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African American Fiction Mystery

I waved as my grandmother pulled out of the parking spot and drove away. Heading up the stairs and towards the doors of the huge brick building, I stopped, turned around, and peered into the road. Once her red Toyota Camry was out of sight, I began walking down the stairs and in the opposite direction. People were out and about, and I took in the various storefronts, including the florist shop and a yoga studio. I was in a great mood and had worn my favorite pink and white polka dot fit-and-flare dress. The heels of my white pumps tapped against the sidewalk as I strutted and pearls were nestled around my neck and in my ears. The sun was shining brightly and felt warm against my skin. It wasn’t uncomfortably hot, but it wasn’t chilly either. Don’t worry, I was going to keep my appointment. I just had to make a stop first.  

           I don’t know why I kept these appointments with Dr. Phillips. Grandma Lucy worried too much. As far as I was concerned, there was no real reason for me to go. The truth was I felt sorry for Dr. Phillips, especially since she was lonely. After six months, there was still a lot I didn’t know about her. At my last appointment on Friday, I noticed that she didn’t wear a wedding ring, so it was my guess that she wasn’t married. When I asked her about it, she was quick to change the subject. Still, I enjoyed her company and felt she was a good listener; better than Grandma Lucy. So, I guess I kept the appointment because seeing me was good for her; especially since she was lonely.

Why would any woman want to spend the rest of her life alone? I couldn’t wait until my wedding day. I often dreamt of the day when I would meet Mr. Right. He’ll probably be successful, tall, dark, and handsome; just like in the movies. Grandma Lucy always reminded me that I have plenty of time. I guess she has a point. I can’t wait too long if I want to have 5 children though. After all, I’m already 22.

My appointment didn’t start for another 15 minutes. Since I had some time to spare, I decided to drop into one of my favorite stores for a snack. I could have told Grandma Lucy that I wanted to stop, but she would have made a fuss to come in with me, and I didn’t need that. I casually browsed the aisle that housed an array of snacks: crackers, cookies, trail mix, chips, and pretzels. Nothing stood out to me, so I headed towards the front where there was a spread of different candies and chocolates. After contemplating the options, I selected a Snickers bar; it was my favorite. Then, I grabbed a second one. I placed them on the black belt that lazily rolled to the end, which the cashier then picked up and scanned.

"Hi, gorgeous."

I looked up into the gaze of the most mesmerizing dark brown eyes I had ever seen. His nametag read Quinton, and his skin was the color of mocha. He looked like my favorite type of milk chocolate.  

“Hi.” I blushed.

“Where are you headed on this lovely afternoon?”

“Oh um…just to see a friend.”

We continued to make small talk and flirt. 

           “$1.76.” He told me after ringing up my items.  

           Pulling out my purse, I was able to find a dollar easily. It was that darn 76 cents that became a hunt.

           “I like your name.”

           I stopped searching for change and looked at him. “Excuse me?”

           He nodded towards my wrist, opposite the one that held my watch.

           “Kennedi. That’s your name, right? I like it.”

           My eyes followed his, and I noticed the beaded bracelet for the first time. A scowl replaced my smile, and I snatched the bracelet off my wrist and dumped it in my purse. My grandmother was constantly sneaking this bracelet on my wrist. I hated it. Thoughts of Kennedi sparked fragmented memories filled with pain and anguish. She was like a dark cloud, and I was determined not to allow her to ruin my mood. Don't get me wrong, I used to like Kennedi. That is until she tried to get rid of me.

           “My name is Charlotte.”

           Finally, I found the change.

           “Oh…then who is Ken…”

           “Here you go.” I cut him off and handed him the change.

           He gave me a strange look but didn’t say anything further.

           After counting out the change, he dropped the nickels, dimes, and pennies into their appropriate place, slammed the drawer, and handed me the plastic bag after placing the receipt inside.

           “Have a nice day.”

           “Thanks, you too.” I replied dryly, exiting the store.

Monroe, Mississippi was a small quaint town. Not as big as Jackson, but much more robust than Vicksburg. Mostly everybody knew everybody. I, however, had only been here for the last year. I don’t remember exactly how I got here. One day I was in Alexandria, VA. When I woke up, I was here, with Grandma Lucy.

           Grandma Lucy was a heavy-set brown-skinned woman with a warm smile, wide hips, and natural ginger hair. Her all-knowing eyes never missed a beat. That’s why I was surprised she agreed to take me to my appointment early. I insisted so she could go see one of her old friends. She didn’t make a fuss about it, so I assumed she was eager to see her friend. I also assumed he was male.

