“Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud!”
James Brown’s voice blared from the 2010 black BMW coupe as the owner steered the car toward the parking lot exit.
Sophia Carter was so glad to be free of the sequestered jury where she had spent the last three months of her life. As soon as the judge released them, she was out the backdoor on her way to the car.
She had performed her civic duty on the jury. Her two teenage daughters had been at home alone with her mother checking in on them. She was ready to see her family. She wanted nothing to do with the media circus that was in full effect.
Even though it was summer in Texas, the fresh smell of rain was still in the air, but very little evidence was left on the ground. She rolled the windows down, noticing the girls had cleaned the car and even left her favorite air freshener in it. Linen. It reminded her of all things clean.
She missed her babies. She couldn’t wait to get home. Blue sky broke through the clouds turning the day into a beautiful one. Her head swayed with the music, rocking her brown afro.
Two hands hit the hood of her car before she pulled out into the street. It scared the crap out of her. She stuck her head out the driver side window and glared at the person.
“Ms Reynolds, you were the only black woman on the jury. What does this verdict mean to you?”
“You put your hands on my car again and I am going to run over you!”
She pulled out to the street and sped away. She finally felt the wind in her afro, and could see the defendant’s attorney standing on the courthouse steps holding his usual press conference. She huffed and sped on.
As she drove down the street she began to sing with James Brown. She held her fist up out the window!
The reporter caught the photo with his phone.
Cecilia Martin had been overwhelmed by the jury’s decision. Her lawyers led the 25 year old light skinned African American woman through the crowd of photographers snapping photos and reporters yelling out questions.
They went out the front doors of the courthouse, where the defense stood having their press conference.
“We will appeal this decision,” the defense attorney stated. “This was a miscarriage of justice and an insult to men and women in uniform.”
Cecilia saw Officer Duane Stewart standing with his family. They looked very distressed but they were all together. She would give back every cent if she could have her husband back.
Because Duane Stewart shot her unarmed husband on a city street in broad daylight for no apparent reason, Cecila would have to settle for all of Duane’s family’s assets and half of their salaries for the rest of their lives. Any person who had any account with Duane’s name as part of it would forfeit half of it. The Stewarts would lose homes, cars, salaries, property, retirement etc.
The bullet Duane shot into James Martin would be the most expensive bullet he ever fired. Yet it wasn’t enough for Martin’s wife and kids.
The judge rushed into her office and locked the door. She started to hyperventilate. All she could hear was the words of the other jurist, that this was a career ending case. That she should set aside anything over a million dollars. She knocked over the photo of her husband and herself on an island on the way to her sofa. Her husband talked about retiring and buying an island.
In all of her time on the bench, no case had had the impact of this case. She crumbled on the sofa and cried.
A few minutes later she heard knocking on the door.
“Your honor?” she heard her clerk call out.
The judge took a moment and cleared her voice of the tears
“Please hold all my calls!”
Sometimes that clerk does not listen, the judge thought to herself.
“Ma’am. It’s the President of the United States. She would like to speak to you.”
“I wanta a Brita Brita Water Pitcha, can we get one?” her 15 year old daughter, Zaire asked.
Zaire threw her arms around Sophia Reynolds when she walked in the front door. Sophia thought about how much she had missed her girls and mom, but the sight of her furniture crammed into the room with her mother’s furniture dimmed it.
She was sequestered for three months which means she didn’t work and couldn’t pay the rent on her apartment. They moved her stuff to her mom’s house.
“The turkey is in the oven,” her mother, NeNe said. “We are going to have a feast.”
“I am making pie,” her 17 year old daughter Meghan said and handed her mother a basket of mail.
“Who is opening my mail?” Sophia asked holding an open letter from her job.
The girls pointed to their grandmother.
“I have been throwing stuff away at other people’s houses cause folks been going through our trash. I went to get some of the neighbors trash threw it away here. So whoever is going through they don’t know what they got.”
A hard knock on the door interrupted her conversation. Sophia and NeNe looked at each other.
“Are we going to get it?” Zaire asked.
