This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples again comes from Chapter 34 of Adicia’s story, “Changing Lives.” Adicia, her sisters, and their friends have come over to visit Lenore on the weekend, and discover some very exciting news.
Like Julie, my favorite Monkee has always been Davy too, and I also chose him because I thought he was the cutest. Had I discovered them at older than six, I’m pretty sure I would’ve chosen Peter as Ernestine and Girl have, but changing my favorite member of my first musical love would feel sacrilegious. It was like being kicked in the stomach to hear the news that Davy just passed away. There’s a blessing we make when we hear of a death, Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Judge of Truth. May your memory be for an eternal blessing, dear Davy, and may your soul be bound up with the bonds of eternal life.
The first weekend in October, the girls arrive at Allen and Lenore’s apartment for their first visit since school began. They’re very eager to hear all about the honeymoon Allen and Lenore took to Oyster Bay in Long Island the first weekend of September.
“Come sit down,” Lenore says, looking a little pale. “I haven’t been feeling so well lately, but I’m feeling well enough to show you our pictures and tell you all about our trip.”
“You’re not feeling well?” Justine asks. “I don’t want you to get sick again. You can lie down on the sofa bed and we can sit around you as you show us the pictures.”
“You think you caught something in Long Island?” Girl asks. “Maybe you drank bad water or had fish with worms.”
“Does Allen know you’re not feeling well?” Ernestine asks. “I can’t imagine he would’ve just gone off to work had he known his bride wasn’t feeling well. You know how overprotective he’s been of you since you almost died last year.”
“Enough about me,” Lenore says. “Why don’t you girls tell me about your lives first?”
“I’m here too,” Boy reminds them. “I hate being lumped together with all these girls.”
“Betsy turned us onto a really groovy new television show,” Ernestine says. “It’s called The Monkees and it airs on Monday nights. Me, Julie, and Girl go over to the van Niftriks’ place to watch it. We even got Baby into watching it. She thinks they’re cute and can’t wait till we buy their album.”
“Baby’s really having her first celebrity crush?” Lenore asks. “She was just a little girl when I met her!”
“I’m nine now,” Baby says. “I was five when I met you.”
“Girl and I both like Peter best,” Ernestine says. “It’s like we share a brain. And it’s the same way with how John is our favorite Beatle; we came to that choice by ourselves, without even knowing the other had made it.”
“I like Davy best,” Julie says. “I think he’s the cutest.”
“That was the same reason you picked Paul as your favorite Beatle,” Girl says. “I think they’re all cute too, but you should have a more solid reason for picking your favorite member of a group besides how cute he happens to be.”
“I don’t think I have a favorite,” Baby says. “I just think all four of ‘em are cute.”
“I wish I could watch that show,” Adicia says jealously. “My new friend Marjani’s parents would probably let me come over to watch it, since they have a television, but I don’t wanna walk alone after dark in Hell’s Kitchen.”
“What kinda name is that?” Lenore asks. “Is she foreign?”
“She’s a Negro, but she and her family don’t use that word. They call themselves Black. That’s the new progressive word used by Negroes who are into their culture and equal rights. She, her mother, and her older sister wear their hair in something called cornrows. They look like tight little braids all over their heads, braided right against their heads instead of loose like Betsy’s braids. They wear pretty colored beads in their braids. She said their names are from a language called Swahili, which is used in some Western African countries. Her name means ‘coral’ and her sister Subira’s name means ‘patience.’ Their brother Zuberi’s name means ‘strong.’ I don’t know if their parents have African names. They’re just Mr. and Mrs. Washington to me.”
“They live in the tenement?” Boy asks. “I don’t remember you ever mentioning there was a Negro family there, though I know your mom hates that there are Puerto Ricans living there.”
“They live in an apartment about fifteen minutes walking distance away. I’ve been over to their house a couple of times.”
“Wow,” Ernestine says. “How is Mother handling that?”
“I don’t think she even knows at this point. All she knows is that I sometimes go to visit a new friend of mine who has a name that sounds a little funny. Even if she knew, she’d probably grudgingly accept it like she accepts how Tommy always goes to visit his Puerto Rican friends on the second floor. So long as we don’t bring our non-white friends over to the apartment, she’s okay.”
“Oh, Lenore, I got you and Allen a present,” Ernestine laughs. “It’s a single by some British group. I thought of yous guys when I heard it, since it’s about a couple who meets the same way you met.”
“Someone actually made a song about a couple meeting at a bus stop?” Lenore asks in amusement. “Does the boy’s mother also accuse him of soliciting a hooker like your mother did? I don’t know what kind of bus stops that woman has been hanging around if she’s so convinced the only reason to be there is to buy drugs or pick up girls of ill repute.”
“I think she’s smoked too much cocaine,” Adicia says.
“Excuse me for a moment. I think I’m going to be sick again.”
“Let me help you,” Ernestine says. “If you need to throw up, I can hold your hair back for you. You’ve got so much of it.”
Lenore bolts into the bathroom and runs the water so they don’t have to hear her throwing up. Girl and Ernestine rush into the kitchen to make chicken noodle soup, while Adicia puts some crackers on a plate and pours a glass of ginger ale.
“Are you gonna be okay?” Infant asks when Lenore comes back. “Why don’t you sit down and we’ll bring you some food as soon as it’s done being made.”
“Do you think it’s a stomach bug?” Julie asks. “I hope you’re not contagious.”
“I’ve been feeling really tired in the middle of the day, besides starting to vomit lately. At least I’ve never thrown up when Allen’s home. I’ve been having some weird dreams too.”
Girl looks at her with a slight grin. “Not that I was ever around her that much before she left, but I was five when my mother was pregnant with Baby and seven when she was having Infant. I remember her getting tired in the middle of the day and throwing up a bunch. She used to complain that morning sickness was the wrong name for it, since she didn’t only get sick in the mornings. Do you think it’s possible?”
“I’d better not be. That’s the last thing we need, after we spent a pretty penny on our wedding and just had a five-day honeymoon. And I’m not even working now, though I did get my GED over the summer.”
“When did you last menstruate?” Ernestine asks. “For all anyone knows, maybe it really is a stomach bug, but you are newlyweds. I’ve heard stories of newlyweds getting careless with their birth control, since they no longer have to worry about a scandal if something happens.”
“August. But it’s normal sometimes to skip. It’s only the first day of October now.”
“When in August?” Girl asks. “Can you remember?”
“Probably earlier in August. I actually did forget my birth control pills when we went on our honeymoon—“
“What! How could you forget them, particularly when you don’t want a kid right away? Were you thinking with newlywed brain?”
“I always keep them in the medicine cabinet, not my purse. It slipped my mind to check the medicine cabinet for anything we needed to take. This was during the last active week, and then came the week where you’re supposed to have your menses. I just thought it was a little late in arriving.”
“Honeymoon babies are so romantic,” Girl says. “They’re like wedding night babies, a special reminder of how in love newlyweds are.”