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Read an excerpt from the book below. 

Release date:  November 15, 2019.  Preorders available October 31, 2019.  

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

          A child should never have to face down real-life monsters who do not lurk underneath their beds, like in the old fairy tales, but instead crawl into them in the middle of the night.  Many would blame Ahavah’s mother for the hurt and pain that she endured at the age of six.  They will say, Why didn’t she stop him?  How could she stay for all of those years?  What kind of woman would allow that to happen?  Ahavah would blame herself.

        Sure, she had told her mother. Timidly, in a soft whisper that no one else would ever hear, she had said, “Mommy, Danny touches me when you’re not around.”

          Her mother, Karen Booth, had acted like she hadn’t heard her only child.

          “What did you say, girl?  Speak up!  Can’t nobody hear you whispering like that.”  Karen continued to wash the dishes, the steam from the sink rising up like smoke in front of her.  She didn’t turn around to face her daughter.

          “Uhm… uhm…”  Ahavah shifted her weight from one foot to another, the way she often did when she grew nervous.  Her thumb went instinctively to her mouth.

          “Girl, if you don’t speak up…!  And get your thumb out of your mouth, you ain’t no baby.  If you can’t speak so I can hear you, go in the living room and watch TV.  I’m trying to finish these dishes so we can eat.  Danny will be home soon.  If a good man works hard all day to feed his family and keep a roof over their heads, he expects a hot meal when he gets home.  You oughta remember that!”  Karen placed the dishes in the dish washer to dry.  She didn’t like running the whole cycle.  It was a waste of electricity.  She’d rather just wash them by hand herself, anyway.

          “Sorry, Mommy.  Okay.”  The little girl with a million different pigtails decorated in colorful barrettes and hair baubles slowly slinked back into the living room and turned the television on.  She climbed onto the big black leather sofa and settled in.  Tears threatened to form in the corner of her eyes, but she held them back.  Real Housewives of Atlanta played on the screen.  Hardly appropriate entertainment for a young child, but no one had ever told her that she shouldn’t be watching it. 

          Ahavah paid close attention while the beautiful Black women argued and fought over attractive Black men.  She watched them curse and strike each other, throwing bottles of wine and dumping drinks on one another’s heads.  She wondered how people who had so much money could be so unhappy.  Then, she felt the familiar feeling of someone – or something – sitting beside her on the sofa. 

          Hello, Ahavah.

          “No.  I don’t want to talk to you.”

          “What’d you say, Havah?  Were you talking to me?!”  Karen called from the kitchen, hearing Ahavah’s voice.

          “No, Mommy!”  She responded. 

         Ahavah looked beside her with a scowl painted on her face, but she didn’t see anyone.  She only felt them.  It was a familiar feeling, but today it felt different.

          Hello, Ahavah.  Do not be afraid.  I’m here to protect you. 

         She felt scared at first.  The little girl knew enough to realize that it’s not normal to hear someone’s voice but not see their body.  Every other time it had happened, she had become very afraid.  Fear and anxiety had usually gripped her into silence.  It was usually right before Danny would pay her a ‘visit’.  But this time was different.  Suddenly, a peace fell over her.  It felt like an old friend had come to see her.  Or maybe, like Grandma.  She felt the way she always felt when she visited Karen’s mother in the country down South in Louisiana. 

          “Who are you?”  Ahavah whispered, so her mother wouldn’t hear.

          You may call me what you wish.  Names aren’t important. 

          “Okay.  Can you be Daddy?  I want to call you Daddy.”  Ahavah spoke softly.

          I’m not your father.

          “I know.  I don’t have one.”

          Yes, you do.  God above is your father.  He will never leave you or forsake you the way man will.  Let’s pick a different name, child.

          “Okay, let’s pick Number One.”

          That sounds good.  I like it. 

          Ahavah watched the television until she heard the key jiggling inside the doorknob.  She hurriedly jumped off the sofa and ran into her bedroom.  Shutting the door, she was careful not to slam it and anger her mother.  She could hear the voices rising in the kitchen.  They were fighting again.  Already.  He had only come home minutes before.  Ahavah climbed into the bed and pulled the covers over her head.

          “Number One?”

          Yes, Ahavah. 

