When Rainbows Aren’t Enough

The stranger shuts the door while I lay down the baby bag on the floor near the hallway gold lamp which I turn on, and then I notice who’s the stranger and it really spins me for a loop.
“Isiah, what the hell you doing here? Like this?” I had to stop myself from calling him all the negative things that laid in my heart. Why do this and now?
“I need some money.” A blank stare on his face greeted me while he shifted for something in his pocket, and then I saw them, silver bullets which he began to load in the gun. “Right now or I take your precious little girl.” A snarl on his face proved it.
I couldn’t believe it. I stood there with my feet glued to the ground. Even Imani stopped her playing and tears were gathering in her eyes as she watched my reaction. She’s such a smart little girl mostly because of her mother I believe.
Did I dream up this damn nightmare? The last time I saw Isiah he was out on Cermak Road trying to peddle some money from people. I can’t believe he went from being the player to being played by all his ladies and now he’s out here bad. I think Mom tried to tell me something about him but I just ignored her. Now looking at the same features I have, the strong chin, the round light eyes, the smooth skin -there’s a sadness to his eyes. And his skin looks flushed and awfully tired like he hasn’t rested in ages. He looks rough around the edges and starved.
And speaking of edges, Imani’s eye gaze is glued to Isiah as she begins to sign song Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Da-ddy!” to him coming closer to him.
“No, he’s not your daddy.” I speak softly. “This is your uncle, Isiah.”
“I-za-uh?” She questions to me.
“Yes, Isiah.” She looks so confused. I mean, why shouldn’t she be? We both look the same, except for the healthiness of our bodies and souls. I’m more defined and Isiah is not. He probably haven’t worked out since he gave up his player card and began trying to hustle old ladies for their credit cards and other things. Isiah is the one who makes Momma cries. With his addictions to Cocaine and Heroine, his womanizing, and his avoidance of responsibilities. He’s the one with children in several states including, here in Illinois, Kansas and Florida.
He probably ain’t paid his child support in years. And those women got to be struggling. I am pissed as I stand there glaring hate for my brother. On one hand I love him because he’s family. On the other, I hate what he has done and how Momma has treated him like a baby. Probably the reason why he hasn’t straightened up yet. And why he probably is on his way to jail again.
We stand there for a minute and I hear keys in the door and then the creaking of the front door signally Joie’s entrance.
My eyes peel away fear and try to replace that with happiness for I know if she sees fear in my eyes she will break down. I need her to be strong. Hell, I need to be strong. I soak in her beautiful figure when she rolls in the house, throwing off her black leather coat, I notice her hot pink and green gym shoes and the frown on her face, which means, she is still stressed from work. I hope she doesn’t notice this fool here where all black, holding a gun, but he’s hidden since he heard the jiggle of her silver keys and the soft sounds from her gym shoes. Yes, he’s a coward. Coming here. And to think I let this ignoramus come into my home, screw some chick, got into an argument with Joie about it and almost lost her love. Yes, this numbed out blockhead is back to mess up my life and it’s today. It’s today that he wants to come and interrupt my family, my life.
What a mess.
I notice the confused frown on Joie’s face as she drops her blue and white book bag. Her eyebrows are raised up in a zigzag as she asks me, “Hi, honey, why are all you guys standing here in the foyer?”
“Nothing. We just got here.” I move towards her to block the view of Isiah’s gun which was in her plain view. “Let’s go to the living room.” I dared Isiah to say a word even though I knew sooner or later he’d pull it out. The silent buzzing of my cell phone in my pocket reminds me I still have a chance to do something. Maybe go to the bathroom and dial Chi’s number and whisper for help.
“Mommieeee!” Imani pops up from the floor and jumps up to scream joy as she tattles away. “We had fun today. Went to the museum. It was fun…”
I hear the pounding of Imani’s feet go towards the living room and the lisp of my brother brings me back to the reality of the situation.
“Man, I want some money.” He whispered. “I don’t want no harm from ya’ll. Just need some money so I can handle my biz. You dig?”
He gestured towards his gun, which was thrust in his front pocket. He rubbed it like he was going to take it out again.
There was a sour taste in my mouth; the after taste of the cheese sticks with no crackers I had chomped on during Imani and my lunchtime at the Pier. Gazing at my brother’s light eyes, I had to wonder how he got to this place. Not only was he threatening me, he was interrupting my damn life. He had a lot of nerve.
I scanned the living room took in the nice place, Joie and I had gathered together during our short two years of marriage and stuttered. “Man, why don’t you take the television, and pawn it.” I felt the pinch of the vibrating cell phone which I had to ignore because I needed to see if I could possibly fix the situation. That probably was Chi calling me back.
