‘Oh my goodness, that can’t be Cheryl…” Aida looked across the room of the Laundromat. Aida was in town visiting her family and wanted to do her laundry all at once, so she had driven to the spanking new Laundromat. It had been years since she had been in one, though her young life before college and becoming a sought after sports attorney had found her doing the laundry every Saturday morning. Her mother, Elise, was a single mother of four girls and as the oldest, Aida did laundry for everyone. She had hated it then, but was now grateful. Elise had died year ago, but the Smith girls were all successful and a long way from that two bedroom apartment on the avenue. Michelle was a nurse practitioner, still living in the hometown. She was married with two sons. Eliza was a chef living in France and the baby, Marta was working on her PHD in African-American literature while working as a professor. The girls were proof that love, discipline and smarts could move you from the hood. Aida had spent the week with her sister after mourning her mom and not coming home for year. It had been a bittersweet visit. But, she had enjoyed being auntie to the boys.
Looking again, she knew it was Cheryl and she could only wonder what happened to her. Her mind floated back to twenty years ago when they had both been twelve-year old spelling prodigies. The only two Black girls in the bee, they had stood until there were only the two of them. Aida finally won by spelling, ‘egregious’ and defining it after Cheryl missed it. They had high-fived each other as they left the podium. It was nice to be two Black girls from the wrong side of the track who had beat out thirty of what were considered to be the smartest kids in the district. Cheryl and Aida weren’t friends beyond school because Elise didn’t approve the lack of discipline in their lives. But they coexisted peacefully. Rumor had it that Cheryl had been pregnant on that day. That summer Elise had finally become a nurse and had moved her kids from the hood. Aida never saw Cheryl again. Standing up she knew she was going to talk to her.
“I hope she don’t come over here, she looks really good, somebody told me she was a lawyer or some shit…” Cheryl thought those words as she kept her head down, folding clothes. She knew she looked a mess with her missing teeth, broken off hair and the fact that she had given birth to nine kids in the last twenty years didn’t help either. For the first time she had to admit she was ashamed of herself. She could smell expensive perfume and knew she had to look up. She stared defiantly into Aida’s dark-chocolate face and all she could see was compassion. Looking at her from head to toe she had to admit she looked awesome. But, she always had. Even when poor her mom had made them nice clothes that looked expensive.
“Yeah, it’s me, how are you?” Cheryl literally sucked down tears.
“What happened?” Aida was as startled to hear the question come out of her mouth as Cheryl was. But she knew exactly what Aida meant. Squaring her shoulders, pulling the ragged sweater around her shoulders, she decided to answer.
“You want to know what happened, well life happened. I had my first baby the summer after eighth grade. My mama let me move into the projects and by the time I looked around I had a house full of kids, no husband, a drug habit and I was tired. Now here I am thirty-three years old with four kids at home, no education and a sixty year old sugar-daddy I can’t stand the sight of, but he pays the bills.” The hard words hit Aida’s ears like a hammer. She could hear, see and feel the pain in her friend’s words. Reaching over, she pulled her into an embrace. With great reluctance, Cheryl relaxed into her embrace. Finally, she pulled away. She had just made a decision.
“If you let me, I think I can help you.”
“How?” Cheryl was wary of anyone offering to help her.
“I am going to return here to open up my own law office. I have an extensive client base and I need a secretary and a couple of paralegals. I can hire you as a secretary and pay for your education, if you are interested in becoming a legal assistant in a year.” Cheryl allowed hope to enter her heart.
“Why would you do that?”
“Because I can, I have been so blessed and I want to do something other than earn money and write checks. And it is time for me to stop running and come home. Mostly, it is because I remember how smart you are and I know you would be good.”
“You would hire me an ex-junkie and someone who never really liked you.” Aida smiled at that.
“Absolutely, so long as you are an EX-junkie and you don’t have to like me, just work hard. What do you say?” Fear and excitement raced through Cheryl’s veins. She had been looking for a better life and one stood in front of her dressed to kill. She knew she had to say yes, because she may never get another chance. Aida was also excited and though a bit scared she knew it was right. The two women stood looking at each other. Finally Cheryl said, ‘Okay, I will give it a try, but I keeps it real.”
“I’m sure. I wouldn’t want it any other way. By the way the starting pay is 37G‘s.” The shocked look on Cheryl’s face warmed her heart.
“Then how much does it pay to be a paralegal?”
“Much, much more…” Aida said as she walked out the door with a smile on her face.
“See you in two weeks.” Cheryl stared after the woman who in the span of several minutes had changed her life.
Angelia Vernon Menchan
Angelia Vernon Menchan is an author, publisher and public speaker who owns two publishing companies, MAMM Productions and Honorable Menchan Media. Mrs. Menchan is also a Budget Officer and former Job Corps Counselor. To date she has published twenty-three books of her own work, both fiction and non-fiction and more than eighty ebook novellas on amazon.com. You can access her bibliography on www.amazon.com search words: Angelia Vernon Menchan
Phone numbers: 904 714 2272 904 303 2679
Phone numbers: 904 714 2272 904 303 2679