          “I’m a little bit scared.”

          I know.

          “I’m going to stay here until they make me come out to eat.”

          Okay. 

          Shivering, Ahavah tried to be brave.  She tried to take deep breaths.  She didn’t hear from Number One for the rest of the night.  Instead, she fell asleep underneath the blankets and woke up the next morning for school at the sound of her alarm clock.  Her mother hadn’t bothered to wake her for dinner, and her belly rumbled in protest.  Mommy and Danny would have already gone off to work.  She started getting ready on her own, brushing her teeth and picking out her own clothes to wear for the day.  Rubbing her fingers across her armpits, she took a long whiff.  Eugh, it would have to do.

         School was an escape.  She was only in the first grade, so her days were filled with simple subjects, kind teachers, and recess.  It was a safe place.  Hopefully, the bus would not be late, and she could have her free breakfast in the cafeteria.  She couldn’t wait to catch the bus.  Being sure to remember to lock the door behind her with the key hanging from a shoelace she kept tied on her wrist, she headed out to face another anxious day.

 

 

        Ahavah kept to herself.  She sat alone during lunch, and when Mrs. Carter called for the children to get ready for free time on the playground, her heart lurched.  Everyone played games that required you to have friends, like tag (no one would ever chase after Ahavah) or hide-and-seek (too many times waiting for someone to find her only to discover the other children had moved onto another game while she hid).  Instead, she would find a shady spot near the wall and read a book. 

       Books were her sanctuary.  She could lose herself in a book and pretend she was anyone but Ahavah Booth.  She’d learned to read at three years old from watching endless hours of Sesame Street, growing up with the television acting as her babysitter.  At just six years of age, she was reading on a third-grade level. 

          No one ever bothered her, so she couldn’t say that she was being bullied.  The pain was harder to describe and impossible to report.  It was a feeling of loneliness and isolation that would make her feel ostracized from the other children.  She simply felt invisible.  Teachers seemed to forget that she was even there sometimes due to her quiet nature.  No one gave a second thought to where she went, what she did, or how she felt, so Ahavah had no choice but to accept it and exist within her own bubble.

           Number One was the only one who would listen.

While she sat in the shade, she had begun to talk to him on a regular basis.  She would speak softly and barely move her lips so the children wouldn’t hear her or ask what she was doing. 

“… and then we learned about the color wheel.  Do you know what that is?”

           Tell me, child.

        “It’s when you draw a circle and cut it into seven pie pieces.  Each one is a color of the rainbow.  I memorized them.”

            Rainbows are a reminder of the promises of God.

            “Red, orange, yellow… green, blue, indigo… and vi-o-let makes a rainbow!”  Ahavah sang cheerfully.

            Beautiful.

            After recess, Ahavah spent the rest of the day doing as she was told and not making any waves.  She did all of her work and remembered to put her pink and yellow flowered jacket into her backpack to carry home with her.  It was colder in the mornings than in the afternoon, and she used to have a habit of leaving her jacket on the hook in her classroom – until Mommy used her wide black belt instead of the skinny brown one.  Ahavah never forgot her jacket again after that.

            The bus dropped her off just down the street from her home.  During the two-minute walk, Ahavah didn’t skip or sprint like the other kids her age usually did.  She tried to walk as slowly as possible.  Sometimes it would take her ten minutes to make it.  A knot would start to tighten in her tummy the closer that she would come to the small blue house on the corner.  Mommy always said she hated the blue.  Ahavah didn’t understand why they didn’t just paint it a different color.  She would love to help.  She liked to paint.  She would paint the house purple.  It was her favorite color.  Maybe good things would start to happen there if the house were painted purple – any color besides blue. 

             On this particular day, while she kicked the pebble she had found along the sidewalk, she started to feel that uneasy feeling once again.  It definitely didn’t feel like she was visiting at Grandma’s anymore.  She instinctively knew that Number One wasn’t around this time.

              “Number One?  Number One!”  Ahavah called out loudly, not caring who heard her.  It was the middle of the day, and most parents were still at work.  The other kids who got off at her stop were long gone by now.

            No.  That’s a stupid name.

            She wrinkled her brow and squinted her eyes towards the sky, trying to make out anything that looked like it could be behind the voice that she was hearing.

