Tuesday, December 26, 2006



December 26, 2006
ISBN: 0-37386-006-4
Price: $5.99 / $7.99


National best-selling author, Deborah Fletcher Mello, is pleased to announce the release of her sixth contemporary romance novel, IN THE LIGHT OF LOVE. Known for her insightful, entertaining and poignant story-telling, Ms. Mello continues to enthrall her readers with her newest tale of love and seduction.

Leading a college youth ministry on a mission trip to the motherland, Talisa London is convinced that her destiny doesn’t include the incredible man she encounters at an Atlanta hospital fund-raiser. But when she and the magnanimous Dr. Jericho Becton find themselves working side by side in a war-torn African nation, both donating their services at a Ugandan children’s orphanage, they quickly discover that destiny’s plans go beyond both their imaginations. As danger lurks where they least expect, both are swept up in a wave of desire that leaves them breathless. But will they survive their mission with their love--and their lives--intact? Giving testament to the power of hope, courage, and resilience, IN THE LIGHT OF LOVE, is an engaging tale of faith, commitment, and the spirit of giving.

Continuing the vision that inspired the story, Ms. Mello will be gifting 50% of all royalties she earns between February 1, 2007 and June 30, 2007 from the sales of IN THE LIGHT OF LOVE to World Vision to be used toward food and supplies to aid the women and children suffering in Darfur, Sudan. World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.

The crisis in Sudan follows on the heels of two decades of civil war waged in northern Uganda. The Ugandan conflict left tens of thousands of civilians dead, witnessed at least 20,000 child abductions and displaced more than 1.6 million people. To date, as many as 10,000 people have died monthly since the conflict began in Darfur, Sudan, mainly due to pervasive – and preventable – disease and hunger. The brutal, ethnic conflict has driven over 2 million people into homelessness, their villages pillaged, burned, and destroyed. Health care is extremely limited, and killings and sexual assaults are rampant. With the lives of thousands of women and children threatened, Ms. Mello is hopeful that her gift will help to provide lifesaving food and relief to these children and families as they work to rebuild their lives.

Published by Harlequin’s newest imprint, Kimani Press, IN THE LIGHT OF LOVE will be available February 1, 2007 wherever books are sold. The Kimani Press Romance line is nationally known as the leading line of African-American romances, offering novels that are sophisticated and sexy, featuring the best in traditional and contemporary romance.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006



I'm off for the holiday and probably won't post again until after Christmas. There's just too much to do and I am quickly running out of time. But please come back again next week. There will be much going on and plenty of announcements. Until then, my best wishes to you all for a safe and blessed holiday season.

Thought I'd leave you with a little holiday entertainment. Just click the red button, enter your name in the little box, then click the arrow to start. ENJOY!

Friday, December 15, 2006


The press release for the new book has been written and approved. The January newsletter is almost finished and just about ready to go to print. Promotional packages are laid out with the envelopes addressed just waiting for my quarterly newsletter. And, I still haven’t done an ounce of holiday shopping. No, take that back. I have only completed an ounce of holiday shopping.

My marketing plan for the next book has come together quite nicely. I’ve got book signings scheduled from the beginning of February and running pretty well through the month of March. I fully intend to come off the holiday season hitting the ground running. I have a lot riding on my next book and not only for myself but for others as well because I’ve made the decision to donate a significant percentage of the royalties I earn on this book to others. Details of my donation intentions will come within the week.

I’m in a giving mood but I’m not interested in standing in some long department store line to purchase some item that I know is neither needed nor wanted. I’m approaching this holiday differently, the spirit of my giving rising from some place not even near my credit cards or checkbook. I want to make some joyful noise this holiday. Noise like I've never made before. I’m going to be exceptionally creative this year. Goodness knows what that might bring about! I've pulled out the craft box, the glue gun is heating, and we don't even want to start talking about the glitter!

And as I sit here and go down my gift list I realize that folks are going to be greatly surprised come Christmas morning when they open my presents. I can’t wait!

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Mr. Ben stopped by for a visit. He’s been under the weather lately and was very apologetic about having stayed away for so long. He was excited to share that the problem he was having with his “Johnson” (see Strictly Dickly – 9/16/2006) has been somewhat resolved. I didn’t ask how and thankfully he didn’t feel a need to tell me. He did however want to share his experience with his new lady friend’s daughter.

The lady friend (who’s moving much to fast for his liking) has three children, a “hellion" of a daughter and two “lazy ass” sons. Recently, the daughter had invited the two of them to her home to have dinner with her and her husband. Now bear in mind the daughter is probably in her mid to late forties. They had a very nice evening and after dinner the husband wanted to show Mr. Ben his gun collection. As men do, the two headed for the gun room to talk man talk, leaving the two women to their own devices.

Some time later the women come to check on the two of them. The lady friend is in a mood because she and the daughter had gotten into a tiff over a new tattoo the daughter had gotten. Mom doesn’t approve of tattoos. Of course, the husband came to his wife’s defense, noting that it was just “a little dragon on her hip”. Mr. Ben asked the lady friend if she had seen it and she replied, “no, she wasn’t interested in seeing no mess like that.” The husband again defends the tattoo and then says that Mr. Ben should just take a look and judge for himself. The lady friend says he can look all he wants but she wasn’t having any part of it and she and the husband leave the room to go get coffee and dessert.

Now, Mr. Ben is thinking the daughter is just going to lower the waistband of her slacks just a fraction for him to see, but no, my girl drops pants and panties to the floor. Mr. Ben damn near had a heart attack! According to Mr. Ben, “that girl had a cootchie that was as bald as a baby’s butt”. Mr. Ben couldn’t begin to imagine what had happened to all her “fur”. Of course, the minute he gets past seeing her waxed and polished he has to deal with the tattoo. The “small dragon on her hip” wasn’t quite so small. The tail of the dragon starts at the edge of her pubis and extends up and around her body, wrapping around her waist. The head ends dead center of her pubis with the tongue extended down toward never-never land. Mr. Ben said it got “right hot up ‘dere in ‘dat room”. The daughter gave him carte blanche to “look at it close up if he wanted”, but Mr. Ben made a quick exit instead.

Mr. Ben didn’t go into details about the experience with the lady friend while they were still in the daughter’s home because he didn’t want to stir up any trouble. But later, after the duo had returned to his home, he told the woman exactly what had happened with her daughter. Needless to say, the lady friend is mad as hell: at the daughter and at Mr. Ben. Seems Mr. Ben shouldn’t have wanted to look in the first place.

Mr. Ben thinks he’s going to have to let the lady friend go. She and her “crazy kinfolk” are just a bit much for him to handle. Besides, there’s a nice lady he recently met at a church social. She’s been married and widowed and has no children and as Mr. Ben concurred, “he’s sure she’s still got most of her fur”.

Now, although I found the tale extremely funny, I could just imagine Mr. Ben’s predicament. And while thinking about posting I searched the web for pictures of dragon tattoos figuring that I’d find an interesting image to attach to my post. Lo, and behold, did I find interesting! I just laughed so hard I almost wet my pants! Can you imagine this guy wining and dining a girl and getting her back to his place for some late night delight? Can you just envision her reaction if she doesn’t have a clue? There are no words. As soon as I can pick myself up off the floor I’m going to call and check on Mr. Ben and let him know what he saw wasn’t anything compared to what I’ve just seen.


As a little girl, weekend trips to my granny’s house were like traveling to wonderland. After my grandfather’s death, my granny lived with her older sister. The two women were like night and day. Granny was the free spirit who allowed you to stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching horror movies while snacking on chocolate cake and popcorn. Granny always prepared my favorite foods, and with her, there was only one rule: Break all the rules!

Her older sister, Aunt Janie, was the conservative sibling with many rules and regulations. She took me to church on Sunday mornings and insisted I sit through Sunday school. She dictated bath times, insisted at least one vegetable (usually collard greens) be consumed during a visit and dolled out punishment if she deemed such necessary. Aunt Janie taught me how to play bidwhist. Granny taught me how to play poker. Aunt Janie taught me proper etiquette. Granny taught me flirting skills. They balanced each other nicely and I have fond memories of the time I spent with the two of them together. Together they were a good time and whole lot of laughter.

One of my fondest memories of Aunt Janie was an old cedar chest that sat at the foot of her twin bed. It had been my great-great-grandmother’s chest and had been passed down from one eldest daughter to another. Aunt Janie had inherited it from her mother but she had no daughters of her own to pass it along to, having birthed two sons. Aunt Janie had let us play in that chest when we were small. I vividly remember peeking through its contents as she told me stories about her many treasures and there had even been a game or two of hide-and-seek played inside.

