When Carlotta’s key turned in the lock, they both jumped off the couch and hugged her.
“Well, I’m glad to see you too!” Carlotta exclaimed. She was an older version of Glenda: with the same cocoa shaded skin and nappy hair that she’d kept in a short Afro. Let me just rest a moment and I’ll start dinner…”
All at once Carlotta furrowed her brow quizzically. “Is everything alright?” She looked from Glenda to Henry.
Glenda cut her eyes at her brother. “Yes ma’am.”
“You sure?” Carlotta studied her childrens’ faces. “Because, you know you can talk to me about anything.”
“Everything’s fine… right Henry?”
“Yeah…” he mumbled.
“I’ll fix dinner Mommy,” Glenda offered, “you rest. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”
Carlotta’s face melted in a smile: her teeth flashing against her dark face. “How could I say no to an offer like that?” She hugged them both and went upstairs to take a nap.
* * *
When bedtime came, Henry insisted on sleeping the floor next to Glenda’s bed. “Alright now that’s it! First you tackle me when I first come through the door and now this! What’s going on?” Carlotta demanded.
Glenda averted her eyes. “We’ve been having nightmares.”
“Both of you?”
“Naw that ain’t it!” Henry blurted.
Ignoring his sister he poured out the story of their otherworldly afternoon. “… And he looked just like one of them trolls in the fairytales you used to read us.” Henry finished.
For a long moment, Carlotta was silent. “Your sister’s right. More than likely it was a drug addict or some other nut dressed up to look like a troll.”
“But what about the other ones Mama?” Glenda interrupted. Now that the truth was out she wanted an answer— one that made sense. “The things that looked like um… fairies?”
Carlotta’s eyes twinkled. The hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “I prefer the word faery, when they’re creatures of color.”
Her children stared at her open mouthed. How had their mother come by such knowledge? “It doesn’t seem like they did you any harm.” Carlotta went on. “Seems like they did you a good turn. But since we know faeries don’t exist, they must’ve been dragonflies.”
Henry and Glenda both shook their heads emphatically. “Uh-uh Mama! They definitely weren’t dragonflies!” Henry disagreed.
Carlotta held up one slender hand. “Never mind about them. From now on I’m picking you up after school.”
“What about your job?” cried Glenda.
“Your safety is more important to me than any job,” Carlotta replied firmly. “I should be at home with you more anyway. I’m not letting the streets raise my children.”
“But if you cut your hours won’t that mean less money for us… ?” asked Henry, thinking of how tight money was already. Yeah but if she picks me up, I don’t have to worry about getting beat up after school.
Carlotta rose. “Let me worry about that.”
“Can I still sleep in here with you?” asked Henry.
“Me too mama,” said Glenda. “we could sleep on the floor…”
“Sure baby,” Carlotta waited in until her children had arranged a pallet on her bedroom floor; and then kissed them both on the check. “Love ya’ll… goodnight.” She pulled the door shut.
“Did you see the way Mama looked, when she told us about the fai— I mean faeries? She was actually smiling!” Henry whispered excitedly.
“Yeah, that was really weird… You think something like this happened to her?” Glenda breathed.
“Nah… she’d of told us.” But he didn’t sound convinced.
“You know Henry, maybe it was good that monster showing up like he did. Now you don’t have to worry about those boys bothering you anymore.”
“That takes care of after school, but what about during?
“You should tell Mama about that too; or the principal.”
“I ain’t snitching like some little punk!” Henry said petulantly.
“Protecting yourself doesn’t make you a punk!” Glenda shot back. “Not wanting to fight doesn’t make you one either! You’re smart, and smart people fight with their brains— not their fists!”
Henry adjusted his pallet on the floor, his small face thoughtful…
Copyright 2010, 2012 Valjeanne Jeffers all rights reserved. This story has been published in LuneWing Anthology and Genesis Science Fiction Magazine.
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