Sophia opened the door to a tall good looking African American man in a nice suit.
“Ms. Reynolds, A friend of mine with the FBI suggested that you may need protection,” he said handing her his business card.
“All I need is a can of wasp spray and I got that.”
“May I come in?” he asked.
“Yes,” her mother smiled and pulled the door open wider.
“I want him if you don’t,” her mother whispered and smiled sexily.
She hoped he had not heard her mother and continued on.
“I do thank you for the concern. But the Good Lord watches over me.”
“Maybe the Good Lord sent me to be one of his angels.”
He kissed her deeper and sweeter than he ever had. He was so proud of her. His wife was getting more beautiful with age. 60 looked good on her. They said black don’t crack, and she didn’t.
She ran her hands across his chest, like she always did when they were close together. He broke the hold and continued to set up dinner on the patio so they could watch the sun set on this lovely day. He was excited by the day’s events, but she was still nervous. She was a part of a moment that would forever change history in the United States.
He had cut off the phone and television because they had heard enough from the outside world today. They would rest in the peace of God this evening. He wondered if this was what it was like before the fall. The disturbed look on her face broke his train of thought. She was a worrier.
“Hey, I found some great islands in the South Pacific,” he said to change her thought process. “We can go look at them next summer.”
“South Pacific? I thought you were talking about the Bahamas! I am not moving to the South Pacific! Are you crazy?” she said.
“What? Idarose are you planning on going to the Supreme Court or maybe just an appellate one?”
“I’ll be lucky to have a job next year. Voters are not going to forget this. I have pissed off a lot of people.”
“Except the only one who counts.”
She looked at him with questioning eyes.
“There is a God who sits high and looks low,” her husband said.
She wanted to tell him to shut up.
It was a rough two years. That photo of her driving down the street with her arm stretched up out of the window graced the cover of magazines and websites across the country. Some called her a hero, others called her a militant. She lost her job and had to deal with numerous death threats. The protection from Delane Security was right on time.
Sophia had been accused of jury tampering, but was cleared.
“Check the tape. Ms Hardwick is just trying to sell books and save face amongst the good white folks,” the Jury Foreman said in Sophia’s defense.
Sophia went to work for the FFF, Fighting for Freedom Foundation who helped victims of civil rights. She found herself in a place that was challenging and impacting the community around her. It was more than she had ever dreamed, and she appreciated finally being out of the spotlight. Her afro was longer, wavier and redder.
“Your good friend might be going to the appellate court,” her boss told her as she handed her the next assignment.
“That’s good to hear. I will have to send her a note.”
“Your other buddy got picked up at the border. News might need a blurb from you on this.”
News coverage of Duane Stewart and his family trying to sneak across the border was nonstop. They had dyed their hair or had on wigs. He tried to force a shoot out, but authorities took them in without any bloodshed. Since the case where police became fiscally responsible for the families they disrupted happened, the amount of killings decreased considerably.
“I couldn’t let the tax payers take the burden. I just asked. How much would you have wanted for your father at age 5? What is the correct price for that?” Sophia told the reporter.
“It is not me on the sex tape. That heifer was 300 pounds and dark as night.
You just gave your money to some heifer, that’s not me!” she yelled and hung up her phone.
Life was hard and her friends were making it worse. She clearly needed to let Tammie go. The girl was more struggles than not. Having money brought people into her life that made it so difficult. Money made her deal with things that weren’t even things when you were poor.
Her three year old son ran in the room and climbed on the bed.
“Mom, are you making breakfast? I am hungry.”
“I will make breakfast,” her 8 year old son said as he followed his brothers into the room.
“I don’t want your breakfast,” the three year old said.
“I want pancakes. We haven’t had pancakes since Dad died.”
“Don’t!” the 8 year old hit the 5 year old to shut him up. He didn’t want anyone to bring it up because it made his mother so sad.
“I will fix breakfast. Momma, you just lay there. It will be okay.”
She smiled at them. She loved them, but it wasn’t enough.
“I will come make pancakes. Do we have the stuff?”