Years ago when Aunt Janie passed away I asked her son for that chest and had been denied. Needless to say I was disappointed, but I understood his wanting to hold on to it. It had much sentimental value to us all. Just over a month ago, out of the blue, her son called to ask if I still wanted the chest. He’d finally been able to find his way through sorting its contents and he wanted me to have it. I was ecstatic. To say I rushed to pick it up is an understatement, but I didn’t want to risk him changing his mind. When I arrived not only was I finally bequeathed the chest, very battered and bruised, but an array of its contents as well.

Inside, her son had found an envelope with my name on it. Inside the envelope were three pieces of jewelry. One was a beautiful cross of diamonds and sapphires that I’m told her son had gifted to her many Mother’s Days ago. The second was a silver cross, inlaid against a mother-of-pearl charm with the word Jerusalem engraved on the back, and the last, a well-worn piece of costume jewelry with much of the cut glass missing. The envelope also held my high school graduation program and an array of news articles that had marked my many accomplishments as I’d gone from childhood to adulthood. And although he did not give them back to me, her son said that he found every single holiday card I, and everyone else, had ever given her over her many years.

I had wanted to ask him about her bible but I didn’t. I remember her bible, a much read, leather-bound book that had been stored inside that chest. What I remember most about it was a photograph of a very handsome man that had been hidden between its pages. I had asked her once about him and had been admonished to stay out of grown folks’ business as she’d snatched picture and bible from my hands. She never revealed his name or their story and to this day the details of her secret have never been shared. I have often imagined the story between them, fantasizing a tale of love and seduction and, of course, a broken heart.

Immediately after receiving the chest I arranged to have it restored to its original beauty and yesterday, they returned it to me. It has been chilling to walk into my bedroom to see it sitting at the foot of my bed, looking exactly like it had looked back in the days of my youth. I can actually feel the story it wants to tell but the words have yet to come.

I have already begun to tuck my own buried treasure inside. I imagine the day my children will sort through its contents, knowing the history of some of it, wondering curiously about the rest. I can only imagine the stories they will spin about Aunt Janie, and me, and the mothers who had it before us. I marvel at the tales of history the chest will share about us all.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Being cute is hard work. It also involves a degree of time and effort that’s not so easy to come by. A modicum of vanity doesn’t hurt either. With a to-do list that is already miles long, I don’t have but so much time to worry about being cute. And I’ve never been particularly vain. I remember my mother admonishing me once as I stared at my reflection in the mirror that my face wasn’t going to keep me from being hungry. “Worry about what’s in your head and your heart,” she’d exclaimed, “‘cause pretty won’t take you but so far.” It was probably one of the last times I remember worrying about what I looked like and more importantly what others might have thought.

But I realized, as I was struggling to get through my resistance training this morning that I’ve been spending a lot of time lately worrying about being cute. And for the life of me, as I fought to get through that last set of chest presses, I couldn’t remember when the concern about my weight, and my hair, and my looks had become so consuming. Then it hit me as I was leaving the local post office a while later.

Standing in an annoyingly long line to mail a package I ran into an old acquaintance who was buying stamps. She and her male companion stopped to say hello. When she introduced me to her friend, remarking that I was an “accomplished author”, the look that man gave me had me wishing I could do a rewind, throw on some lipstick and comb my hair, and then push play all over again. His expression was all telling and I could just imagine what he must have been thinking because I looked like I was everything but accomplished.

I know I looked bad. I’d just come from the gym for Pete’s sake! My ponytail was dragging. The hubby’s old sweats were a few sizes too large and yes, I admit, they looked like I’d slept in them. My white sneakers weren’t white. My nails were a few days past due for a manicure and no one told me I had crumbs from my breakfast granola bar clinging to my chin. So what if my shabby chic was more like dumpster grunge? When he asked what I wrote and I told him I was published in the contemporary romance genre, he said “oh, I wouldn’t have taken you for a romance writer.” I would have asked what he meant by that but it was my turn at the counter and truth be told, I could tell what he meant. No man looking at me that moment was thinking any romantic thoughts!

As I got back into my car, checking out my reflection in the rear view mirror I spotted that damn granola crumb, and it was then that I realized that I’ve been getting a lot of those looks since I became published. Thus my newly found obsession to look more like the sultry divas I write about and less like something the cat dragged around and left abandoned in the yard.

My image has needed an infusion of energy and so I’ve been working to look more like an “accomplished” author and less like a writer who spends an inordinate amount of time alone, in her pajamas, typing away at a computer. Maybe I’m a little more vain that I realized, ‘cause I would really like to run into someone I know just once and not look like I just got slapped by the fugly bus. So, here’s to a little hard work ‘cause I plan on being cute the next time I’m in the supermarket and someone just wants to say hello.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I can't even begin to tell you what I was thinking when I wrote this. Then again, I probably could. But I won't. I'm sure it would only serve to get me in some trouble. Enjoy!

She sat on the side of the public pool, Lycra pretending to be a bathing suit stretched over her ample frame. Her thighs flapped thick like two sides of ham, breasts pushed up and out like large watermelons threatening to burst free and flap in the wind. Dark shades covered her eyes so no one would know who or what she was watching. But everybody knew. Aretha lusted after them teenage boys with their very manly bodies who played ball in the water at the other end. She’d sigh with much appreciation whenever one or more of them would race from one end to the other, hormones raging in bikini bottoms that nicely outlined candy Aretha longed to taste. Smooth flesh in shades of midnight, chocolate, burnt sienna, toast and honey caused Aretha to breathe heavily with wanting.

Aretha heaved a heavy sigh, air rising from deep in her midsection and swelling through her ample chest before blowing hotly past her full lips. Closing her eyes she shook her head, shaking the clouds of fantasy that threatened to consume her attention. She sat alone today, no sister by her side. It felt unnatural to her, Aretha thought as she twisted against the vinyl lounge chair, the plastic leather sticking to the flesh along the back of her legs and across her shoulders.

On any other day, Roberta would usually be with her, but sister and her boy toy had left early that morning, boarding American flight #267, non-stop to John F. Kennedy Airport. Aretha smiled. Her sister had gotten sure ‘nuff lucky with Butch Williams. Nine years younger than Roberta, Butch Williams was one nicely packaged man. Glossy skin the color of salt water toffee lay tightly over muscles that rippled into tense bulges. Aretha had salivated with envy the first time Roberta had taken her to watch Butch lift weights. He’d lifted the metal barbells as though they were metal Q-Tips being tossed upwards into the air. His tight shorts had penciled the outline of his manhood with bold, even strokes and Aretha had wanted some of what her sister had. Not all of it, but just a little taste. She’d even been so bold as to try to tempt Butch with some of her own honey, but Butch had taken no notice and Roberta had soon called her on her game, putting her squarely in her place.

Aretha sighed again, reaching to pull her bathing suit out of her posterior cavity, the material starting to rise up into her crack. On the other side of the pool, a thin woman, waved frantically in her direction, calling out her name.

“Hey there, Aretha!”

Aretha flipped a weak hand back. “Hey there, Tina.”

“You comin’ to class today?”

Aretha shrugged, wanting to tell the petite blond to go drown herself. Instead she lifted herself from where she sat, dropping her shades into the beach bag by her side.

“I’m comin’, Tina.”

Tina Phelps was the water aerobics instructor for the local health club. She’d made the two Moten sisters her mission and anxiously sought them out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for her ten-thirty class. She was glad to see at least one of them on any given morning.

Aretha threw her body into the pool with a large splash, quickly immersing herself beneath the icy water. “Hot damn,” she cursed, swimming over towards Tina. “When you people gone put some heat in this damn water?”

Tina laughed. “You know it’s only cold for the first few minutes. I’ll have you sweatin’ up a storm before you know it.”

Aretha grunted, rolling her eyes.

“Where’s your sister today?”

Aretha shrugged, rolling her eyes again. “Didn’t put no leash on her this morning. She could probably be anywhere by now.”

Tina chuckled as the familiar faces that made up her morning class dropped into the water to join them.

Aretha smiled and nodded her hellos as each of them greeted her. Irene Hill was the only one who didn’t have anything to say to her, not even bothering to look in her direction. Irene knew better, Aretha mused, the thought crossing her mind just as it did each time she was in Irene’s company. It wasn’t Aretha’s fault that Irene’s husband had chased her those many years ago. Aretha had just let herself be caught and when it hadn’t been worth her energy, she’d let him go, hard. Irene still burned hot with spite.

