So, both Anita and Ivette have spoken their piece. Ivette is tired of doing it all by herself, and against her better judgement, decides to send Anita to her father’s house to ask him for the money to pay the balance of her school fees. It is Monday morning – the first day of school – but if the tuition is not FULLY paid, Anita will not be able to attend. What a predicament!
Now, poor Anita has been standing outside her father’s yard for more than one hour – bawling out her throat-hole. But will anyone answer her calls? And the ten million dollar question: Will Anita get the money from Barrington?
Let us rejoin her at the gate…
Anita hugged her little body, pulling the hand-me-down sweater tighter against the chill breeze swirling around her. That was the reason she was standing like an unwanted step-child at her very own father’s gate. Looking back towards Hope Town, sleeping at the feet of the green hills, she saw the sun rising fast; it had to be at least a quarter to seven now. This troubled Anita’s ten-year-old mind; the Principal had informed the new students on Orientation Day that school started at eight o’ clock sharp. The last thing she needed was to be late on her very first day and what made her fret more was the fact that Mr. Fitz-Henley had warned that tardiness was “an unforgivable sin” at Olson High.
But, Anita knew she could not leave until she saw her father and got the rest of the money to pay her school fees. No money would mean no school for her that day.
She knew he would have to come out at some point; the children would have school – she was certain – his wife and he had to go to work. Surely, they couldn’t plan to hide out in the house all day because she was determined to stand rooted to that spot all day if that was what was required.
Maybe she was not making enough noise, she reasoned.
Looking down on the ground, she sighted the perfect stone. She picked it up then took a deep, deep breath to fill her lungs. Barrington Parker – or somebody in that house – was going to talk to her today. Time was up!
“DAH-DHEY!” Her bellow mimicked the strong, authoritative tone her mother often used when she was furious. “DAH-DY! DAH-DEEEE!”
She paused, listening intently, thinking that she had heard a voice shout something inside. Ten seconds later she made up her mind. Gripping the small but weighty brown rock in her palm, she clouted the metal gate. Once…twice…thrice…a nice rhythm soon gave her the courage to go on.
The neighbourhood dogs set up a noisy chorus and Anita banged the gate harder. No longer did she feel shame; the coward hiding inside his big house from his own child was the one who should be ashamed, she thought.
She had closed her eyes tightly with the immense effort she was dedicating to pummeling the gate. She did not see the front door open neither did she hear the sound of the porch grille being unlocked.
“Hey likkle pickney!”
The verbal assault froze Anita. Her eyes flew open and she saw the tall, browning lady standing a few feet away in the driveway, arms akimbo, glaring vengefully at her.
“Why yuh come to mi gate making all o this noise so early in the morning!” she demanded. “What the hell yuh want?”
Anita felt the stone roll free from her hand and heard it drop with a light thud. Where was her father? Why had he sent his wife outside instead of coming to talk to her himself?
Her paternal grandmother, Miss Mum, who still resided up the road from Anita’s house in Hope Town, had told them that her father’s wife’s name was Regina.
“What happen?” the woman snapped, taking a step forward and stopping. “Yuh can’t talk all of a sudden? What yuh want, eh? What yuh come here for?”
Anita stared at her with defiance. She wouldn’t allow this “father-thief” to cow her down. She swallowed nervously before opening her mouth to answer. “Ah came to talk to ma father.”
The woman threw back her roller-decked head and laughed a short, mirthless laugh. “Ha! Father? Father! Which father? Yuh don’t have any father here!” She scoffed as though the very idea was ludicrous.
But this woman was bright and feisty and out-of-order! Anita knitted her brow and screwed up her almost-eleven-year-old face resolutely. “Yuh husband, Miss Regina,” she fired back not caring that she was talking to an adult. “Your husband – Barrington Raymond Parker – that is my father!”
The woman stomped the few steps to the gate and stood glaring down at the little black girl with the big afro puff and the small baby-face. Surely this child did not believe she could challenge her. “Hush up!” Regina hissed. “Don’t you dare speak my husband’s name in your foul little mouth!”
Anita met the big, brown eyes that were flashing menacingly at her. The woman was staring her down like a pesky cockroach she was yearning to crush beneath her manicured feet but Anita was not affected. This woman was not going to intimidate her today or any other day; her ire was nothing compared to that of Ivette Maureen Black’s when she unleashed her pent-up frustration with life on the heads of both Anita and Tabitha.
“You don’t tell me to ‘hush’,” she barked. “I came to talk to ma father about an urgent matter. I don’t come to trouble you! Please ask ma father to come and speak to me.”
The woman jerked like Anita had slapped her. “Oh? Aren’t we prim and proper now? ‘Please ask my father to come and speak to me’.” She mimicked Anita’s words and tone like a child on a playground. “Which father do you have in this yard, little girl? Yuh must have the wrong house and the wrong man. Move! Move from mi gate!”
Anita recoiled as the woman shook the grille gate mightily reminding her of a female gorilla she had seen on TV. But that did not stop her from making a retort. “Ma mother seh ah must not leave here till ah see ma father –”
Regina Parker looked deadly as she sneered at Anita. “Your mother seh…your mother seh…” she echoed, as she looked about her like she was trying to find something she had lost. Suddenly, she wheeled away from the gate and stormed across the large rectangular lawn on her left.
A voice urged Anita to move and she backed away warily, peering around one column on which a concrete lion crouched, to see what the irate woman, who was dressed in a housecoat that had fallen open as she bent to pick up something, was doing. She saw Regina rise swiftly enough to snap her backbone and spotted the serpentine garden hose she had brandished a fraction of a second before a powerful jet shot towards the gateway.
“Yuh mother seh! Yuh mother seh!” Regina shrieked, eyes flashing as she ran back towards the gate, spraying water like a maniac. “Move from mi gate now before a drown yuh likkle what’s-it-not! Move!”
Anita squealed as the deluge slapped her in the face, drenching her hair and flushing down her body. She flashed her hands and howled as she bolted up the road, her soggy canvas crepe going ‘swish swish’. Even through the wetness, she felt the tears begin to waterslide down her cheeks. Just what had she done to deserve this? What?