“What happened with Stevey?” Uncle Charlie asks.
We are gathered in the living room. Chuck is next to me. Across from him is Uncle Charlie and Aunt Loribeth. Mary Flannery and Carol Millwood are sitting next to Uncle Charlie’s big television box. June Bug is there right next to me. It’s none of us that are getting attention. It’s Sissy, Stevey’s older sister that is in the middle of the room. She’s dressed in her uniform.
“What’s all this about?” Aunt Loribeth asks before Sissy can answer.
Sissy is staring at the rug. It’s clear something was said to Uncle Charlie. It’s clear Sissy went to him. I look over at Chuck. He is damn near glaring at Sissy, something evil. I wonder if she feels it. I wonder if that’s why she isn’t talking.
“Sissy has a story she wants to tell about Stevey being wronged,” Charlie says.
“Wronged by who?” June Bug asks, “Hope nothing happened to Stevey. The kid does a great job in the gardens.”
I loved June Bug but even he sounds so ignorant at this point. It was as though Stevey’s entire value to June Bug was how well he worked on the gardens. Regardless of why he was upset, I can see that June Bug crosses his arms seeming somewhat troubled by all of this.
Then there is Carol. Ms. Millwood has gone mute. She doesn’t even talk. She just sits there and watches it all.
“Sissy, speak up now girl. We don’t got all day,” Charlie Crawford states, “You had a complaint. Speak on it.”
Sissy’s voice isn’t much higher than a faint whisper, “Sir, I was hoping we could speak in private.”
“Ain’t no privacy in this house. Speak girl.”
I’d seen Sissy in her own environment. She didn’t come off anywhere near as shy and timid. I could tell she was uncomfortable. I knew why. I turn and see Chuck staring at her. Uncle Charlie is smoking his pipe in the house. A long trail of smoke comes out of the pipe to Aunt Loribeth’s dismay. I can see her face twist up when he blows it in her face. Maybe it was the smoke that was causing it or maybe it was Sissy appearing in front of the family with her complaint.
Sissy doesn’t say anything.
Chuck smiles. Seeing him smile the way that he is smiling right now sends shivers up my spine. I wish Sissy would have gone to the cops instead of coming here to Uncle Charlie’s. I hated the idea of Chuck getting away with what he did.
“Ok this was pointless,” Aunt Loribeth states, “Sissy, if you aren’t going to talk, maybe you can put yourself to work. I need you to take a trip into town and get some lemons for my key lime pie…”
“They violated him!” I speak out.
Everyone turns to me. The entire family turns to me.
“What’s that?” Uncle Charlie asks.
I look over at Chuck, “Chuck and his friends violated Stevey when he said he didn’t know anything about those boys raping Carol. They put things…they put things up his ass.”
“That is an entirely inappropriate thing to say in front of ladies,” Aunt Loribeth states.
“And it’s a goddam lie!” Chuck roars.
“Is it true Sissy?” Uncle Charlie asks.
Aunt Loribeth immediately looks at Sissy as though she had three heads, “Don’t you lie on my son!”
“I’m not lying ma’am,” Sissy states, “If you don’t believe me, you got to believe August. That’s what happened. They took it out on my brother what happened to Ms. Carol.”
“No one’s believing these damn lies,” Loribeth states.
I watch how she huddles over to Chuck’s side. To say that she was protective of her son was an understatement. It pisses me off she was so blind to just how disgusting of a person Chuck was. It reminded me just how Stevey was blind to Chuck. I didn’t get it. The guy didn’t have an innocent face. He didn’t even have a nice demeanor. He wasn’t handsome or well behaved like June Bug. The guy has a twisted up face that you just wanted to punch, but people always clamored to protect him.
June Bug interrupts at that moment out of nowhere, “There was blood in the tool shed when I went to go talk to Stevey this morning…”
“That’s because they violated him,” I assure Uncle Charlie.
“I ought to beat your ass,” Chuck states getting up and taking a few steps towards me.
His fists are up. He is ready to take me out right here in this goddam thing. It causes the girls in the living room to make a big fuss. There is something else that happens though when June Bug runs across the living room to hold his brother back. That thing that happens is Uncle Charlie himself getting up. Uncle Charlie standing up makes Chuck stop dead in his path towards me.
“Sit down boy,” Uncle Charlie states, “And don’t you move.”
Chuck listens to his father. There is this level of respect that snaps him back into reality. I can still see the hatred all over his face.
“You don’t believe these lies, do you Charlie,” Aunt Loribeth states, “Those people… they lie. They can’t help it, you know? That’s how they were raised. It’s in their blood, I tell you. That’s what they do. Two years ago remember Sissy cleaned my room and mother’s necklace went missing.”
“I don’t steal ma’am,” Sissy states, “And I don’t lie.”