Aretha could have understood if the man had possessed something worth Irene being hot over, but what he had to offer didn’t amount to more than a bland frankfurter with no bun. Two bites and you were done with it, the taste not even lingering against your tongue. Aretha liked a man who came with the works: chili, spice, onion, and slaw. A man who left you wishing you had ordered just one more of him with a side of fries and a thick milkshake. What Irene needed was to slip out and get herself a real meal instead of settling for that snack she was married to. Aretha laughed softly as she propelled herself through the water behind Tina. Yes, yes, yes, she thought to herself, glancing toward the boys at the other end of the pool. There was nothing like a full meal to satisfy a girl’s appetite.
Excerpted from The Tears of Delacroix - All rights reserved © Deborah Fletcher Mello


I survived a new stylist and although I left the salon looking like I had a poodle on top of my head, I couldn’t complain. I had been thoroughly entertained. And of course, I proceed with the usual disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Sandra, a very young twenty-something with two kids still in diapers, has been dating Tom, Dick, and Harry. And it would seem that Tom, Dick, and Harry have now fathered Sandra’s soon-to-be-born third child. Tom, Dick, and Harry are thrilled, each of them joyously contributing to the new baby’s needs. Tom purchased the stroller. Dick bought an assortment of nursery supplies, and good old Harry shelled out the bucks for a brand new SUV outfitted with three baby seats. Sandra was hardly fazed by the fact that she has now fabricated a bold face lie for these seemingly loving and responsible fathers-to-be. Her dilemma was how to keep Bob, the real baby daddy (she thinks) from ever finding out ‘cause Bob ain’t got no job, lives with his mama, and apparently is really lacking below the waist. Juggling the men in her life has apparently become a full-time job for the girl and from what she shared she’s being paid quite well. As Sandra regaled us with tale after tale, she said to me very seriously. “You should write a book about my life, Ms. Mello!” And all I could think was I’ll wait until Maury Povich runs all the DNA tests ‘cause I imagine she’s going to have a few “you are not the father” moments.
Sandra lasted through my relaxer. Eve came in while I was being washed and conditioned and picked up where the conversation left off.
Adam is the type of man a woman could easily fall in love with. He says and does all the right things and Eve is totally captivated by his charms. Unfortunately, Adam has a wife. But Eve was convinced that she and Adam were destined to be more than just employer and employee. She’s so convinced that she decided to go out a on limb and let Adam know how she feels. She envisioned him pronouncing his love and devotion once learning of hers. A passionate first kiss would follow and the rest would be a love story for the history books. Eve set the stage for an after-hours tete-a-tete where they could spill their souls to each other. Little did Adam know a few overtime hours to take a surprise inventory would net Eve a very big surprise.

Once the doors were locked and the two were alone, Eve laid her cards, her breasts, and her crotch on the table, hoping that Adam would want to partake of it all. But Adam put the brakes on real quick. Seems he had to be totally forthcoming and honest with Eve since she didn’t truly know all there was to know about him. But what didn’t she know? Eve was sure they’d shared absolutely everything about each other. Then Adam dropped his bomb.

It seems Adam use to be Amanda. Adam was sexually reconstructed back in 1992. Adam’s wife Lisa use to be Louis. Louis had traded in his boy parts for girl parts right after meeting Adam. And both were completely and totally committed to the relationship and each other. And Eve? She was totally pissed ‘cause Adam hadn’t been the least bit interested in her breasts or her crotch.
Want to hear other folk’s crazy stories? Just tell them your a writer, looking for a storyline, and ask them to share.

Image Credit: At The Hair Salon by Andrew Kamondia

Monday, November 27, 2006


“Welcome, baby!” Phillis Wheatley exclaims as Dorothy West wraps her in a warm embrace.

“There is a seat for you here,” Lorraine Hansberry calls out from the table where they have all gathered, each holding court when it is her turn.

As Zora guides her to a cushioned throne between Audre and Octavia, she smiles her brilliant smile.

“Young, gifted, and black,” Lorraine chimes as she leans to pat the back of her hand gently.

“Joining us much too soon,” Ann Petry intones.

“Not for us to say,” Alice Dunbar-Nelson muses, sipping from a heavenly cup of tea.

“But it’s being said none the less,” says Audre.

“Where am I?” she asks, in awe of the mothers and daughters who had come before her.

They all smile. Zora chuckles softly. “In a room full of free women,” she answers.

“Where the beauty of your words will continue to light the stars of heaven,” Octavia adds.

“Heaven,” they all chime in unison.

“Won’t you share something you’ve written?” Ann asks. “I do believe it’s your turn.”

“And introduce yourself properly,” Phillis says sternly. “Let all the angels know who you are and what you do.”

She smiles again, as they each pull a book into their hands. “Thank you,” she says, as all eyes are upon her. “My name is Bebe Moore Campbell and I am a daughter, a mother, a wife, a friend and an author.”

“Young, gifted, and black,” choruses through the room.

“Joining us much too soon,” echoes off the walls.

“But here, in heaven, in a room full of free women,” she answers, “still sharing the beauty of my words.”

Bebe Moore Campbell
1950 - 2006


Years ago a close family member was shot at point blank range by her ex-husband. The divorce, which had happened two years earlier, had been amicable. Or so we all thought until that fateful afternoon while preparing her two young sons for their weekly court-ordered visit with daddy that she opened her front door to him holding a small caliber weapon and unloading six shots into her chest.

By the good grace of God, she survived, stronger, wiser, and more cautious for the experience. But, so did he. If I remember correctly, the charge of aggravated assault (because he said he really wasn’t trying to kill her) only netted him two years in the state penitentiary. A few months of good behavior saw him released early. Imagine our surprise a year or so later when he showed up for my maternal grandmother’s funeral extending his teary-eyed condolences and a pound cake from the local Piggly Wiggly supermarket. I know I didn’t eat any cake!

I can’t tell you why this man snapped but snapped is clearly what he did. I remember thinking at the time that women shouldn’t play with a man’s emotions ‘cause that’s a game that could very well lose them their lives, and not to say that it was her fault, because it wasn’t. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, he just seemed to think so.

I have a male acquaintance whose behavior scares me to death. Unfortunately, the woman he’s obsessed with isn’t as concerned as I believe she should be. This man is highly educated, reasonably intelligent, active in the church, a charismatic pillar of the community, and a walking poster child for good love gone bad. He’s a ticking time bomb and I honestly believe it won’t take much for him to snap.

The couple have dated on and off for a few years. Although she has been exceptionally straightforward with him about just wanting the relationship to be casual, he hasn’t even begun to accept that. When his behavior became possessive, she dumped him, hard. His feelings were visibly hurt but they remained on friendly terms. Her definition of friendly meant they occasionally talked on the telephone and might have even enjoyed an evening of dinner or a lunch date every few months. His definition of friendly was to send her multiple emails professing his undying love every half-hour.

He has erected a shrine in his home, a sanctuary filled with her photos. His days are fueled by fantasies of a future they will eventually share together because he’s convinced she is the love of his life. He has not, in the ten years I’ve known him, even ventured to date anyone else. For a very good-looking, successful, accomplished man with a reasonable degree of intellect, there is just something not right about this.

Two years ago she met a man who captured her heart and soul. They have since made a home in a house that they purchased together and she is sporting a very nice diamond engagement ring that leaves little doubt about the nature of their relationship. Her friends are thrilled for her. We understand that she is living out her dreams.

Her stalker on the other hand has decided to stake a claim and mark his territory. When his last communication came out of the blue, professing yet again his undying love and detailing the specifics of how he wanted to propose, when and where they would marry, and why she should commit to him and not the other, I advised her to get a restraining order, dye her hair, change her name, and get as far from the lunatic as possible. The man is delusional and quite a few cards short of a full deck. She doesn’t think he’s problematic but she sent a short and sweet reply that said she wasn’t interested and either he accept that or they could never again be friends. Your average Joe would take the hint because she left nothing to the imagination about how she did and didn't feel.

Dr. Jekyll, however, switched personalities real quick and has been overly apologetic ever since. He doesn’t want to lose the friendship. I think it’s the calm before a potentially dangerous storm. I hope I’m wrong, and for all the well wishes I want for her happiness, I am also praying that this man doesn’t one day, just snap.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


It’s the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day and I am thankful to be up and standing, in reasonably good health, and definitely high spirits. I am at this moment doing the second thing in this world that I love most doing. I am lost in the warmth of my kitchen, the delectable aroma of candied yams, cheesecake, macaroni and cheese, and other assorted foods wafting through the air. My son thinks I’m crazy to be cooking a full meal when we will be celebrating the holiday elsewhere. He reminds me that we will be able to pile plates full, wrap them in tin foil, and cart it all home if we want. He does not understand that this has very little to do with the food.