Grandma Lucy used to have a husband named Malcolm. I never met him, but she spoke fondly of him. They had a daughter named Marjorie and a son, who Malcolm wanted to name Julius, after his baby brother who passed away when they were kids. Grandma Lucy, however, named him Reno. After only four years of marriage, Malcolm, unfortunately, died in a mysterious accident. I don't believe the accident itself was mysterious, but it was a mystery to me. In one version of the story, she’d told me he had been in a car accident. Another time we were talking about him, and she mentioned he drowned. When I questioned her about this, she said I must have misheard. I didn't argue with her though. After all, she was old; her mind was probably slipping. In the end, he was still gone. What’s sadder than becoming a 25-year-old widow with two kids? Becoming a pregnant 25-year-old widow with two kids. Her youngest son, who never knew his father Malcolm, was named Julius.

I’d never met Marjorie, Reno, or Julius. When I asked Grandma Lucy about them, she just said they had gone away. She didn’t seem to like to talk about them much, so I quit asking. As for me, I didn’t have a mom or a dad. I found it strange because everyone else I knew had moms and dads. Whenever I asked Grandma Lucy about it, she would change the subject. To be honest, I had never thought about it much until Dr. Phillips asked me about them. Before then, it hadn’t bothered me too much. Not that it bothers me now; it’s just I wonder about it a little bit more is all.

           When I made it to the front of the brick building, I paused to take in its massiveness. It was an old building that I believe used to be a library. I gazed down and no longer saw my shadow. The sun was now hidden behind clouds. Walking inside, I took the stairs to Dr. Phillips’ office. There was an elevator, but I found it to be unreliable, so I took the stairs.           

           I sat on the yellow couch in the receptionists’ area with my purse and bag of chocolate sitting beside me. I always liked the décor of the waiting area. My favorite artwork was a large picture where an enormous wide tree stood proudly in a forest, while the sun broke through the branches and onto the grass that gathered at its feet. The carpet was a plush emerald green that seemed to be soft to the touch; the kind where you would love to scrunch your toes in it.

           The sound of a low rumble made me shudder. More gray clouds seemed to be forming now. I hope it wasn’t about to storm. Storms made me anxious, and I never felt quite like myself afterward.

           I glanced at the receptionist. She was a young girl who couldn’t have been much older than me. She had headphones in and was flipping through a magazine. If Dr. Phillips was so smart, why did she have such a lazy receptionist? That was the type of nonsense that made me question why I continued to see Dr. Phillips. Then I would always remind myself, she needed the company. She had become a constant in my life; just like Grandma Lucy.

           Moments later, a door opened, and Dr. Phillips stood outside her office.

           “Come on in.” she told me.

           I followed her lead and sat opposite of her on a caramel-colored couch. It was much more comfortable than the couch in the waiting area. She sat in an uncomfortable-looking brown accent chair. I can only presume it was her attempt at matching the furniture.

            Dr. Philips was a pretty lady with rich mahogany skin, honey brown eyes, and shoulder-length hair with bangs that she dyed to a golden bronze. I liked it as it brought out her features more. With her black thin-rimmed glasses, I estimated her to be in her mid-thirties. There weren’t any pictures in her office, so I guessed she didn’t have children either. It was so sad, especially since she was lonely.  

           “How are you today?”

           “Oh, I’m well Dr. Phillips. Matter of fact, I brought you something.”

           I reached into the plastic bag and pulled out one of the Snickers bars. Hopefully, it would brighten her day.  

           “For you.” I told her with a smile.

           She seemed to hesitate before taking it.

           “Thank you.”

           She took the chocolate bar and swiveled in her chair, placing it on the desk behind her.

           “Pronounce your name for me.”

           “Gosh, Dr. Phillips, you sure do have a bad memory. Are you sure you’re a doctor?”

           She chuckled.

           “It’s Charlotte.”

           “Ah, Charlotte, that’s right.” She began flipping through a large notebook. Dr. Phillips enjoyed taking notes.

           “How are you sleeping?”

           “Good and you?”

           She raised a brow. “Excuse me?”

           “How are you sleeping? It must be hard.”

           “What must be hard?”

           “Well…” I didn’t want to offend her, so I chose my words carefully, “It’s just you’re such a pretty lady, but it’s obvious you’re not married and don’t have kids.”

