Lead Me Gently Home

Chapter 10
"Ain't Nothin' Gon' Turn Me 'Round"

(From Danisha's Journals)

This day didn't come too soon...This will be a lot of fun...enlightening...

Saturday came bright and sunny, although it was still a tad cold. The mid-February weather, which, in this part of the country, has a tendency towards fickleness, cooperated for this special day.
I received a message from Claude just as I was leaving for the program. He said that he may be detained, so "don't be too disappointed if I'm not in attendance."
My heart sank a bit; I really wanted Claude to experience this little slice of culture and history. Oh well, as Claude always says, "No matter."

There will be other Black History presentations, but this one was of particular importance to me.
Many of my friends and co-workers would be there; some of my students were to perform.I was to recite a classic Maya Angelou poem, and little Kenya White was slated to sing.

And I made sure I was dressed for the occasion: An Afrocentric outfit of a long, simple black dress, topped with a flowing kente duster.
My hair was swathed in a matching headscarf, and huge earrings in the shape of Neferetti completed the ensemble.

On the way to Ripple High, where the program was to be held, I stopped at the store to pick up some treats for the kids. I'd promised these to Tamara and Kenya, just for being great kids. When I returned to my car, BC had just pulled into the parking lot; he seemed to make it his point to park beside my car.

What is with this man? Why is he following me? Got some sort of radar, BC? If so, then please turn it off..You're not wanted...

His very presence turned my stomach; I immediately shot him an icy stare. What BC said to me made my blood boil, and caused me unnecessary anxiety.

"No sweet talk today, baby. Just one question", he began as he got out of his car.

BC looked me squarely into my eyes; Ireturned his steady gaze. Just as always, Icould read no emotion, no depth, in his eyes
As though he has no soul...

"Who is he, Danisha? Who's that fancy White guy I saw you with?" I panicked. He knows about Claude? How? When? Unless he...

BC's expression was of pure contempt and menace. "You know who I'm talkin' about, 'cause I saw you two Downtown a few weeks ago. What's the matter, Nisha? Can't find one of your own kind?"

"BC, please..."

I wanted this man out of my sight. What does he care about my lovelife; it's none of his business.
"He's a friend, and he's my lover", I replied point-blank. My eyes never left BC's as I added, "He's good to me, BC. He doesn't mistreat me."

BC rolled his eyes and sneered, "Oh yeah, like the brothers ain't capable of treating our women right..."

I was livid! No way was I going to let him get away with his usual song-and-dance.
"That's not it! Color has nothing to do with it! Why do you always have to pull this crap! I hate it when you whine - like it's all you can do! That's why you could never keep a job - or a woman!"
I couldn't believe I said that, but all the frustration and anger poured out.

As usual, BCreacted violently.

He grabbed my wrist; he twisted it just until it smarted enough to make me cry. Then he said something that sent a chill through my very being.
"No woman talks to me like that and gets away with it, bitch!", he hissed through clenched teeth.
His fingers tightened around my wrist; I quietly begged him to stop.

"Look at you, with yo' fancy mink coat, yo' fancy car, goin' to some high-toned doin's. I bet yo' fancy manfriend's gonna be there. Know what, Nisha? The next time I see him, I'm gonna whip his ass good. No old cracker's gonna mess with a sistah, ya dig?"

An IPD patrol car had just wheeled into the parking lot; then, all at once, BC released me. It was weird; because, as soon as the cops drove up, BC got really nervous. I took advantage of the situation, got into my car, and tore out of there

All along the way, I kept praying that BC would somehow leave town - anything - to get out of my life.
I wondered if I wasn't the only reason BC decided to return; and, I prayed that Claude would be so wrapped up with business, that he wouldn't find the time to attend this little function.

The night before, I had that frightening dream again.

Claude, please...for your sake..for our sake..Stay home...


...So nice to see Jackie again...NOT Jacqueline Darcey, the time-traveler, but Jacqueline Greenwood, principal of Arlington High...

"Hi, precious!"