I find great comfort in my kitchen when I am whipping egg whites into stiff peaks and folding them gently into a creamed batter. It is especially calming to drizzle melted chocolate atop an iced and layered seven-tier cake. My mind and spirit soar as I knead bread and mix batter or prep the meats and vegetables for a family meal. And even though the bulk of my family is not here to share it, I am thankful. The simple act of cooking brings me sheer joy.

As I pulled cheesecakes from my very old oven it was apparent that we will soon need to invest in a new one. And even as I ponder where that may or may not fit in the budget, I am thankful. Knock on wood, my twenty-six year old food processor still performs as if it were brand new. I am thankful. The hubby is snoring softly, finally able to rest after a long and arduous day of work. I am thankful. My body is tired but I am still energized, still able to maneuver preparing the breakfast casserole around the cleaning of the collard greens and the baking of the pies. And, I am thankful.

I am blessed beyond measure. And each and every day that I am able to get up and out of my bed, put my feet on the ground, and get through a full day, I know that I have so very much to be thankful for.

Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


In the name of research I spent a few hours in an ADULTS ONLY store. This establishment has only recently opened and is owned by an outrageous, gregariously funny mother of four. When I first walked in I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights because I was just amazed at all the stuff that lined the walls and shelves. I thought I was playing it off as I maneuvered my way over to the lingerie section to get myself acclimated but I obviously wasn’t doing that good a job.

The owner greeted me warmly, then politely said, “The plus sizes are on those three racks over there.” I guess I didn’t look amused because she laughed and then said, “Honey, you’ll never get your girls in any of those things there. I promise you that rack will be way too small for all your stuff.” Now had I been in a different mood I might have walked out but the moment was suddenly too funny and all I could do was laugh with her ‘cause I knew she was right. The 34B lace demi-cupped bra and thong set in my hand would barely have covered one of my girls let alone both of them. And, the thong looked like an extra small band-aid with dental floss. The set was not made for a woman with serious curves.

The laughter led into some great conversation as I began to ask questions and she told story after story about opening the business. And when I told her what I did and why I was there she gave me a guided tour of the place, describing in fairly graphic detail some of her product line.

Now, I have to tell you, many of these new sex toys on the market scare me. And not to say I’m prudish or opposed to shaking things up in the boudoir, but some of these gadgets look more like torture tools than pleasure paraphernalia. I remember when vibrators looked like penises, which I thought was the point of a vibrator. The new breed comes with attachments that make them look like fairly deformed penises. One of her more popular sellers is the Wascally Wabbit Vibrator and it has ears and things that can be tucked in more than one crevice at the same time. And then there was the Clitoral Hummer that boasted a label that said it was waterproof. Seems you can use it in the bed and the bath with no problems. I didn’t dare ask what would happen if it wasn’t waterproof. Let’s not forget where you play with it. Does it short out mid-orgasm or something?

This was a full-service store, from videos to instructional classes for the more daring individuals. There was a lot more than a little something for everyone. Candles aren’t just candles anymore. She had some that melt into massage oils that can be consumed orally. There were gizmos that weren’t for the faint of heart and some very interesting fetish gear. I was half tempted to buy this cute little pick penis ring thingy that claimed to satisfy you and your partner but I knew the hubby would have sent me packing to the nearest psych ward if I had asked him to tuck his equipment into something that resembled a cherry lifesaver.

Her eldest daughter, aged eighteen, came in from school as I was peeking through a basket of thongs and undies. Seems she inherited her mother’s humor, commenting when I picked up a pair of crotch-less panties, that “those are made especially for lazy people or the front seat of a pickup truck in a McDonald’s parking lot”. Her mother laughed and I started to ask how would she know but then I figured I would just let that alone since she probably would have told me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Writing doesn’t pay my bills. Most folks think just because you actually have a book, or two, or seven, published by a major publisher, then you just have to be rolling in dough. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily so, most especially if the only thing you’re published in is romance and your career is kind of middle-of-the-road. I'm not a newbie, but I haven’t attained superstar status yet. Attaining national, best-selling author status has many a perk, but financial reward has yet to be one of them. Truth be told, my writing doesn’t even come close to supporting me. If I had to depend on my writing to eat, I’d be hungry more times than I’d probably care to count. Depending on how you look at it that might not be a bad thing since I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to diet.

Thanks to the husband I eat fairly well. I told him he’d eventually come in handy for something and since I embarked on writing and getting published he’s come in very handy ‘cause the bills still have to be paid whether I’m being paid, or not.

With my corporate experience I periodically do freelance work and some consulting. I’m a pro when it comes to procedural evaluations. Most especially in small businesses. Defining what works and what doesn’t in order to make a business run more effectively has been one of my specialties. One reason I’ve been successful with it has been my hands on approach. I can’t tell you what’s not working if I’m not down in the trenches experiencing what’s going on first hand. It has made for some very interesting moments and afforded me much experience in numerous professions.

I’m working for one such company right now. I’ve actually run the cash register, stocked the shelves, interacted with the customers and have learned the subtle nuances that one only gains by doing the actual work. And what I’ve learned in this particular business is that consumers aren’t only finicky but they can be less than loyal for very unselfish reasons. I’ve made suggestions and many of the recommended changes have been effected. Just as many haven’t been. Sure, I can tell a business owner what I think needs to happen for his business to be more efficient because that’s what he’s paying me for, but I can’t tell him how to run his business. He’s going to do that his way no matter if it works or not.

And the whole point of this post is to give myself one good swift kick in my very wide behind. Sometimes I forget that I’m a writer and I’m running my own business. I have a responsibility to myself to stay published, promote my work, gain name recognition, and write. Lately I’ve done a piss poor job of doing my job. I’ve been telling myself what I think I need to do, but I haven’t been doing it. And that changes right now. The old way hasn’t been working well for me. I've been less than efficient. I think I’ll try the right way and see if that doesn’t make some kind of difference.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


One year ago today we lost our son, Allan Jr. He died from cancer complications. His young life ended abruptly after an unexpected diagnosis of a rare T-cell lymphoma that had spread too quickly through his body. A few short months of chemotherapy treatment served to aggravate his condition rather than help it.

My son knew he was dying. Even while he and his wife were researching treatments and we were all proclaiming that he would beat the cancer and survive, he knew. He knew it before the rest of us could even begin to think about wrapping our minds around the possibility. I didn’t see it back then but I truly believe it today. And I believe that he tried to prepare me so that I could prepare everyone else.

He’d kept a journal right after his diagnosis. A private space for him to share his thoughts and reflect on all he was going through. The last day he was admitted to the hospital he gave me that journal and told me to hold onto it. He said that I would know what to do with it when it was time. I’d attributed his somber mood to his just not feeling well and I dismissed it. I’d even joked about him wanting the book back before I got a chance to get out of the door, afraid that I might peek inside, and I remember the faint smile he gave me back, no hint of humor in his eyes.

His last words to me came out of the blue and they threw me off guard. As I’d leaned to kiss his forehead goodnight, he’d stared straight into my eyes and he asked me point blank, who would raise his children when he was gone. I dismissed that too, my head waving frantically as I told him not to think like that, to be positive. I went home with that book, tucking it away in my desk drawer, determined that I would give it back to him the day we would be taking him home, determined that he would be there to raise his babies when all that bad mess was done.

We never spoke again after that. The next morning they called to say he had to be incubated to help him breathe. Before we made it to the hospital his kidneys had shut down and they were rolling in the dialysis machine. We sat by his bedside for two more days as every major organ in his body suddenly failed him and machine after machine was attached to keep him going. As a family we held out hope for a full recovery even after the doctors had told us for the second time that there was no hope.

Reflecting back on our final days together and all that was spinning around us during that time, I am suddenly struck by events that I can now remember with vivid clarity. They were just vague moments in time while we were going through them. I remember the women who stood in my kitchen and washed my dishes day after day. I remember the friend who swooped in with bags of groceries and trays of food insuring that my full house could easily be fed. I am in awe of my sister-friends who wiped my tears and held my hand and told me that I could do what seemed impossible to even imagine doing.