Sissy is calm. The girl is a goddam saint not to go off on Aunt Loribeth.
“Your mama lied,” Aunt Loribeth spits venom.
That’s when I see Sissy almost lose her control, “Please don’t…ever…talk about my mama like that,” she states before quickly adding, “Ma’am.”
“See how she speaks to me? She got a mouth on her!”
“SHUT UP!” Uncle Charlie rages before turning to everyone else in the room, “Now. Everyone shut the hell up. Sissy, I need you to go get Stevey?”
“Call a Dr. Quincy from out of town to take a look a look at him and make sure he’s OK. He can take a look at Stevey in the guest room.”
Sissy nods, “Yes sir.”
Sissy leaves the room. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I feel good knowing that Stevey was going to get looked at by a professional but I also didn’t want Stevey in this house with Chuck. Looking at Chuck though I don’t think he would go against his father so openly.
“Charles. Dr. Quincy doesn’t treat colored folks,” Aunt Loribeth interrupts.
“He did once before,” Uncle Charlie states.
Aunt Loribeth gives him a weird suspicious look, “That was a special…circumstance…”
I don’t know what circumstance they were talking about but it was really odd.
“Well, we’ll make this circumstance happen again. If he ever wants my money again, he’ll treat another one,” Uncle Charlie demands.
“I can’t believe you going to believe that nigger bitch over your own son,” Aunt Loribeth responds.
For someone who was so classy and well-spoken, Aunt Loribeth seemed to have completely lost her cool. Her giant cheeks were the color of blood as she spits her obscenities so loud that the rest of the Help can probably hear her.
“Everyone, leave me alone with Chuck,” Uncle Charlie states.
We all start leaving.
But Uncle Charlie stops me, “Except you August. You stay here.”
I stop in my tracks. I feel June Bug give me a tap on my shoulder as the others leave. From the other room, I can hear Aunt Loribeth going off about one thing or another. She wasn’t going to let this go. I don’t think Chuck was going to really let this go either. It was clear where Chuck had gotten his demeanor from. Aunt Loribeth seemed like this kind lady when I was up North but the more I got to know her the more I saw how much of a nasty woman she was.
Things get quiet in the room. Uncle Charlie is smoking his large pipe. He’s staring at Chuck. He isn’t saying anything but we can all feel this huge tension in the room.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Chuck states, “You got to believe me. Things just got out of hand.”
Uncle Charlie ignores his son and turns to me, “Did Stevey tell anyone about this?”
I remember Beau and his other friends. I couldn’t tell Uncle Charlie about this without breaking my promise to Stevey.
“No, sir. Just his sister.”
“Good,” Uncle Charlie responds.
“No disrespect sir,” I state, “But would anyone care about a bunch of white boys beating up a black boy.”
“Not if that’s all it was,” Uncle Charlie states, “That’s not all there is to the story, is there Chuck?”
“Pops?” Chuck asks.
“You are obsessed with that boy,” Uncle Charlie states, “I see how you look at him. Putting things up his ass. What kind of pervert are you, boy? Huh? What kind of pervert does that to another man?”
Chuck turns away. His face is red with embarrassment. It has to be worse because I’m still here. Maybe that’s why Uncle Charlie asked me to stay. He wanted to embarrass Chuck. I watch Chuck sit there looking so uneasy. Tears are forming in the corners of his eyes but he’s holding them back.
“It’s not like that sir,” Chuck states.
“You going to cry?” Uncle Charlie asks, “Goddamit, August, look at this sissy? His mother has babied him to the point of no return. What if someone talks about you and your pervert friends? What if someone talks about how obsessed you are with this boy. I bet your little prick got hard violating that boy, didn’t it Chuck? I bet you creamed all over yourself to that nigger boy?”
“I didn’t sir.”
“Don’t you fucking lie to me boy!”
Uncle Charlie flicks his pipe at Chuck, getting ash all over him. Chuck almost catches fire trying to brush it off as quickly as possible.
All of a sudden I felt uncomfortable, “I should leave.”
“No. You stay. Was it sexual, August?” Uncle Charlie asks, “What they were doing to Stevey? Was it sexual in nature?”
I stop. I look over at Chuck. He can’t hold back anymore. Tears were falling down his face. Real tears. If it was anyone else I’d feel bad for them. Uncle Charlie may have been calm. He may not be this screaming banshee-like Aunt Loribeth, but he was no defender of rights. Right now I understand what this was all about. He was angrier about Chuck’s sexuality then what Chuck really did to Stevey.
I’m not going to defend Chuck though, “Yes. They were pleasing themselves.”
“Not me. I didn’t pull my dick out,” Chuck.
