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The nicest house Alva ever saw

For most of the night, Kitty stayed in Alva’s room. She sat in a big armchair by the window that looked out over the back garden. A full moon moved across the sky, so bright it lit even the city sky. While Kitty listened, Alva’s life story cascaded before her like a rushing waterfall. Kitty wanted Alva to start at the beginning. To place a logical, almost geometric pattern to the violent interruption in the life Alva must have been living – the life of a black girl in rural Georgia, a girl who must have had dreams, hopes, plans.

“How did you get to Brooklyn?” Kitty asked and then immediately put up her hand as if to say “Stop.”

“That’s not what I meant to ask. What I meant was … ” Kitty couldn’t find the right words.

“You wants to know how I got over it. Over them boys goin’ after me and spoilin’ me. That’s what you want to know, ain’t that right?” Alva asked, gazing out the window. “That’s what everyone want to know. At first.”

She didn’t say anything for a long time. Then she began again.

“At first, after it happened, I was afraid to go out my house. I stayed right by my Mama’s side like a baby. I cried all the time. And when I wasn’t crying I was lookin’ at my Mama as if to say, “Why you let this happen to me, Mama?’ Poor Mama. She cried a lot, too.”

Kitty was nodding her head. Alva could see her by the moonlight.

“You know what that’s like, don’t you? When your Mama’s so sad?” Alva asked.

Kitty answered slowly, “For years I blamed my mother for giving me away – no, I’ll say it like it was – for selling me to that man. I was consumed with anger and I felt abandoned. And then, after many years, I started to forget what she looked like and what her voice sounded like. And then I thought about the younger ones and how alone she was. And then I understood. She thought she was doing right for me. At least that’s what I thought later. Now I don’t know. If I was the mother and not the daughter, what would I have done? I really can’t say.”

“No we can’t be in their shoes and our shoes both. It just don’t work that way,” Alva said. “When my Mama and Daddy figured out I was carryin’ a baby, they tole me I would have to give it up, that they was too old to raise another one and I was too young. After the baby come, they tole me I was going north to my aunt Sebelia. She lived in Brooklyn. She had an apartment and her own grocery. So up I come and she took me in. She sent me to school and then she said I had to work after school to help out and that there was this old couple shopped with her and had her deliver food and stuff to their house. She said I was to start deliverin’ and to help them with whatever they needed. Putting the food away. Carryin’. Doing some cleaning. Laundry. I knew how to do all them things. So I went over to them with the groceries and that’s when I first come to this house.”

“They lived in this house?” Kitty asked.

“Yes indeed. Nicest house I ever did see.” Alva said.

Alva, Episode Ten

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