I remember the soldiers who came one by one to see him, sometimes ten or more at a time. I can suddenly see their faces, the looks of helplessness and despair, love and concern spilling out of their eyes. I remember the army chaplain wiping a tear from my son’s eyes, his faith and spirit lifting up my own. I remember the arms of a stranger who hugged me as I sat alone in the waiting room, needing just a moment to catch my breath and regroup. I remember my granddaughter pronouncing to a neighbor that her daddy was going home to heaven and a room full of grown men falling quiet, not quite sure how to respond. I can see her hand tucked tightly beneath one uncle’s, her arms wrapped tightly around another’s neck. I remember my grandson holding his daddy’s hand as he read to him from a Harry Potter book, the rich tone of his small voice filling the quiet in the room. I remember seeing my husband cry for the very first time.

I can still see the ICU nurse who cried quietly as our family stood over him, each of us wishing a silent prayer skyward just minutes before his life came to an end. And I remember the loving tone of the woman who extolled just minutes after his passing, that we could only imagine what a wondrous moment our son had just experienced, seeing the face of God for the very first time.

I understand now that Allan Jr. had been ready for that moment. His words seemed to say so in that precious journal that I had been entrusted with. He’d written letters to his wife and children inside, loving expressions saying goodbye. And, he’d made peace with God, believing that the Lord had a mission for his life that he was not meant to question.

I miss my child. I miss my friend. And when I miss him most, I have only to look in his father’s eyes, hear his brothers laugh, see his children’s faces, to know that his spirit is still with me, still keeping me in check, still inspiring me to be well and do right and stand strong.

I miss you, Allan. I miss you, my favorite son. I will love you always.

In Loving Memory of Allan Miquel Mello, Jr.
November 11, 1969 - November 3, 2005

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Lord, have mercy! I just couldn't help myself!

I don't necessarily celebrate Halloween, most especially now that the young'uns is all grown up. It's not like when they were little and I would make them these really cool costumes to wear. I use to get a kick out of that and I have the many photos to remind my brood of just what a good time I had. (And no, this is not one of them.)

For me the day marks the beginning of the holiday season and I love the holidays. I'm like a little kid in a candy shop come Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year the holidays sucked big time. We didn't even bother to put up a tree. This year I plan to make up for that. Might even have me two trees if the moment moves me.

I'm approaching this holiday season with a renewed spirit. It feels promising and I'm excited about the prospects. So, for those of you who get into the ghouls and goblins, have a great day! For those of you who don't, have a great day!

And to all of you, I thought I would share the pumpkin a friend shared with me. Doesn't it just make you want a large slice of pie?

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I purposely don’t make writing the main focus of my blog. Although I may share my writing experiences and dilemmas as the moment moves me, I don’t feel that I have the expertise to tell others how or what or why in a professional capacity. I had an author-acquaintance (notice I did not say friend) comment that I should be blogging more about the art and craft of writing instead of the “mindless mutter” that I do share, and most especially because I am a black, female author, but I strongly disagreed. It was truly an “oh, hell no” moment. To put it more politely than I put it to her, this is my space and I will blog what I want and for no other reason than I can. If you like it, please come back and do tell a friend. If not, well then it was nice you stopped by for a visit but I certainly understand if you don’t come back again.

Folks looking for writing and publishing how-to can find such easily. There are plenty of blog and web sites that offer an abundance of information, more than any one writer may ever need. I personally frequent www.aalbc.com, www.sormag.com, www.rawsistaz.com, www.book-remarks.com, www.blogginginblack.com, www.romancingtheblog.com, and a host of others for info on what’s happening in the marketplace, with black-authored books, with the romance genre, or to seek writing advice. They’re all great resources to draw from. The folks who maintain these sites know their stuff and do a damn fine job of making information available to those who want it. I take my hat off to Troy, LaShaunda, Tee, Cydney, and the collective literary professionals who do what they do so well and with so much passion.

Writing, and writing well, comes with a long list of challenges. Publishing and all its idiosyncrasies only add to that list. Since becoming published I have found those challenges akin to climbing Mt. Everest with no legs, five hundred excess pounds, and an irritating itch that you can’t reach ‘cause frostbite is nipping at your nubs. This business is hard work and nothing I can say or share is going to make it easier. Toss in the inevitable politics and its a wonder more authors just don’t toss in the towel and change careers.

At the crux of my conversation with this person was the current discussion wafting over the internet about racism in publishing. Lines have been drawn and authors across the board have taken sides about niche marketing and the treatment of black authors versus their white counterparts. The issues being raised are particularly prevalent in the romance and women’s fiction genre. As would be expected you have the voices of reason, the voices of malcontent, and the thundering silence of voices that just don’t want to get caught up in the fray.

Discussions on racism are emotional tidal waves empowered by each individual’s personal experiences with it. Discussing race will easily bring out the very best and the absolute worse in people. Always has and always will. I applaud those who are willing to step front and center to voice their opinions. Authors, Monica Jackson and Millenia Black have much moxie and I applaud their efforts because I know they are taking some serious hits for not biting their tongues. Neither do I begrudge anyone who doesn’t speak out. Not everyone has that kind of chutzpah. I respect that we all have the right to our choices and that we have the right to respectfully disagree. I would never disparage anyone whose opinion was not my opinion. Of course, not everyone is as respectful.

As far as Deborah and the topic of issue, where I stand and what I choose to say or not is between me and my conscience. Years of being told that I was too white to be black and too black to be white has made me acutely aware of the emotional impact the subject of race can have on an individual’s psyche. When I think it’s necessary and appropriate I make my position known by what I write, what I read, and how I spend my green.

So, with me, I don’t know from one day to the next what I may blog about. I may wax philosophically one day and ponder the dynamics of dryer lint the next. But what I will always do, is try to give you a good story, a great tidbit, a moment of reflection, or a belly-shaking laugh. And, I will always try to give you the best of who I am and all I represent. The rest of it I’ll leave to the experts.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect the guilty.

So, Jackie was bemoaning her man problems this past weekend at the beauty salon. Her man, Jack, has been giving her mixed signals and she’s gotten caught up in that drama that being in love can land a soul in. All was peachy, keen, and dandy in the beginning. Brother was sweating her big time – romantic dinners, expensive trinkets, and weekend excursions that didn’t just include the bedroom. Girlfriend fell and fell hard and just when it had gotten too good to her, Jack started to distance himself with no explanation for his cooling behavior. Jackie tried to play it cool, like she wasn’t but so bothered by it, but beneath her smiling facade, her heart was being ripped to shreds.

The last time they talked Jack told her that he really cared for her, that he couldn’t call it love, but that she definitely moved his spirit. A girl could have gone into insulin shock from all his sweet words. Then he ended the conversation by telling her that she was one of his many bees, like a worker bee. That’s right, BEE, as in buzz, buzz, sting, sting. Seems he’s got a few worker bees but he hasn’t yet selected any one of them to be his Queen Bee. For Jack, she was just a small but necessary cog in the larger picture of his existence.

Now this should have been a very large red flag for Jackie that she just needed to let this brother go. I mean, he’s comparing her to a bug, for Pete’s sake, but hey, her heart just wasn’t hearing it. So, like most women, Jackie goes back for more ‘cause one insult hadn’t stung quite enough. It had hurt but it hadn’t yet cut deep. Jackie showed up at the boyfriend’s place of employment to surprise him for lunch. She’d prepped some Southern fried chicken, macaroni salad and strawberry shortcake for them to share, packing it in a too cute picnic basket complete with matching wine glasses and sparkling grape juice. Imagine her surprise when Jack was sitting there enjoying lunch with one of his other “worker bees”. And not only did he barely acknowledge her, he instructs one of his employees to give her a hand like she was actually there to do some shopping. Not only did she have to eat that picnic lunch alone, but she ended up buying $20 worth of stuff she didn’t need just to make a graceful exit out of the joint. Jackie left with a raging case of jealousy and not one drop of common sense to see that Jack just ain’t all that.

Now, Jackie should have been too through with this man, but no, she still believes there’s something between them. And she’s moved right into stalker mode. She already has the 411 on worker bee number two and was fully engaged in memorizing every detail of Jack’s schedule for the next month. From what I heard, Jack better hide his car and not even think about leaving the house for a while, and heaven help him if he gets caught playing bee keeper again ‘cause Jackie is quickly transforming from a sweet honey bee to one of them killer hornets.