Uncle Charlie is getting angrier at the second, “I saw you before. Came home late one night. Stevey’s tools were still out. I knew it was rare for him. He always put his tools up. So I go to the tool shed. And there you are. You have him tied up in ropes. At first I think it’s some sort of punishment. I’m confused when I see it. But I notice he’s naked and my son is turned on. Your pink dick is hard as you stare at his charred up asshole. You start spanking him. Slowly. You keep telling him he’s yours. What did you mean by that Chuck? Huh, what the hell did you mean by that?”
Chuck is in full blown tears now.
“Nothing sir,” Chuck states.
“Bullshit. You meant something by it. Because a few seconds later I watched you put your mouth to the area that boy shits. What kind of Crawford are you—to let a nigger disrespect you like that?”
There is silence. Fuck. This was…serious. It was more serious than I knew.
I wanted to leave so bad at this point. I was looking at the door wishing I could take all of this back.
“It only happened once. I swear,” Chuck states.
It’s a goddam lie and we all knew it. It wasn’t even a believable lie.
“And then you bring your friends to violate him afterward? Stick things up his ass. You wish it was you sticking your prick up his ass, don’t you?”
“This was all about Carol,” Chuck defends himself.
“Then why didn’t you kill him?” Uncle Charlie asks.
“You should have killed Stevey,” Uncle Charlie states, “I rather you have killed him then keep him alive so that he has power over you. What if tells someone about you? What if he tells someone that you are some abomination and that you let him sit on your goddam face? You LET some colored boy put his asshole on your lips. I rather you have killed him.”
My heart is beating faster. Uncle Charlie was embarrassed. He was scared the truth about Stevey would come out.
“Stevey won’t talk,” I interrupt, “He won’t say anything like that about Chuck.”
I know I’m putting myself on a limb by saying this. I know it would probably look suspicious. I don’t care. I don’t like the look in Uncle Charlie’s eyes. I don’t like the way he’s talking.
“He better not,” Uncle Charlie states, “Millwood is going to come get his daughter this weekend. Stevey is going to come back to work. Everything is going to get back to normal and we’ll forget all this shit ever happened before you further embarrass me. Is that clear, Chuck?”
Chuck doesn’t hesitate.
“And Chuck, before you leave…”
“If you ever touch that boy again, I’m going to do what you couldn’t do, I’m going to kill him,” Uncle Charlie states before suspiciously adding, “And that goes for any Crawford.”
My mouth gets dry when he adds the second part.
Did he suspect something?
Did he suspect something with me?
Whatever respect that I had for Uncle Charlie, I had lost it. I thought he had come to help but he was even worse than Aunt Loribeth. He was a cruel man. I make my way to the front room when I see Sissy. She’s walking Dr. Quincy out of the house. I watch from the staircase the entire time that she walks him out.
“Is he OK?” I ask Sissy.
She nods, “He’ll be OK. Thank you. I didn’t expect any of this to happen.”
“You couldn’t have known,” I say to Sissy.
Sissy nods, “I should have protected him. I should have protected my brother.”
Sissy was taking this hard. I feel bad for her. She was a good woman. I see her standing there wiping her hands on her maid’s cloth.
“Your brother is thankful to have a sister like you,” I tell her.
Sissy shakes her head, “Not everything is how it seems in the South. Is it different in the North? Is it better?”
I sigh, “It’s different. I don’t want to say better. Everyone has their struggles.”
“He’d like to see the North,” Sissy explains, “He stays around me because he feels like he has to. This town…this family…it’s cursed though. I wish he’d get away from here. I wish someone would take Stevey up to the North. Save him. You know what I mean?”
Sissy looks at me when she says it. The look in her eyes is so strong.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“Something is coming. A reckoning. I want him to be far away from here when it does,” Sissy states.
“What are you talking about?”
The way that Sissy talks freaks me out. It’s as though she knows something that she isn’t really sharing with me. What the hell did she mean by a reckoning? What the hell was Sissy talking about?
“I have some money saved up,” Sissy tells me out of nowhere, “Take him. Get out of here. Please. I’ll give it all to you.”
“I’m not going to take your money.”
Sissy gets flushed at that moment, “Damn it. I thought…I thought you two had some sort of, you know…bond.”
She’s being careful with her words. I can tell.
“You mean am I attracted to your brother?”
Sissy sighs, “I don’t mean to offend Mr. Crawford. I just always knew my brother was different. I was hoping there were other…different…people there for him.”
I look at Sissy and lean into her to whisper, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him since the day that I met him.”
Saying this out loud to a straight woman is more than I ever imagined I would ever say. I watch as she smiles at that moment. For some reason, I felt open to discussing this with her. For some reason, I felt OK with letting her know this.
“I understand. More than you know,” she states.
“Here’s a key to his room,” she states, “He’d like to see you. I know he would.”
I look around, “Crawford. He’s acting really weird.”
“Your name is Crawford too, ain’t it?” she states, “Didn’t think you’d be scared of your own Uncle.”
