Home > The Hate U Give(15)

The Hate U Give(15)
Author: Angie Thomas

Three years later, Ms. Rosalie saw Momma and me at Wyatt’s—this was way before it became our store. She asked my mom how college was going. Momma told her that with Daddy in prison, she couldn’t afford daycare and that Nana wouldn’t take care of me ’cause I wasn’t her baby and therefore I wasn’t her problem. So Momma was thinking about dropping out. Ms. Rosalie told her to bring me to her house the next day and that she better not say a word about paying her. She babysat me and later Sekani the whole time Momma was in school.

Momma knocks on the door, rattling the screen. Ms. Tammy answers in a head wrap, T-shirt, and sweatpants. She unhooks the locks, hollering back, “Maverick, Lisa, and Starr are here, Ma.”

The living room looks just like it did when Khalil and I played hide-and-seek in it. There’s still plastic on the sofa and recliner. If you sit on them too long in the summer while wearing shorts, the plastic nearly glues to your legs.

“Hey, Tammy girl,” Momma says, and they hug long and hard. “How you doing?”

“I’m hanging in there.” Ms. Tammy hugs Daddy, then me. “Just hate that this is the reason I had to come home.”

It’s so weird looking at Ms. Tammy. She looks the way Khalil’s momma, Ms. Brenda, would look if Ms. Brenda wasn’t on crack. A lot like Khalil. Same hazel eyes and dimples. One time Khalil said he wished Ms. Tammy was his momma instead so he could live in New York with her. I used to joke and tell him she didn’t have time for him. I wish I never said that.

“Where you want me to put this lasagna, Tam?” Daddy asks her.

“In the refrigerator, if you can find room,” she says, as he heads toward the kitchen. “Momma said folks brought food all day yesterday. They were still bringing it when I got here last night. Seems like the whole neighborhood has stopped by.”

“That’s the Garden for you,” Momma says. “If folks can’t do anything else, they’ll cook.”

“You ain’t ever lied.” Ms. Tammy motions to the sofa. “Y’all, have a seat.”

Momma and I sit down, and Daddy comes back and joins us. Ms. Tammy takes the recliner that Ms. Rosalie usually sits in. She gives me a sad smile. “Starr, you know, you sure have grown since the last time I saw you. You and Khalil both grew up so—”

Her voice cracks. Momma reaches over and pats her knee. Ms. Tammy a takes a deep breath and smiles at me again. “It’s good to see you, baby.”

“We know Ms. Rosalie gon’ tell us she fine, Tam,” Daddy says, “but how she really doing?”

“We’re taking one day at a time. The chemo’s working, thankfully. I hope I can convince her to move in with me. That way I can make sure she’s getting her prescriptions.” She sighs through her nose. “I had no idea Momma was struggling like she was. I didn’t even know she’d lost her job. You know how she is. Never wanna ask for help.”

“What about Ms. Brenda?” I ask. I have to. Khalil would’ve.

“I don’t know, Starr. Bren . . . that’s complicated. We haven’t seen her since we got the news. Don’t know where she is. If we do find her though . . . I don’t know what we’ll do.”

“I can help you find a rehab facility near you,” Momma says. “She’s gotta wanna get clean though.”

Ms. Tammy nods. “And that’s the problem. But I think . . . I think this will either push her to finally get help or push her over the edge. I hope it’s the former.”

Cameron holds his grandma’s hand as he leads her into the living room like she’s the queen of the world in a housecoat. She looks thinner, but strong for somebody going through chemo and all of this. A scarf wrapped around her head adds to her majesty—an African queen, and we’re blessed to be in her presence.

The rest of us stand.

Momma hugs Cameron and kisses one of his chubby cheeks. Khalil called him Chipmunk because of them, but he’d check anybody stupid enough to call his little brother fat.

Daddy gives Cameron a palm-slap that ends in a hug. “What’s up, man? You okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

A big, wide smile spreads across Ms. Rosalie’s face. She holds her arms out, and I walk into the most heartfelt hug I’ve ever gotten from somebody who’s not related to me. There’s not any sympathy in it either. Just love and strength. I guess she knows I need some of both.

“My baby,” she says. She pulls back and looks at me, tears brimming in her eyes. “Went and grew up on me.”

She hugs my parents too. Ms. Tammy lets her have the recliner. Ms. Rosalie pats the end of the sofa closest to her, so I sit there. She holds my hand and rubs her thumb along the top of it.

“Mmm,” she says. “Mmm!”

It’s like my hand is telling her a story, and she’s responding. She listens to it for a while, then says, “I’m so glad you came over. I’ve been wanting to talk to you.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I say what I’m supposed to.

“You were the very best friend that boy ever had.”

This time I can’t say what I’m supposed to. “Ms. Rosalie, we weren’t as close—”

“I don’t care, baby,” she says. “Khalil never had another friend like you. I know that for a fact.”

I swallow. “Yes, ma’am.”

“The police told me you were the one with him when it happened.”

   
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