Everyone in the salon told her to let him go but Jackie wasn’t hearing it. All she had on her mind was trying to figure out how to get the brother tangled back up in her honey and if that didn’t work, how to make him pay for her being seriously stuck on stupid.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I wrote poetry before I wrote anything else. It was middle school, seventh grade, and I would scribble poems in the margins of my science workbook. My science teacher gave me validation when she told me to keep writing and to not let anything or any one deter me from my love of the written word. I am eternally grateful for the kindness and encouragement she gave me and the passing grade in a science class that I had no interest in being in.

The Naked Truth

Can you see me behind the shadows
of who I want you to know?
And if it’s me you think you see,
how can it be that what I know about me and what I show,
gets lost in the not so black and white gray area of
my truth and your truth and the real truth?
And if it’s me you think you see,
how can it be that you love me so
and still know that the naked truth
of who I am and what I be,
is lost, even to me?

Been To The Promised Land

Been to the Promised Land
on the sweat of your brow,
riding the shadowy mist of a stolen kiss
and promises of what we could be,
should be, once had been.
Been to the Promised Land
on the whisper of your breath,
the line of your lips, and
words never to be spoken again.
Been to the Promised Land
wrapped beneath the weight of your arms,
the heavy of your limbs,
and the memories of what once was,
now long since gone,
‘cause homes no more,
doors been closed, keys long lost,
But that’s okay,
Because I’ve been to the Promised Land...


history flutters along the curves of my ethnicity
born in shades of what had been
and what is yet to be...
i am image of the women who once were
and the woman i will become
i cry tears of understanding
streams that puddle in pools of of longing at my feet
blessed is the rhythm of my walk
that recites tales of past and present footsteps
shadowing my grandmother’s deeds
i am image
of the woman i once was
and the women i will become
i know the me you think you see
but better still is the me i have yet to be
for i am wrapped in the curves of my ethnicity
born in shades of what once was
and what is destined to be...

Girl In The Window

She regards herself...in the reflections...that pass beneath her window...where old men...whisper in he direction...and young boys...yell loudly for all to hear...before mothers...can pinch flesh....that hungers...for fathers...or something else...before the sun...disappears...and uncertainty...drapes the street...

She regards herself...in her brother’s cries...for the ice-cream truck...and her sister’s plea...for one more turn...of the jump rope...when double dutch...and the tingling cold...of Good Humor...carve the reflections....of where she is...and she wonders...if other girls...hear the same voices...and see the same shadows...that dance...in baby blue mini skirts...like the beauty queens...in the videos...and if other girls...warm themselves...in the window...under the sun...before uncertainty...drapes the street...

She regards herself...and dreams...about dark princes...in golden cars...with armor of denim...and leather...who climb the fire escape...to reach the window...where she sits...and she is enchanted...by a moment...of beauty...where she can sit...under the sun...and regard...herself...

IMAGE CREDITS: "The Naked Truth" by gwendolyn E. redfern; "Eve" by Olivia Gatewood; "Face II" by gwendolyn E. redfern; "Girl In Window" by Antonio Roberts

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Friday night the son and I went to see the touring production of the Lion King. The boy balked at first, eyes rolling, head waving, insisting that he was going to be bored for the entire night. Even had the audacity to say that I was his one and only mercy date for the year! Of course, he left the theater with the biggest grin on his face. After spending some sixty bucks on a tee shirt and a little stuffed Timon souvenir he is still raving about how spectacular the show was. The entire performance was a reminder of what I miss most about not living in Connecticut. I miss how easy it was to catch the train into New York for an evening of dinner and theater.

If you have an opportunity to see the stage production of Lion King, please do. It is well worth the price of a ticket. It was absolutely captivating. The entire show was just a breathtaking spectacle brought to life. They had giraffes strutting, birds swooping, gazelles leaping, an oversized elephant that strutted, and grass that danced. We were blessed with spectacular seats in the center mezzanine of the theater and were able to see every single detail. I am still in awe of the costumes and the music was just inspiring. The whole evening was simply sensory overload at its very best.

This coming weekend we’re doing a college open house. The boy has reserved my whole Saturday for walking the campus of North Carolina State University and talking to folks at their school of engineering. I want to be excited for him because he’s excited but this is too much of a reminder that my baby is getting closer to leaving the nest. The school year is almost half over as it is. Before I know it, it will be time for graduation and he’ll have his foot half out the door. I get teary every time I think about it and I think about it a lot.

With the holidays fast approaching I know that I don’t have but so much time left with him so I’m grabbing every spare minute I can. Even now I have to share him with his buddies and a long line of giggling girls. The buddies I can take. The girls tax my last nerve. Now, I don’t doubt that one or two of them are probably very nice young ladies, but since he’s my baby boy I don’t have to like any of them. I consider that a mother's prerogative.

As we were leaving the theater I asked my son if he finally felt the love, as I, admittedly, did a very bad rendition of Elton John and Tim Rice's Oscar -winning tune, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." My baby rolled his eyes, shook his head from side to side and gave me a “Mom, please, would you stop” look. Then he tossed an arm around my shoulders and hugged me. In that moment even if he didn’t, I surely did.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Rereading all of this after so many years brings back many memories. Two women in my critique group actually told me not to give up my day job. They said I couldn't write because they didn't understand or like the story. Oh, well! Enjoy!

It was one of Miss Tolliver's dusty days. The heat hung unbearably, blistering the green leaves that sheltered small gnats and flies. The air was thick and filled your lungs with the heavy fumes of the hibiscus and gardenias blooming under the sweltering sun. Miss Tolliver called it a dusty day because by nightfall even the brownest of skin was coated ashy white from the dry dust that rose in large swells.

Everyone in Delacroix knew Miss Tolliver, the Voodoo woman whose eccentric manners frightened and enthralled the most sincere skeptic who doubted her abilities and questioned her sanity. Although she professed to have drawn her first breath on the shores of France, somewhere along the Baie de la Seine, the elderly brethren of Delacroix would attest emphatically that Miss Tolliver had instead been born and raised right there in their small town some forty odd years ago. Of course no one, except Mr. Henry, would dare contradict Miss Tolliver to her face and even then, his normally booming voice would sometimes drop to a faint whisper, barely audible over the chirping of the small birds high up in the tall cypress trees.

As long as anyone could remember, Miss Tolliver had been a Voodoo woman. She paid tribute only to spiritual beings she insisted had stowed themselves aboard slave ships to help the captured black bodies survive their unholy fate in the New World. She believed these spirits had blessed her with the gifts of seeing what others could not and knowing when to tell what one might not want to hear. And, whether you chose to believe Miss Tolliver or not, you could not deny that she was somehow different from the other righteous citizens of Delacroix.

So on this particularly hot day, there was no surprise when Mr. Henry opened the back door of his old home to find Miss Tolliver perched in the branches of the dark, oak tree in his yard. He’d risen from his bed earlier than normal, wakened abruptly from a sound sleep by a cool hand that stroked the peppered hair along his chest, brushing lightly against his full lips, finally coming to rest along side his weathered cheek. His ebony skin pressed against the imagined touch and as his eyes opened widely, greeted only by the rising sun outside his window, he’d heard her laugh, a deep, vibrant laugh that could warm the coldest of hearts and send chills down one's spine.

Rising from his bed he slipped his massive frame into a tattered wool bathrobe and his large feet into a new pair of slippers he'd recently purchased for his birthday. His bowed legs had peeked naked from beneath his vain attempt at modesty, his limbs as solid as the trunk of the tree Miss Tolliver looked down from. Unlatching the screen door, he cursed loudly, the venomous words spewing past teeth stained lightly from morning rot and his nightly fix of tobacco.

Staring up at her seated atop the branches, the foliage brushing against her thin body, he could only shake his head with disbelief. He reached up to scratch the bristly curls atop his head. Her eyes met his, still laughing and as he turned to go back inside he heard her drop easily to the ground below, following him inside.

"It's too early in the morning for yo’ foolishness woman," he said, heading into the bathroom to wash his face and brush the film from his mouth. "What you want with me so early?"

"Never too early," she responded smiling, a wicked grin spreading across her face. "It's gonna’ be a dusty day. We have a lot to get done, you and I, and the heat's already rising. The earlier we get movin' the better ‘cause the sun hasn't found its seat between the stars yet and we need to get done befo’ the rains come."

Mr. Henry raised his eyebrows, silently questioning the "we" in her statement. Passing a damp washcloth across his face and under his arms, he watched her out of the corner of his eye as she made herself comfortable in his small kitchen. Searching his refrigerator she pulled four slabs of thick bacon and three large brown eggs from the small cooler drawer. Watching her break the eggs carefully into a black, cast-iron utensil, he marveled at her beauty.