She had a point. I saw how Chuck was so afraid of his father. I didn’t want to be like that. It’s clear from Sissy that Stevey needed someone. I planned on being that person that Stevey needed. I reach my hand over to her.
“Give me the key.”
It’s late that night when I have the balls to go to Stevey’s room. The room is one of the guest rooms in the Crawford mansion. The moonlight drifts into the room. It makes Stevey look like the most beautiful man in the world when he’s lying there silently. He wakes up when he hears the door open and when I walk in his eyes adjust to the darkness.
“August?” he asks.
“Yeah, it’s me,” I state, “Is it OK that I am here?”
“Yeah. It is…”
I walk over to him. I walk over to the bed. I sit on the edge of the bed. I’m so shy but I can’t stop looking at him in the darkness.
“I just came to make sure you were OK,” I state.
“How you going to make sure I’m OK from all the way over there?” he asks me.
My heart is beating fast. I climb up on the bed. I am shy about it. I’m so shy. The awkwardness of it all just gets underneath my skin.
I get closer.
“I’d love to hold you.”
“That’s not what you want…” he states.
“I know what you want. Sissy told me what you did. She told me how you defended me against your family,” he states, “At first I was so afraid to believe Chuck would do what he did, but I believe you now.”
I come even closer. Damn Stevey was beautiful..
“Your sister wants me to take care of you.”
She wanted me to take him away. Truthfully I don’t think I would want anything more than that.
He smiles at the idea, “I bet you do…”
That’s when he starts kissing me. We start kissing hard. So hard. Our tongues interlock with one another. Our tongues rush up against one another. I climb on top of him and my dick gets hard almost immediately. I start to grind on him, rubbing my dick up against his inner thighs. I want him to feel the girth of it. I want him to feel how heavy it is. I want him to know that I was going to fuck him all night long if he let me. I wanted to make love to him.
I bring my hand around and brush the side of his face as I continue to kiss him. Our mouths feel so good.
Then all of a sudden, he pushes me off.
I get off of him.
I’m confused, “What is it?”
That’s when I notice his face is pale. His dark, vibrant skin almost looks sickly.
“Just…feeling bad. It must be the stress of everything that’s been going on lately. The doctor gave me some medicine though. I should take it and lay down,” he states.
Damn it. Having blue balls was an understatement at this moment. I definitely wanted to make love to Stevey but he didn’t look good. I had to admit that. Something was definitely off about him. I watch as he leans over and takes his medicine.
“I’ll lay with you until you go to sleep,” I state.
“I’d like that.”
I do just that laying with Stevey until he goes to sleep. I wrap my arms around him. In the darkness I let him be so vulnerable to me, but it’s me who is really becoming vulnerable to him. I’m falling for this boy. I was falling for him fast and hard.
And I couldn’t see the ground below.
I get up off the bed after he falls asleep and makes my way into the hallway. I close the door behind me. I’m slow. I’m steady.
I stop and turn at that moment when I see him. Chuck.
He’s standing up against the wall.
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough,” he states.
It’s awkward, to say the least having him there. Just earlier today my cousin was about to fight me. I knew and he knew it. Seeing him now just made me feel so awkward.
“He couldn’t sleep…he…”
“He’s sick?” Chuck asks.
I nod, “Yeah.”
Chuck has this worried look, “You need to go back in that room. You need to throw away that medicine before he takes anymore.”
Chuck shakes his head, “Are you that much of a fucking idiot, August? Listen to what I’m telling you…”
“Don’t speak to me like that,” I state, “I have no respect for you. It’s clear I’m not the only one either after seeing how your father speaks to you.”
“My father?” Chuck laughs, “He’s the one to talk. He may know my secrets, but I know his as well.”
Chuck smiles at the thought, “Dr. Quincy. He treated one black person before. Figured that he’d give Stevey the same treatment. Like mother, like son?”
“Dr. Quincy treated Stevey’s mother?”
Chuck nods, “I may like to stick my dick where it doesn’t belong, but so does my father. He acts so holier than thou. You wonder my mother really hates blacks so much? It’s because her husband was in love with one of them. He fucked Stevey’s mother every goddam day in this house. Everyone knew about it.”
I remember all the spitefulness that Aunt Loribeth had. It was definitely personal.
“Does Stevey know?”
“Yeah. What he doesn’t know though is that his mother got pregnant. What he doesn’t know is that when she told my dad, she expected my dad to run away with her. Start a family up North. My dad couldn’t possibly do that. Having a baby with the help would have ruined his reputation. So he decided to shut her up permanently.”
“He killed her?”
“Well, he got Dr. Quincy to do it. Giving her medicine. She got sick at first and slowly she died. They said it was from stress. After my father’s speech today I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same medicine that Dr. Quincy gave to Stevey.”