              “It’s not.  It’s not stupid.  I made it up, and Number One said he liked it.”

              He lies.  You’re just as stupid as that ridiculous name if you believe his lies.

            “You’re mean.  Stupid is a bad word.  And I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”  Ahavah put her hands over her ears and kept walking towards her home.  It was now only a few feet ahead of her.  Her hands didn’t stop the voice from penetrating through her skull.

              You don’t have to talk.  Just go inside.  We’ve got a surprise for you, Little Girl. We have plenty of surprises.

               Fear gripped Ahavah from the top of her head to the very soles of her size 1 feet.  The last time Meanie talked this way, Danny had done horribly naughty things to her.  She stood perfectly still, freezing in place on the sidewalk in front of the house.

             “Ahavah!  Get in this house, girl.”  Danny called out from inside, pulling the curtain aside and speaking through the screen.  “Why are you just standing there like that?”

             She told her feet to move, but they wouldn’t listen to her.  Her hands began to quiver, and when she found words that would finally find their way past her throat and out of her lips, they shook like leaves on a tree in autumn. 

                “… where’s… where’s my Mommy?”

                “Ahavah!  Get in here! Your mom is at the store.  She be right back!” 

               As she walked through the front door and tried to squeeze by Danny, he didn’t move to let her past. The strong scent of liquor filled her nostrils.  She winced as it stung her olfactory system and crept into her nose.

               “I’m just gonna…”  She began, before Danny lifted her roughly up from underneath her armpits.  “Wait!  Stop!  What are you doing?”

             “You not gonna nothing, little girl!  Your mama’ll be back soon.  Come here, I gotta tell you something.  Let me… let me show you something.”  Danny didn’t have a shirt on, and his chest was slick with sweat.  The alcohol he’d been drinking all day was seeping through his pores, making Ahavah instantly nauseous.  She didn’t bother kicking or resisting him.  His grip on her underarms was tight, and she knew fighting him was useless.  She’d tried many times before.

             He carried her into her bedroom.  Barbies looked down from the shelf her mother had placed them on, and teddy bears watched on in shame.  Their judging eyes brought tears to her own.

           “Danny, can we just wait until Mommy comes home?  Can we just sit in the living room and wait for Mommy?” Ahavah hated how weak and fragile her voice sounded.  She despised how desperate her words were.

            What if your Mommy never comes home, Little Girl?  How do you know that she hasn’t left you here – with him – forever?

              “Don’t you worry about your mama.  Let me worry about her.  You just take care of Danny.  That’s all you got to worry about.”  He said, laying her down on her bed.  The softness of her comforter and the forgiving mattress betrayed her.  She felt like they should be hard, like shards of glass or the ends of pointy metal spears.  How could they be so fluffy and light, giving into her body as if she were resting on a cloud?  Such ugly things should only happen in hard places.

               “Number One?  Where are you?”  Ahavah cried softly, almost whispering.

              “That’s what you callin’ me now, Havah?  Number One, huh?  Yeah,  I think I likes that.”  Danny’s voice became low and raspy.  He exhaled his Hennessy-soaked breath into her face, so close that she could barely breathe.

            “No.  No!”  Her eyes rolled up into her head, and she struggled to escape from that room.  She left – in her mind – and sought safety from the pain that her body was feeling. 

             Meanie wasn’t talking anymore.  Instead, she heard only a menacing laughter over Danny's heavy breathing on top of her.  Meanie was chuckling, and it sounded like a sneer and a growl at the same time.  She shook her head to try to stop herself from hearing it, but that didn’t work.  It infected her thoughts like a sinister flu virus, intent on destroying everything it came into contact with. 

            Suddenly, she was somewhere else.  She was underneath her favorite tree at school, talking to Number One about color wheels and rainbows.  She was telling him about her wish to one day ride her very own bicycle, one with a white basket and colorful streamers on the handlebars.  She was anywhere but in this dark, musty room with this dark, musty grown man.

           Mommy didn’t come back from the store for two more hours, but by that time, Ahavah had passed out from exhaustion.  She missed dinner for the second night in a row.   

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LOVE

ABUSE -

 

The Ahavah Booth Story 

by Naiomi Pitre

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