Her distinct features had been kissed by many an African ancestor. Her ebony skin was the color of rich, dark coffee and her large, bright eyes were pools of black ice. Jet-black hair coiled meticulously atop her head, the thick braids accentuating the length of her neck. Staring, he imagined the silk of her cheek brushing against his and as she turned, meeting his gaze with her own, he shook lightly, suddenly unnerved.

Settling himself in front of the full plate she'd placed down before him, he ate vigorously, devouring the meal as she sat watching him.

"Delan Mae Tolliver, what do you want with me", he asked again, calling her by her full name, crumbs falling from his mouth onto his chest.

"Following the ancestors", she responded, rising from her seat to fill the sink with warm, soapy water.

Mr. Henry shook his head. "What's that got to do with me?"

"The Loa called me to you", she responded "Now hurry up and eat. It will soon be too hot to get anything done."

"What am I supposed to be doin' woman?"

"Keeping up with me, nothing more, nothing less. Now get dressed", she finished, resting her wet hand atop his knee, his robe draped open over his lap.

Knowing that it would be of no use to argue Mr. Henry did as he'd been told, throwing on his only pair of denim jeans which fit him too snugly through the hips, and a clean white tee-shirt snatched from the dryer on the porch.

Walking down the road side by side they made an odd pair, Mr. Henry and Miss Tolliver. He was a large man, his muscular frame developed from years of manual labor; she an itty-bitty woman, the top of her head barely reaching his shoulder, her lean frame easily lost behind his. As he strolled with his hands clenched tightly in his pockets, her arms swayed easily by her sides, brushing against the canvas sack tossed over her shoulder. He walked in silence, pausing only to grunt hello to Frankie Addison, who sat rocking in front of the convenience store, and the Moten sisters, Aretha and Roberta, who watched them curiously as they headed across town towards the school yard.

From their porch on the corner of Delaney Street and Franklin Boulevard the two women stared after them as the pair entered the children's play area. Miss Tolliver had sat easily on the swings, pumping her legs high up into the air as Mr. Henry rested on a bench to watch her.

"She right crazy she is", Aretha said to her sister, as the other woman shook her gray head.

"Uh huh, and why you suppose David Henry followin’ her?"

"Always been somethin' between um you know since ‘dey was real young. He 'da only one can look at her sid
eways without worryin’ about her workin’ her 'hoodoo on him. I heard it said that they was real cozy long time ago, just before she disappeared all that time. Say she went up North and had his baby. 'Dat what dey say."

"Who say 'dat?"

"People talk sister. You just don't never listen", Aretha responded dismissing her sister's question with a slight wave of her hand.

Roberta nodded. "He still a nice looking man ain't he Aretha. I wonder how come he ain't never got married?"

Aretha sucked her teeth. "Tch. Some people say it's cuz' he done had some 'hoodoo worked on him. I think it was just cuz' he won't the marryin' kind. Too wild spirited. Didn't like nice girls. Only wanted them easy one's to do you know what with so he could just pick up and move on."

Roberta giggled lightly. "Cud a done you know what wit' me", she muttered under her breath. "Yes, yes, yes. David Henry a nice lookin’ man."

They sat staring, watching as Miss Tolliver continued to swing in the air. Mr. Henry, he just sat quietly, saying nothing, the first sign of the rising heat flowing from the perspiration across his brow. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of children flooding out into the yard. He looked towards the red brick building as the first grade class ran out for recess, their loud chatter carrying their small bodies. On seeing Miss Tolliver swinging high on the swings, they rushed over to greet her, throwing odd glances in his direction.

He grunted lightly. Mrs. Thomas, their teacher strolled out behind them, calling them to quiet down.

"Good morning Mr. Henry", she said greeting him curiously. "What brings you here today?"

"Mornin' Louise. And I have no idea", he responded, nodding his head in Miss Tolliver's direction. "How yo’ daddy doin'?"

"He's just fine thank you sir", Mrs. Thomas answered as a small hand reached up to pull on her skirt.

"Miz Thomas, Miz Thomas, is Miz Tolliber gone tell us a story", a freckled face little girl asked.

"Is she, Miz Thomas? Is she?”, the other children chorused.

Mrs. Thomas looked towards Miss Tolliver who had ceased swinging and had gone to sit under the low tree that offered the only bit of shade from the sun.

"Why don't y’all go ask her nicely", she responded.

Mr. Henry rose to his feet. "Does she come here often", he queried.

Mrs. Thomas nodded, smiling. "She scared me at first, but the children love her. Even I look forward to her coming now", she said, guiding him by the elbow to go stand within hearing distance of Miss Tolliver and the twenty-three cherub faces peering excitedly up at her.

Looking deep within her large bag, Miss Tolliver hummed softly to herself. Reaching inside she pulled out three handmade dolls and set them down upon the ground beside her. Made from dark fabric in varying shades of brown, they were each no more than ten inches tall with large bulbous heads that had no facial features. Scant wisps of yarn adorned the heads and each was elaborately dressed in a long flowing robe of brightly colored silk and intricate laces.

As the children sat, waiting patiently for her words, she passed her hands over the tops of the dolls' heads, then laughed eerily. A low hush fell over her captive audience. "They were sisters", she started, "three very brown girls, born right here in Delacroix. Each was very beautiful, with dark black hair and large bright eyes. On the day they were born an angel came down from the heavens, and kissed each one. And with each kiss, she blessed these three sisters with a gift. Shenaba, the eldest sister was given the gift of wisdom. Tealecia, the middle sister, the gift of spirit, and the youngest, whose name was Malika, was given the gift of goodness. Their parents were very poor, but they worked long, hard hours so that these three beautiful little girls could have everything they would ever want. They always wore the finest robes and ate the very best foods and each night before they would drift off to sleep, their parents would hug them and kiss them and tell them how much they were loved."

Miss Tolliver picked up the doll closest to her holding it out for the children to see and continued. "One day, Tealecia, who was guided by her gift of spirit, decided to go searching for an adventure. She told her sisters her plan and hugged them both good-bye. "You must not go alone", said Malika, whose gift of goodness would not allow her to let her sister be by herself. "I will go and keep you company," she said. "You must not go at all", said Shenaba, whose wisdom pointed out all the dangers that could befall her. "But if you must," she said, "I will go with you too." And so the three sisters left Delacroix to help Tealecia find her adventure.

"Along the way, they met an evil man, who whispered evil lies into their ears and gave them presents that were not good for them. He wanted only to steal their precious gifts of wisdom and spirit and goodness and when he had won their trust, he swept them up into his arms and whisked then away to his cold, dark home where he kept them hidden away from the sunshine."

As she proclaimed their capture, Miss Tolliver scooped all three of the dolls up into her arms and dropped them back into her sack as the children sat with wide eyes staring at her. "And now," she continued, " if you listen carefully on a clear night, you can hear the three sisters calling out for help, hoping that one day someone will come and rescue them." Laughing her wicked cackle, Miss Tolliver rose to her feet, throwing the canvas bag, back over her shoulder. As she turned away, the freckled faced little girl, whose tiny olive marks sparkled against the warm sepia of her complexion grabbed her by the hand, staring intently up into her face.

"Miz Tolliber? Is that it? What else happened? Does their Mommy cry for them? Does she Miz Tolliber?"

Looking down at the child whose wide eyes glistened ever so slightly, Miss Tolliver reached back into her bag, pulling one of the dolls back out. Pressing it tightly into the small hands that reached out to her she kissed the child lightly atop her neatly plaited hair and gently stroked the side of her small face. "Well Miss Alaura, mommy's always cry when their babies are gone, but they know the angels who kissed them when they're born will also watch over them when they're away. Don’t you ever forget that."

Behind them, Mr. Henry smiled slightly, nodding his head. Catching his eyes Miss Tolliver laughed, then pointed in his direction. “This is Mr. Henry and he’s come to play today,” she said. “You children do nice and go say hello.” The youngsters rose to greet him. Mr. Henry greeted each of them as they grabbed his hands and pulled him into the center of their group, chorus’ of hello ringing through the air.

“Play a game with us Mista’ Henry, please”, the small voices implored.

Looking about anxiously Mr. Henry searched for Miss Tolliver, who had gone back to sit beneath the tree, searching the contents of her bag. She smiled back nodding, then called out to him. “Yes Mr. Henry, play. You have not played for some time and it will be good for you.”

Mrs. Thomas watched the two of them curiously, then interjected. “It’s okay Mr. Henry. Don’t bother yourself. The children can finish their recess by themselves...”

