,” she added from her chest and Vanessa started a job of shimmying around the kitchen with her broom.
“I mean, y’all trippin’ over a dude is getting too old. I can’t tell you how many brothas we been fighting over since we hit puberty,” Vanessa piped with each sweep. She brushed Rudy’s manicured toes, accidentally on purpose, causing her sister to jump a little.
“Girl, watch where you aiming that thing!”
“Oh, I know where I was aiming.” Vanessa kept on sweeping. “But forreal, Rudy. You should give Frank more of a chance. At least we know he ain’t got no hidden baby mamas like the last knucklehead you was with.” Vanessa threw her the side eye and Kat let out a smirk with her head still buried in her phone.
“You would gang up on me and take her side,” Rudy huffed and Cynthia smiled while starting on the mac and cheese. “Al wasn’t that bad. He just didn’t have his child support up to par. That’s the thing that was holding him back. He couldn’t get ahead.”
“Yea. Cuz he had all them damn kids to pay for,” Cynthia retorted. She ran her bowl of noodles under the faucet in the strainer and added a little shake of her wide hips to let the water seep.
Kat laughed and Rudy mean-mugged Cynthia. “Now I know you not talking Ms. “I can’t remember the last time I had a man take me out”. Rudy’s long Brazilian sew-in flung to the side as she cocked her head, eyeing her sister. In response, Cynthia’s eyes grew slits.
“I had a date just last week. With Theo. I told y’all about that.” The truth was it wasn’t a date though. Theo was her go-to free meal from work and the only one she had been out with since her break up with Jeff three years ago.
Rudy scoffed. “Now you know Theo is a straight pushover. I mean a real date, Cynthia. Maybe if you actually had the nerve to make a move on Frank, he would be looking at you like more than a friend.” She grabbed the seasonings and started going in with the salt and pepper shakers.
“Sooo, I’m supposed to throw myself at Frank like you throw yo self at every man that comes along?” Cynthia’s voice stung from the hurt she obviously felt from her sister’s dig and she couldn’t help but take it out on the pour noodles while slinging a couple against the wall to see if they would stick.
Her momma had taught her this trick and, may her soul rest in peace, the woman had known a thing or two in the cooking department. Growing up, their table was always laid with the best meal on Sundays. Mama Jessie, for all her talent within the kitchen, had, however, never been able to set the right example in the men’s department.
At this point in time Vanessa was the only one out of all Cynthia’s sisters with a sustaining relationship and that was probably just because she had gotten pregnant at the right time when Tony was actually ready to commit. It was a pure shame they had lost that baby.
“Throw myself?” Rudy’s incredulous voice climbed in alarm and Vanessa latched her mocha-hued arm around her sister’s shoulder just in time.
“Hey!” Vanessa’s tone sliced through the malicious stare Rudy flung and Cynthia gave a slow shrug. Was it her fault her sister didn’t know how to close her legs when a man was around?
“What did I say? It’s been too long since we’ve done this Sunday dinner thing and y’all know mama is turning over in her grave at this ridiculous bickering.”
Vanessa had a hand rubbing on Rudy’s shoulder now which seemed to be doing its trick as it wilted beneath her touch. The tension oozed out of it like the melted butter Kat was pouring on top of the dinner rolls, probably more from the mention at Mama Jessie than anything else.
“Y’all know what I think?” Kat’s delicate tone streamed into the conversation and three pairs of multi-shades of brown eyes leapt her way. She tilted her doe-like eyes upward at the women who had gone before in her journey of being a Black woman.
“I think, I’m really grateful to have such strong, opinionated, females in my corner who will fight to the death to make sure I never give up on what I really want in this life.
And I think, mama is really proud of all of us for not settling and not giving in to whatever man has tried his hardest to smother us with his shadow. And I think that I’m really glad that even though we fight, we always make up, because we know we’re all we’ve got.”
Kat’s gripping words drifted into the hearts of her sisters, straddling their fingers and caressing each beat, ultimately leading them one-by-one to her side.
Cynthia was the first to speak as the women linked arms around each other over a group of mouth-watering dishes splayed out on the kitchen island.
“I know mama is proud of you Rudy. Your nail salon is booming and you taking that leap of faith to even step out and be an entrepreneur is more boldness than I’ve ever been able to tap into.” She bowed her head in a shy way and lowered her gaze.
“I know mama is proud of you Cyn. The way you bounced back from Jeff was amazing. I would have been still licking my wounds after a man played me like that, but you just kept it moving.”
“Awww, see. Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Vanessa pulled the girls in closer with a loving squeeze.
Cynthia wiped the moisture from the tips of her eyelids and ushered a silent prayer. She was thankful for all that Kat had said and even more for what her mama had taught them. As difficult as their sisterhood was at times, she knew, without a doubt, she could always count on them to be there. That was worth more than any misunderstandings that mounted between them.
“Come on y’all! Let’s get this meal done!” Vanessa was the first to break from their huddle like the quarterback of a football team and eventually they all trickled out with their individual dishes into the beautiful living room of her brownstone.
Cynthia asked when Rudy sank into the seat next to her, “You wouldn’t mind if I hit up Frank about this play I wanted to see this weekend, would you Rudy?” Rudy’s brows shifted upward in surprise before a soft smile broke through.
“Naw sis. He’s all yours.” She curved her lips upward even more and Cynthia grew warm inside. Maybe her sister was right. Maybe Frank would be open to something more after all.
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