“It is okay Momma. We will be okay with cereal.”
“No. I’m coming.”
She sat up. She smiled at her kids who ran from the room excited because she was getting out of bed.
She was empty. She had a new home, new car and money in the bank. It wasn’t enough to fill the void in her life. She didn’t know what to do.
“My baby! My baby!” Sophia screamed as she followed Victor Delane who carried Meghan away from the fire and smoke.
Fire burned around them, smoke was everywhere. A bomb had exploded. Sophia’s mind spun. She had been through so much since the trial.
She lost her apartment, lost her job, but gained a new career and man in her life. She had become a speaker and lobbyist for civil rights. She missed the 8 to 5 job, but this had more impact on other people’s lives. After two years she thought the shenanigans were over.
He stopped running away from the smoke and placed Meghan in the grass. They could hear the sirens coming towards them. Sophia fell at Meghan’s face.
“Meggie! Meggie! Speak to me!” she said then looked at Victor Delane who was on the phone.
“Who could have done this? Find out who it is and just give me their name!”
“Wasp spray ain’t gonna help this!” he said looking at her.
“Don’t you worry about how I’m gonna get em,” she said.
“We are going to let the authorities handle this,” he said.
This man got on her nerves, she thought. Normally she thought he was cute, but at this moment it was grinding her nerves. Someone had just tried to blow her up and she was going to do something about it.
Meghan opened her eyes.
“What the hell just happened?” Meghan asked.
“Girl, don’t cuss at me. I am YOUR momma,” Sophia said.
Her family had used the funeral home for decades. They had buried her father and mother and a host of relatives before she was born. It was an older company which had a building in the hood. It was not the most prestige company in the city, but it was the correct choice.
She hated the tradition African Americans had of this processional into the church. All the eyes would be on her, and you would think she would be used to by now. But she hated this type of attention. Her son took her arm.
She ran her right hand across her son’s chest. She fixed the yellow rose in his lapel. It came from a beautiful bouquet that arrived at her house that morning from an old acquaintance. He walked her down the aisle pass the packed church. It was standing room only. Every time she was close to getting out of the news something happened that hoisted her back to what felt like the front page.
She stopped at the casket and ran her hand across her husband’s chest one last time. She guessed there would not be an island in the South Pacific. There was an emptiness and void in her that she was not prepared for.
She traveled over 500 miles without an invitation. She wondered if she could even see her. But she should, because the woman sent her an invitation every week for year. They stopped coming a couple of years ago, but that was probably because of the bomb.
Cecilia finally read the note on the card. It said the organization offered counseling to victims of violent crimes. She never thought of herself as a victim, but that was how she had been living the last five years since her husband had been murdered.
She was going to find Sophia Reynolds and talk to her about it.
Sophia could feel the vomit coming up her throat. She was so nervous she couldn’t stand it. She needed to find the restroom quick. She ran down the hall passed a familiar face.
When she walked out of the stall, Sophia saw that face again. She smiled.
“Your Honor, thank you for coming to our symposium on peace.”
“Are you okay?” Idarose implied with a smile.
Catching the implication, Sophia smiled back and said “Yes. I just get nervous speaking in front of a big crowd.”
“I want to thank you again for the yellow roses you sent when my husband passed. They were beautiful.”
“Thank you for the basket, when mom passed.”
“That is a lovely ring,” the judge grinned.
“Mr. Delane is very persistent. And worth it.” She showed off the ring.
The conversation was interrupted by the restroom door opening. Cecilia Martin walked in and was surprised to see them standing there.
“If it isn’t the girl who remembers my birthday every year!” the judge said.
“Mine too!” Sophia said.
“You two ladies changed my life.”
“Darling, we don’t change lives. God does.”
“Have you ever had to make a choice and just couldn’t”
“Sometimes God will make it for you. The South Pacific or the judicial appointment. God answered. I am not always happy with His answer, but He knows what He is doing.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,” Sophia said “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
“And while you wait for an answer?” Cecilia asked.
“Pray crap don’t blow up!” Sophia quipped.