Chapter Excerpt

In Times of Trouble

CHAPTER 1

A Minor Issue


It took Lisa a few minutes to fully regain consciousness when she woke up and found herself in the living room. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep. Tucked away in an eastern suburb of Columbus, the Hampton household had been relatively quiet last night. With her mother and daughter out, Lisa took advantage of the solitary Saturday evening and just relaxed. Considering the many late nights she’d worked the previous week, she needed the break. Lisa spent the evening in her blue satin pajamas curled up on her cream plush sofa where she had apparently fallen asleep.

The sound of snow humming on her flat television screen was irritating and she quickly used the remote to turn it off. Noticing the time was 12:49 a.m., Lisa leapt up and ran through the kitchen to see if her car was in the garage. Nope, just her mother’s car, which meant that Chanelle, her seventeen-year-old daughter, had missed her midnight curfew!

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Lisa said to herself as she reached for the phone, flipping through the caller ID. She hoped Chanelle had tried to call when she was asleep, but was disheartened to find no evidence supporting her theory. She quickly dialed Chanelle’s cell phone, hearing the hip-hop music selection that preceded her daughter’s voice mail. She didn’t bother leaving a message.

Dashing up the stairs, Lisa knocked on her mother’s bedroom door as a courtesy, but didn’t wait for a response. “Mama?” She peeked inside.

Hattie lay like Sleeping Beauty underneath a tan comforter that blended in perfectly with her light skin tone. She looked so peaceful that Lisa really didn’t want to disturb her. She stood for a split second, admiring her mother’s beauty. Though she was in her mid-sixties, Lisa’s mother looked great—still-mostly-black hair, a shapely size ten figure and no wrinkles. Lisa hoped she’d inherited her mother’s genes and would also age gracefully. So far so good, but if Chanelle kept working her nerves, she’d surely look old and gray within a few years.

“Mama!” Lisa spoke with more force.

“Huh?”

“Sorry to wake you. . .I want to know if you’ve heard from Chanelle.”

“No, why? She’s not home yet?”

“No, but don’t worry. I’ll find her.”

Her mother quickly sat up. “Did you call Jareeka? Maybe Chanelle accidentally dozed off over there.”

The girl’s name was actually Gericka, like Erika, but Lisa didn’t bother correcting her mother, who was notorious for renaming people. “Calling there is my next step. I wanted to check with you first.”

Lisa ran back down to the kitchen where Chanelle’s best friend’s telephone number was posted on the small magnetic bulletin board attached to the refrigerator. By now it was a few minutes shy of one.

The phone rang several times before Marlon Young, Gericka’s father, answered.

“Hi! I’m sorry to call your house so late. This is Lisa.”

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“Is Chanelle there?”

“No, why do you ask?”

Lisa’s throat tightened. “She’s not here yet. Do you know what time she brought Gericka home from the movies?”

“I don’t know what Chanelle told you, but she didn’t go to the movies with Gericka,” Marlon firmly stated. “Gericka and Karen went to Louisville on Friday to spend the weekend with my mother-in-law.”

“I’m sorry. . .I thought. Never mind. I’m sorry I woke you.”

“It’s okay. I’m sure you’re concerned about your daughter. I pray she gets home safely,” he said, before hanging up.

With no other options, Lisa reluctantly dialed RJ’s number, which she had unfortunately memorized by now. She hated calling her ex-husband, but figured the situation warranted such an action. It was a waste of time because he hadn’t seen or heard from Chanelle either. As if his presence would calm Lisa’s nerves, RJ had offered to come over and wait with her until Chanelle arrived.

“No, thanks!” Lisa quickly declined. He always seemed to be looking for an excuse to be near her, but the only man occupying her time was Minister Freeman, whom she had been out to dinner with on several occasions.

“Please let me know the minute you hear from her,” RJ requested.

“I will,” she assured.

He had some nerve, acting like a concerned father when he was the reason why she and Chanelle had left Baltimore and come to Ohio in the first place. Had she known several summers ago when she moved here that he would follow, she would have accepted another job elsewhere.

Feeling her blood pressure rise with each passing second, she went back into the living room and sat on the couch. She began fiddling with the charm on the necklace she never took off, which had become a habit whenever she became nervous or angry. The time was exactly 1:07 a.m. and that meant her daughter was now sixty-seven minutes past curfew. Lisa was fuming!

Though the “God, please don’t let anything bad happen to her” prayer cycled through Lisa’s head a few times, she honestly didn’t feel a need to panic. For some reason, Lisa knew Chanelle was okay—wherever she was. Chanelle was okay now, but Lisa couldn’t promise that she’d be later when she finally brought her behind home and parental justice kicked in.

She did not understand why Chanelle would intentionally lie and violate her curfew. She was fresh off of punishment for talking back earlier that week. Lisa had asked Chanelle to get off the computer so she could type some information for work, but Chanelle had defiantly replied, “No!”—as if Lisa had really given her an option. Already stressed because of her work challenges, Lisa controlled the urge to snatch Chanelle out of the chair by her ponytail and threatened that if she didn’t move of her own accord, she would be moved. Chanelle got up without further objection but her attitude had struck Lisa’s nerve, so Chanelle had been placed on punishment.

Hearing the sound of her mother’s footsteps descending the hardwood stairs, Lisa leaned back on the sofa so as not to appear overly anxious.

“Chanelle still hasn’t made it home?” Her mother’s wire-framed glasses rested at the tip of her nose while a large green robe concealed her body.

“Nope. . .”

“Did you call Jareeka’s?”

“Yes, her father said that she and her mother are away for the weekend.” She felt herself tensing with every word.

“What about RJ? Have you called him?”

“He hasn’t seen her either.”

“Well, don’t come down too hard on her. Maybe she didn’t know Jareeka was out of town and when she found out, she decided to hang with one of her other friends instead. Now she should’ve at least called and told you, but she was probably so happy to get out the house that she forgot. Poor thing; it seems like she’s always on punishment. Sometimes I think you’re too hard on that girl. I don’t want to meddle—”

“Then please don’t,” the thirty-eight-year-old interjected in the most respectful tone that she could conjure up with a clenched jaw.

“All right. I’ll keep my opinion to myself, but I was merely going to say that you may want to consider extending Chanelle’s curfew. She’s practically an adult and it’s time you start treating her like one. Maybe then you’d be less likely to run into this problem.”

An electrifying jolt shot through Lisa’s body. The way she disciplined Chanelle had become a constant point of contention between her and her mother. Thank goodness Hattie would soon be moving into her own apartment! Lisa could not wait!

“That makes absolutely no sense!” she fired back. “What she is, is irresponsible. Why should I reward her for not being able to honor her curfew? And anyhow, she wouldn’t have been on punishment recently had she not been so smart at the mouth.”

“I wonder where she got it from. . .” her mother replied cynically, quickly disappearing into the kitchen and returning moments later. “Good night.”

“The same to you,” Lisa replied, continuing to stew as the clock read 1:21 a.m. The only other noise she heard was the emptying of the automatic ice machine until ten minutes or so later when a car pulled into the driveway. Lisa’s heart began racing when she saw flashing blue and red lights from the window. It wasn’t her car as she had thought, but a police cruiser. A gut-wrenching fear fell over her. Had something horrible happened to Chanelle? She felt guilty about being so angry and the missed curfew was now a minor issue compared to the concern that her baby might be lying in the hospital somewhere. Lisa was horrified by the unlimited possibilities of things that could’ve happened to her daughter. The pit of her stomach knotted as she sprang from the couch and raced to the front door.

Excerpted from In Times of Trouble by Yolonda Tonette Sanders
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