Full Disclosure, p.56

“You had to pinch pennies. That’s what Mother called it. It was more than just pinching pennies. Sometimes there were no pennies to pinch. Mother and I went out at night and stole food before the cancer took her.” I didn’t realize it but the room had gone quiet. I hate it when I’m trying to talk private and that happens. I looked around. “I’ve stolen food from the neighbors a couple times since I came to live at Mama’s house here in Indianapolis. I stole some loaf bread from the church once. I felt really bad about that.”

“You had to pinch pennies. That’s what Mother called it. It was more than just pinching pennies. Sometimes there were no pennies to pinch. Mother and I went out at night and stole food before the cancer took her.” I didn’t realize it but the room had gone quiet. I hate it when I’m trying to talk private and that happens. I looked around. “I’ve stolen food from the neighbors a couple times since I came to live at Mama’s house here in Indianapolis. I stole some loaf bread from the church once. I felt really bad about that.”

“Let’s peel that onion some,” Billy said, “What did you do with the food you took, my sweet?” I looked at Billy and rubbed his shoulder. He hasn’t spoken sweet words since the hospital.

“The others, Bart, Charisse, Penny, they steal food from just about every store they go in, but it’s junk, candy and stuff, and they hide it in their beds and pillows. I stole food that was groceries that I could put in the kitchen. Mama could cook it for meals for everybody.”

Everyone stopped eating their pizza. They looked ashamed.

“Oh no, no!” I pleaded, “I have ruined your party, Billy. I am so sorry. Please, everyone. Don’t let my worries get you in a state.” I smiled at everyone.

“I told you, Mom, didn’t I!” Billy said.

Janice got up from her chair and came around the table to me. She got a paper plate, then a slice of pizza, and sat it in front of me. Billy had eaten his slice and was hungry for more. I knew he was! I started to slide my plate over to him and Janice stopped me, pulled my hand back.

“I want to see you eat,” Janice said. “You wobble when you walk, and I won’t have it!”

“I can’t!”

“Tell them why you can’t eat, my sweet,” Billy said.

“I can’t eat if no one has any food, if no one else is eating. I share my food if their plates are empty. It’s soul deep inside me.”

So deep?” Evangela asked.

Soul deep,” Billy said patting his chest. “That’s why she shares her lunch at school.”

“Everyone, take a piece of pizza! Here!” Janice said, and shoved two full boxes to the middle of the table. They were hesitant but Billy gave Monique and Evangela the stink eye and everybody got pizza. “Great! Now let’s eat!” Janice said. She carried her plate of pizza back to her seat. I looked at Billy’s plate.

“Now what?” Janice asked.

“She’s seeing if her piece is bigger than mine,” Billy said softly.

“FUCK SAKE!” Janice said. Monique snorted soda. “You are not Mother Teresa! Eat your fucking pizza!”

I snatched up my pizza slice and took a bite! Monique was red-faced with her hand over her mouth. Billy grinned. Pizza was good! Mmm!! I gobbled it! Everybody smiled and everybody ate pizza.

“It’s your party,” Billy said with a mouthful of pizza. I grinned. He was wrong.

Everyone ate with me. I ate the whole slice and a bite of another. I got fretful about the left-over pizza on my paper plate.

“What do you need, my sweet?” Billy asked.

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