I had just walked through the door when I heard that familiar voice. I spotted her, and immediately embraced her.
"Jackie!", I warmly greeted as I let her arms enfold me. Jacqueline Green, the celebrated principal at a neighboring high school, knew me, and my family, from way back. She taught my younger sisters when she was one of the best, most innovative math teachers in the system.
Jackie supported me throughout my educational and career endeavors for a long time; she was instrumental in helping me become a better educator. "

Jackie Green was well-known for her warm, motherly nature; yet, she was a no-nonsense educator who demanded the best - She believed in "No Excuses".
We strolled through the lobby just outside Ripple's audiotorium. My eyes momentarily fell on a mosaic depicting the performing arts.
Funny, but Ipass by this spot nearly every day - Iremember this when I was a student in this very building...

My mind was called back to the present as Jackie said to me, "Nisha, I'm so glad to see so many of our students participating in this program", Jackie said to me, as we strolled through the lobby outside the audiotorium.
"It's very important that these youngsters are made aware of our history and culture, and that we can come together like this, in the spirit of brotherhood."

I smiled as I added, "And sisterhood."


It was as near a star-studded event this side of Hollywood. Dozens of the famous and near-famous of our community, both Black and White, were in attendance. There was Billie Breaux, a longtime elementary teacher who became a State Senator; Barb and Ted Boyd - he was to read some of his original poetry.

There was Larry McCloud, the celebrated principal of Broad Ripple High; there were several members of the School Board - Mary Busch, on the Board since the early 70s, and Ichatted briefly.

I was so pleased that Brad Braxton, not only one of the best math teachers in town, but also one of the nicest, and funniest, persons I knew, was there.
If Claude somehow found time to attend this little function, I definitely wanted him to meet Brad. Iknew Claude would enjoy his afternoon even more, once Brad voiced his many observations on life in schools.

I ran into Alpha and Walter Blackburn, two of the nicest people I know. Walter, a reknown architect, and Alpha, a fashion and interior designer, met Claude when he and Iattended The Links' Black-and-Gold Ball last year. Alpha couldn't stop gushing over my "most fashionable and charming friend".

Claude...You always make a favorable impression whereever you go...That's why I wish you were here today, but since you're not...Maybe it's all for the best...

"Hey, girlfriend!" Fern Grigsby, my good friend, greeted me with a big bearhug. She then said that she completely understood why Ifreaked, and made that hasty exit to the 20th Century. She also told me that Claude was profoundly upset when I left; but, Fern never told him what caused me to freak out like that.

"He was worried about you; but, believe me, Isaid nothing about BC."

"Thanks, Fern. Iran into the fool again, and he..." I was interrupted by another familiar voice. "Hey, fellow educator!"

It was was Kyle; he informed me that he had just secured a long-term assignment at Harshman Middle School, and he hoped it would lead to a full-time position.
"If Shelli and I are to marry, I'll need a steady paycheck - and the benefits."

I then asked about Shelli. "I don't see her. Is she sick?"

Fern only replied, "Oh, I forgot to tell you. Shelli found her birth mom; she's downtown meeting this woman for lunch."

"Shelli found her real mom? I thought she gave up on that search."

Kyle then clarified for me, "Shelli didn't find her; this woman found Shelli. She wanted to meet with Shelli, in private. I told her to go ahead, and..."
Kyle held up his camera. "She made me promise to take lots of pictures."

While I conversed with Kyle, Tony Terrell, Jacki's fiance, arrived with his brother, Sam. Accompanying them was a little boy of six years.
This was Marcus, a cute little bundle of energy whom Sam and Francine Terrell adopted when Marcus was only three months old.
He was an adorable child, with a creamy complexion, dark curly hair, and big hazel eyes. Marcus and Tamara attended the same kindergarten-first grade class; they were also best friends.

When I greeted Tony, I asked about Jacki. "Isn't she coming?" Then I asked Sam, "And where's Frankie?"
Sam explained that Jacki was bringing her father and Aunt Perle; Francine was home in bed with a bad cold.

"She can't say a word; her throat's all scratchy", sad Sam.

Kyle wanted to laugh when he commented, "What's this? Frankie can't talk? Man, she is in a bad way." We all broke up, because Francine was known for her non-stop chatter.

It was Fern who broke up this little gabfest when she tugged at my sleeve. "If you want to grab a good seat, I suggest we get on inside."

She then asked me, "You got your stuff together?"
I answered, waving the index card in my hand, "Oh yeah! I'm ready."

"Good! Let's show everyone that these inner-city kids, and educators, can put on a well-crafted, and meaningful show.


Broad Ripple High boasted one of thr finest performing arts progams in the county, so no wonder it was slated for this presentation.