Miss Tolliver interrupted, raising her voice ever so slightly. “Mr. Henry will play today. It is no problem. Now you leave him be and come sit with me Louise,” she finished, her tone commanding.

Obeying, Mrs. Thomas shrugged her shoulders in Mr. Henry’s direction, a faint smile upon her face, then went to sit down beside Miss Tolliver. The older woman patted her hand gently, then turned her attention back to the inner contents of her bag.

Looking about, Mr. Henry studied the anxious faces that stared up at him. He grinned broadly, a fountain of mirth rising from the pith of his stomach until an infectious laughter spilled out over his large body. Within moments the children were laughing with him, their tiny frames quivering like raspberry Jell-O under a warm breeze.

“Let’s play hide and seek”, he said finally, “and I’ll be it.”

Squatting low to the ground, he started to count quickly, his hands pressed over his eyes. “One, two, three,...” Around him he could hear the patter of small feet racing about in every direction. “...nine, ten.”
Rising, he looked about, his eyes scanning the perimeter of the playground. Smiling broadly at the two women, he turned, then scampered after the youngsters whose loud cheers begged him to seek and find them. Minutes later when the bell sounded, announcing the end of recess, Mr. Henry dropped to the bench, his breathing heavy, his tee-shirt soaked from sweat. The children all rushed to hug Miss Tolliver good-bye, and waved anxiously in his direction as they followed their teacher back inside.

Mr. Henry and Miss Tolliver smiled at each other. Rising, she tossed her canvas bag over her shoulder, then sauntered over to sit beside him. Her leg brushed gently against his, as she leaned easily next to him. They sat in silence, the sun overhead toasting the dark brown of their complexions. To Mr. Henry the brief moment seemed like an eternity. Large beads of perspiration fell from his pores and just when he started to silently question whether he could endure any more of the heat, Miss Thomas rushed back outside, two bottles of spring water in hand. Accepting them graciously, they both savored the flow of moisture which quenched their parched throats, Mr. Henry splashing the last few ounces across his face.

“Are you ready to move on?”

“Hell no. ’Um hot and ’um tired. ‘Da only place I want to move on to is my front porch. Woman you done wore me out.”

Miss Tolliver laughed. “But you feel good don’t you my friend?”

Mr. Henry rolled his eyes. “I said I was tired now.”

Miss Tolliver ignored him. “What we needs now is a swim. The water will make you feel better.” She rose to her feet, gesturing for him to follow her. “Let’s go, the rains will soon be coming.”

Shaking his head, Mr. Henry watched her as she raced ahead of him. Cutting across Delaney Street, she paused to glance back over her shoulder, her look piercing. Still shaking his head, Mr. Henry came to his feet and hurried to catch up with her. He followed as she led him past the Delacroix Public Library and Musethal Copage’s Antique Shop.

There wasn’t much to Delacroix. It was a small town with an odd quaintness. People who were born here, inevitably died here. Every so often someone might leave, but it was rare that an outsider would find his way to Delacroix and make a conscious decision to stay.

Reaching the end of Delaney Street, Miss Tolliver cut through Arthur Pitcher’s fields, disappearing into the thick brush that bordered the property. Hesitant, Mr. Henry followed, swiping at the green fronds that slapped against his body. Pushing through bushes which quickly germinated into massive trees, he recognized the area, though he had not walked this land for a very long time.

It was not long before they came to the edge of Lafitte Bay, a crisp blue body of water, that flowed down through the crevices of Metan Creek, out into the Mississippi Delta. The bottom was a dark visage of brown sand, emerald and olive vegetation, and on occasion, dependent upon your misfortune, nests of black water snakes. As children they had played here often.

Stopping, Miss Tolliver spread her arms outward, inhaling deeply, then hugged her arms about her body. Pulling her cotton sun dress over her head she stood naked, dipping her toes anxiously into the water. Mr. Henry inhaled sharply, unable to take his eyes off of her. She turned towards him, her hands clasped atop her stomach. “The water feels wonderful”, she sang, throwing her body under the watery blanket.

Nervous, Mr. Henry looked about. The water did look refreshing and although he welcomed an opportunity to splash naked in the cool liquid beside her, he was suddenly embarrassed.

“What you actin’ so shy about David Henry? This water feelin’ real good now!”

Turning his back towards her Mr. Henry stripped out of his clothes, then backed his way into the water. Behind him Miss Tolliver giggled, fluttering her hand along the top of the water.

“David Henry, you actin’ like an ole’ fool”, she shouted, her voice echoing off the trees.

“Leave me be Delan Mae. Why you got to be messin’ wit me anyhow? We too ‘ole to be doin’ this foolishness.”

“We ain’t doin’ nothin’, yet, “she chuckled again as a flush of red rose to the man’s cheeks. He shook his head.

Lying back, Mr. Henry finally gave into the cool spray surrounding him. The wetness was relaxing as he floated atop the water, the expanse of his nakedness spread above the pool below. Mr. Henry bobbed easily as Miss Tolliver splashed about like a young child in a wading pool. There was no sense of time as they each drifted off into their own worlds.

Oblivious to what she was doing, he jumped when she came up behind him, wrapping her arms about his head and shoulders. She’d been prepared though as she splashed away from him just missing being struck by his arm. “Why you so jumpy David Henry?”

“Damn woman! You got to ask? You scared the mess outta me is why. Hell, I though you was a snake or somethin’.”

“Ain’t no snakes in ‘dis water. You was always talking ‘bout snakes in ’dis water and we ain’t never seen a one.”

Mr. Henry shrugged. “Probably ‘cause you done scared ‘em off.”

Miss Tolliver smiled, swimming towards him. “How come you ain’t never been scared off?”

Mr. Henry shrugged again, as she swam into his arms, wrapping her thin legs about his waist.

“Tell me David Henry. How come I ain’t never scared you?” She brushed her hands along his chest, wrapping her arms about his neck.

Mr. Henry pulled her to him, cradling her in his arms. Pressing his face into her shoulder, he kissed the soft flesh, the taste of salt water upon his lips. “Why you always askin’ me so many questions”, he whispered, gliding his mouth up the length of her neck, along side her cheek, towards her lips. She kissed him lightly, her lips warm against his, a low moan her only response.

Mr. Henry was suddenly hungry for her. It had been a very long time since they’d last wrapped themselves about each other. He had accepted this arrangement many years ago, knowing that she would only be his when she dictated the terms. When she wanted him she came. The rest of the time he could only possess her in his dreams. It had been this way since she’d been fifteen and had given her virginity to him under a full moon during a summer rain shower. An eternity had passed between them since that late August night and he could easily count, with vivid recollection, each and every time they had made love since that first time.

As easily as she pressed against him, she suddenly pushed him away. “You must come play wit’ ‘da children again David Henry. They liked you.”

He shook his head, slightly bewildered. “Damn woman. Why you talkin’ bout ‘dem children?” His hands fell to his rising manhood, shielding the dark flesh that stretched towards her.

She laughed, swimming away from him. “You promise me David Henry. Promise me you’ll come play wit’ ‘dem children again.” She stopped, the water’s edge brushing against her chin as she treaded water.

“Why? Why you botherin’ me ‘bout ‘dem children?

A shadow passed across her face, her eyes pleading. “It’s meant to be. You need ‘dem children as much as they need you. They make you feel alive again David Henry and you need to remember what it’s like to be alive. That’s why I goes to play wit’ ‘dem and tell them stories. So’s I can feel alive. So promise me. Please?”

Her stare was intense, piercing his heart. Nodding, he wiped at his eyes. “I promise. You knows I’ll only do it for you Delan Mae Tolliver. I’ll only do it for you.”

She shook her head. “No. Do it for you David Henry. It won’t mean nothing if you don’t do it for you.”

Pausing only momentarily, he nodded again, knowing that she was right. “I promise, and I’ll do it for the both of us,” he finally responded.

Satisfied she smiled, then swam back towards him. As she reached his outstretched arms he molded his large hand around her small breast, dropping his head to suckle at the yielding flesh. Wrapping her arms about him, she tossed back her head and laughed wickedly, the sound reverberating through their bodies.

Hours later, Miss Tolliver and Mr. Henry made their way out of the heat, her hand clasped firmly in his. And on the corner of Delaney Street and Franklin Boulevard, the two Moten sisters watched with amazement as the unlikely pair danced under the summer sun, the dust settling against their skin, just as the tears of Delacroix came thundering down.

Excerpted from The Tears Of Delacroix All Rights Reserved © Deborah Fletcher Mello