“No. I need some real money. Like $1,000.” He muttered under his tongue and ground out, “Man, I know you got it. Look at all this.” His hand gestured to the Thirty-Five Inch Sony Television, our precious music collection which includes Oldies like Al Green, Ohio Players, JoDeci, New Edition, old skool rap, some contemporary Gospel and more. Our three hundred cds were organized by musical genre, in our black and silver, CD rack we got off of Storehouserock.com. The black leather couch and love seat faced Isiah and I as we stood off from the living room and there was a black smoky glass table dining room set which cost us at least $400.00 but who’s counting. We earned all of this stuff. He looks at it, as if it were easy to earn.
He’s looking for cash to burn and if he thinks I am going to give him that, he’s so wrong.
“Man, let me see what I can do. I’ll go get my check book and have Joie fix you something to eat.”
I had hoped that he would at least let me do that. Fidgeting in my pocket, I took out a $100 bill and stuffed in his hand hoping that it would fill his empty soul. At least it was something.
With a wicked grin on his face, “No doubt, this counts as down payment.”
He flipped the big wad of green dollars in the air, bent it, smelled it, and smiled. “Yeah, this is all good.”
I walked towards my wife and asked her what she was cooking. She caressed me on the face, gently kissing me, and I pinched her hips as she quipped, “Smothered chicken, homemade gravy, with sauteed onions and mashed potatoes. Is that okay?”
“It’s cool. Can you make an extra plate for Isiah while I go take care of something.” I lingered near her soft sweet skin and let my tongue stay there for a minute. When I looked up I saw Joie’s blush and Imani yelp,
“Oooh, Daddy, kissed mommy.” She covered her little eyes and looked through her fingers as I bent down to kiss her smelling her baby lotion that opened my nostrils instantly.
“Now, you girls take care and I’ll be right back.”
In a dazed state, I slowly let my feet take me to our bedroom, noticing the beautiful wedding picture on our green and black dresser drawer which revelead a thinner Joie and a more innocent me. I felt hesitation dance with my soul like it was on fire. The aroma of chicken floated back to the spot where I was and I let my fingers dig into my secret box under the second cabinet drawer. Flipping open the navy blue checkbook, I noticed that money was tight as usual and I wished we had the $900 remaining he needed, but I didn’t see it. Dang, now, what was I going to tell him.
I felt screams of doubt mock me as I searched my empty mind for a solution to this problem. I mean, I could call Chi and ask him if he had the extra money, but that man is always up shadiness. So is his brother, Shay.
Fear and anxiety knotted inside me like an unfurled ball of fire as I walked towards the living room. It was empty and I didn’t hear Imani’s two-year old chatter or any adult mutterings. I was nervous. Why was it so quiet. My heart was chanting panic to me as my feet shifted towards the kitchen.
A quick and disturbing thought filled my soul as I entered an empty kitchen.
There was no chicken smell at all.
I noticed a half-cooked portion of chicken legs in Joie’s favorite iron pot. On the counter space I saw a few potatoes and a knife but they were not even pealed. My eyes took a glimpse at the whole scene and sheer black fright swept through my body. I gripped the counter space with hands that were shaking so bad that I almost lost my tight grip.
A flicker of apprehension swept through me as I noticed a white note with black scribblings on it.
My eyes glazed over the hastily written words with a few word sticking out in my mind. STUPID BROTHER OF MINES…I TOLD YOU I WANTED MONEY. DON’T CALL THE POLICE. OR YOU WILL NEVER SEE YOUR WIFE OR CHILD AGAIN.
I dropped the note and fell to the floor and with it everything I ever thought I knew about Isiah disappeared.
When I woke up, I hear the ticking of the clock, the faint zooming of buses on Sheridan Road and nothing else. I feel the hard floor below me and cold slob from my mouth on the floor which I obviously felt asleep on. The salty after taste of whatever I ate a few hours ago is on my tongue and I pull myself off the cold ground as I whiff the lingering smell of Joie’s half-cooked meal.
My eyes squint in the darkness as I try to make my way to the living room and before I do, my ears pick up the “Sweet Sticky Thang” by Ohio Players sing loudly from my Cingular cell phone.

With a raspy voice I yell, “Yes.”
“You so stupid, brother of mines. I told you to give me the money. All of it. Now, you have to pay.”
Silence greeted me as I tried to respond but Isiah had already disconnected the phone. Awkwardly, I bumped my way through my empty home.
Missing her touch. Missing my baby. Missing the chatter of Imani. Missing taste of Joie’s sweet sweet lips.
I can’t believe this fool has kidnapped my family.
With trembling hands, I feel my way back to the bedroom and bump into the small dresser to the left of our King sized bed that was draped in Green and Black silk comforters and sheets. My eyes spots Imani’s Hello Kitty and big juicy tears roll down my face, I begin to sniffle and wonder why today? Through a maze of liquid that is streaming on my cheeks, I hear the single jingle from my phone again, except it know exactly who it is.
“Hey man.” My voice breaks as I answer, “Joie and Imani’s been kidnapped.”
“Hold on, dog.” Chi voices gets stern as he clears his throat, “Now tell me how it happened.

(c) 2006 by Pam Osbey

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