The main floor filled quickly, and I was surprised at how many people gave up a Saturday afternoon just to see and hear these children perform.
Several schools - elementary and secondary - were well-represented.
Broad Ripple's Performing Arts Magnet slated several of its best dance, drama, music, and humanities students. The Key Learning Center, where Tamara, Kenya, and Marcus attended, was to start the program with a mixed chorus of kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Student artwork, done especially for this occasion, was on display throughout the first floor. After the program, the parents would host a reception.

I looked around for Jacki, but didn't see her; I'd hoped she didn't get caught in traffic, or, heaven forbid, if Aunt Perle suddenly took ill.
Perle Darcey was now ninety-eight, but still managed to remain independent. She couldn't drive any more, but still did her own cooking, gardening, and shopping. She also remained active with her church and civic interests.
"You can't let age slow you down", was her formula for longevity.

Fern nudged me, and asked, "When do you do your little piece?"

"As soon as Rodney finishes his perfomance."
"Rodney Arnold? The kid who took first place at the Prelude Awards?"
"Yes. He's singing a medley of old spirituals."

Fern and I were so wrapped up in our conversation, praising Rodney Arnold, an extremely gifted senior who scored big with music scholarships, that we nearly missed Jacki calling to us.
"Hey! I thought we'd never make it, but I had an unexpected passenger." Jacki was resplendent in her gold and black dress with matching headwrap and earrings. I looked back to see Ronald Darcey, Jacki's dad, along with Aunt Perle. Both greeted everyone present; then my attention was drawn to the tall, slender gentleman standing in the aisle, very close to my seat.

"I really hadn't planned on this, my darling, but I simply had to tear myself away from my duties", he said, trying to keep the sultry tone of his voice under control. My eyes almost popped; I felt a little uneasy, but I was too elated to see Claude Frollo, my friend, as well as my lover, .

Who cares about BC and his stupid threats? Claude is here with me..with people who love him...Here he can get away from life's pressures and enjoy himself...

"Claude, I almost gave up on you", I said as I got up to embrace him. He returned the embrace, then took his place beside me. Thank goodness the aisles were wide enough so I wouldn't have to climb over feet and legs. I tried not to laugh, but I couldn't help it. I sensed that nearly every eye was on this man as soon as he entered the building.

"You look fabulous, Claude. I love this outfit."
Claude Frollo smiled, stood up and modeled his new, modern ensemble of slim-fitting black wool pants, a purple shirt, black tie, and bolero-style black jacket. Black boots with Cuban heels completed the outfit, and the black velvet cloak was thrown over his shoulder.
All I could say was, "Baby, Alpha will definitely want to check out that outfit. She's here, somewhere, and so's Walter."

Claude smiled again as he seated himself next to me. I couldn't take my eyes off this man, that is, until Perle Darcey nudged me from behind, and said, "He's such a gentleman, Nisha. Why, he kept us entertained all the way out here."
I just looked at Claude. "What did you do? Tell dirty jokes? Bore them with medieval history? Tales from the dungeon?"
Claude laughed and put his arm around me. "Danisha, I only engaged in lively, and meaningful conversation. That is all." He quickly kissed my cheek as the lights lowered.
"Besides, I intend to enjoy this informative, and insightful, experience. Now, my love, when will I hear your lovely voice?"
I returned the kiss, then quietly replied, "After these kids perform. Tamara and Marcus are up first with their class, then more songs and recitations...Oh here!"

I handed Claude a copy of the program, along with my mini-flashlight. All he could do was quietly laugh, and whisper, "You think of everything."

Settling into my plush seat, I held on to Claude's arm as if it was a good luck charm; I was that nervous. Not from my upcoming reading, but I kept having this sense of profound dread, ever since I left BC in that parking lot.

No! Not today...Today's too important for some two-bit punk...Danisha, calm down...BC's probably holed up with some woman...No way he'd be here...It's not his 'scene'. Now what's the name of that old civil rights song? The one Momma and Daddy taught us...Oh, yes... "Ain't nothin' gon' turn me 'round..."

"Yes, Claude?"
"I'm glad I came to this little function, my love."
"I'm glad you came, too."

Nice performance...Good food and good fellowship afterwards...Too bad some folks had to screw up an otherwise perfect afternoon...

Then the cracks began to show...in what was supposedly a solid foundation...


Copyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.

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