“Oh Mama! You did this for me! Nobody has ever done anything just for me!” I said and cried. I put my arms around Mama’s neck and hugged her like she was Mother. I loved her.
“You still have to abide by the hot water schedule.”
“I know, Mama. I expected that.”
“Go upstairs, get your bed clothes and make your bed down here. Then bring down your things and put in your drawers. Come back up and help with your chores. We’ve got dinner to get on the table. Women’s work is never done.”
“Mother used to say that.”
Mama got Papa back upstairs. Andre and Penny got home and they helped get Papa laid down. He went off and got a little rough with Andre, but they talked him down, that’s what they called it later, talking him down. It sounded more like kissing his butt. He finally settled down. Dinner was quiet without him. Nobody wanted to talk about it. Penny finally did. She has nerve.
She looked down the table at Mama. She pulled back her long curly black hair. “So, is Papa off the wagon now?”
Mama put down her fork hard on her plate. She snorted. “This was a one-off. He will go back to his meetings. They call it a slip. You know that.”
“Let’s see,” Penny said, “his last slip was a year ago, when I was fourteen. He tried to fuck me.”
“Language!” Mama shouted. “You will mind your tongue!”
“I told you after that night, if he drank again, I would go to Child Services and have this whole place shut down. Do you remember?”
Everyone at the table stopped eating and looked at Mama. I was on her side. Where would we go if Child Services closed the house?
Mama spoke calmly, “I remember that night. I remember it every day. I have apologized to you, for him, over and over. I swore to you that if he touches you again I would see to it that he goes to jail. I will see to it that he gets punished. There is no need to punish the rest of this family for his misdeeds. It is not against the law to drink alcohol, but it is against the law to lay hands on you kids and I swore after that night I would not let it go unpunished if it happened again. He is my husband. I vowed to stick with him through thick and thin, in sickness and health, and that is what I will do. But I will not stand for him abusing any of you, ever again. The act of me punishing him is what some people call tough love. Have you ever heard of tough love?”
“No, Mama,” I said, others shook their heads, even Penny.
“Tough love is when you act or decide not to act in a way that hurts a loved one hoping that your action or inaction helps them eventually,” Mama explained.
“Tough love would be watching the police take Papa, but in your heart, you would know that he would learn from it,” I said. Mama reached across the table and clutched my arm. Tears were in her eyes.
“Yes, Ronni. That is what tough love is,” she said and her lip quivered.
The new school was huge, that’s all I can say about it. They called the group of buildings a campus. I had never heard of that. They had a gymnasium and it was only the seventh through the ninth grade. They had a junior varsity sports program. I had never heard of that either.
I looked over pamphlets while I sat on a slat-backed bench out in the hallway while Mama was inside talking to the Principal and the Guidance Counselor. I had never heard of a guidance