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easy laugh and knowing eyes, Jell grew up street, while I was raised to
be a pillar of society. When the FBI asked me to betray him--the guy
I've crushed on since ninth grade--I went straight to Jell. So he and I
have one less secret between us. Which would be great if we didn't have
to escape a psychiatric clinic in the middle of the night, half naked,
with people shooting at us. The only refuge we can agree to head for is
my crazy cousin Gator's retirement village.
Now we're lost. And I've never been so alive.
Amber's website: www.shapeshiftersinlust.com
My hackles rose as I came in through the garage
door, though it took a minute to identify why: the crackle of the deep
fryer and the aroma of onion rings. Mom fried grouper yesterday. With
her fixation on Black Men’s Heart Disease, my mother does not
countenance fried food twice in a week.
Terrific. Another we-still-love-you display to set the
backdrop for another discussion of my sexual orientation. As if talking
me out of being gay would be like talking me out of joining the navy.
My flunking out of med school had been bad enough. Nobody
seemed sure whether to treat it more like my sister-in-law’s
miscarriage or Cousin Wendy’s eloping with a known drunk. And—as of
Monday—I’d topped that.
Maybe I should have come out when the fatal grade report
arrived, killed all the family’s illusions at once, instead of waiting a
few weeks to offer that twist to the knife.
"Ethan? Did you wipe your feet?"
I always wipe my feet. "Yes’m, but if I were an ax-murderer, wouldn’t this be a little bit late to ask?"
She smiled up at me. Not with her serene smile, but the
careful one she’d worn since Monday. "I have a pot of boiling grease to
Like you’d ever do that. I kissed her offered cheek.
She’d had her braids redone, meaning she’d taken the day
off work. Normally the incense from the braiding parlor clung to her
skin. Today, fried onion overrode the scent.
The oven dinged. She waved at it, her eyes on the fryer. "Would you get that, please?"
"That" was garlicky Cuban chicken with rice—yes!—and next
to it a cheese-topped casserole with bits of broccoli and scorched
triangles of sweet pepper peeking out.
My mood lightened as my mouth watered. Three hot dishes
meant company, but no roast meant family only. Conversation would center
on some cousin’s engagement or breakup, job or job prospects, or the
ever-popular question of how to protect black youth from the invidious
street culture. Topics besides my quite personal business,
thankyouverymuch. "Who’s coming for supper?"
"Tonight it’s just Honey and Ron. Plus Dido, maybe."
Aunt Picky, Uncle Persnickety, and their Cousin Dyed-oh,
who badly needed a husband to manage. I smothered a sigh. "I’ll give the
front bathroom a quick polish."
"Your dad just finished it. He’s changing now."
Meaning I needed to wash up and change out of my scrubs
quickly. My Student Nurse uniform. I’d bought this to wear as an intern,
and wore it now as a symbol of my fall.
Her voice drifted after me. "Ron wants to talk to you after supper."
Terrific. They’d decided to sic the FBI on me.