           She nodded. “And?”

           “And you must be miserable!”

           There was a pause.

           “Is that true, Dr. Phillips?”

           “Let’s just keep the focus on you today, okay?”

           There she goes changing the subject again. I shrugged, “Okay.”

           “So, Charlotte, you're not experiencing any more bad dreams?”

           I frowned. “What bad dreams?”

           “The bad dreams you spoke of previously.”

“But Dr. Phillips, I haven’t had any bad dreams.”

“You haven’t?” she asked me, lowering her black thin-rimmed glasses down her nose.

           “No. Why would you think I had?”

           She paused before responding. “Well, that’s what we talked about last time.”

           “No, it’s not.”

“It’s not?”

I laughed. “No, of course not. Last time we talked about my trip to California.”

           “When was this?”

           “Friday.”

           “And what’s today?”

           I sighed. It was obvious this woman worked too hard. She couldn’t even keep her days straight.

           “Monday.” I noticed the calendar on her wall with X’s marked through. She’d marked through Monday and Tuesday of this week. “Your calendar is wrong.”

           I expected her to look back at the calendar but she didn’t. Instead, she took off her glasses.

“Charlotte, you don’t remember telling me about your nightmares?”

           “Dr. Phillips, I think you have me mistaken with someone else.”

           She didn’t respond. Instead, she placed her glasses back on the bridge of her nose and wrote something in her notebook. 

           “How’s Kennedi?”

           At the mention of her name, there was another rumble. It was a little louder this time. I gazed outside of the window. The clouds were becoming darker.

           “Dr. Phillips, you know I don’t like to talk about her.”

           “Why not?”

           “You know why.”

           I liked Dr. Phillips, but it was times like these that she would annoy me. I wanted to discuss more pleasant conversations, and she wanted to bring up her. I looked out the window again and saw a strike of lightning. A storm was brewing, and I felt a headache coming on.

           “Dr. Phillips, I’m not feeling well.” I stood. “I should go and come back another day.”

She closed her notebook and sat on the edge of her seat. “Why don’t you just lie down for a minute?”

           “Here, on your couch?”

She nodded.

“Oh, I couldn’t do that Dr. Phillips. Your couch looks comfortable enough. Still, it would be most inappropriate. Besides, I would rather go back home, climb into my soft bed, and hide under the covers until the storm passes.”

She gave me a soft smile. “It wouldn’t be inappropriate at all. That’s what the couch is for; to help you relax.”

I hesitated. “Are you sure?”

           "Sure. You can just rest your eyes for a minute. You might feel better afterward."

           I was doubtful but decided to play along. As I've mentioned, Dr. Phillips gets pretty lonely.

           “I’ll be here when you get up.” She continued.

           I was about to decline when the thunder boomed so hard the walls shook. Then everything went black.   

           I awoke to the rumble of thunder. Sleeping during a thunderstorm was the best; the patter of rain brought a feeling of calm and relaxation. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep in my oversized tee and sweatpants. If I stayed in bed, maybe nothing bad would happen. That would have been a great plan had I not felt something on my head. Reluctantly, I opened my eyes. There was Dr. Phillips, holding a damp towel on my head. I tried to sit up and saw rain pouring outside of the window. A tree branch bounced up and down with the rhythm of the wind. The window itself sat between two tall bookshelves, lined with rows of books. In front of one of the bookshelves was a table with papers stacked in a messy pile. I cringed at the sight.  

           “How are you feeling?”

           “Um…confused. What happened?”

           “You passed out.”

           “Oh.” I sat up, taking in my surroundings. I was in Dr. Phillips’ office. “How did I get here?”

           “You don’t remember?”

           I shook my head.

           The last thing I remembered was having a picnic with Grandma Lucy in her backyard. I didn’t like to be away from her. She was the one constant I had in my life. Aside from Dr. Phillips that is.

           “No, I remember having a picnic. I don’t…I don’t remember coming here.”

           “It’s okay.” She told me in a soft tone. “You’re here with me, and you’re safe.”

           There weren’t many people who I would believe when they said those words. I'd been dealing with these memory losses for as long as I could remember. Lately, however, they seemed to get worse.

Yesterday, Grandma Lucy needed me to go to the grocery store to get some eggs so she could bake a lemon cake. I was intentional about dressing down in neutral colors. It was the best way I knew not to bring attention to myself. Everything was fine until a man tried to hit on me. He reached towards me, maybe to touch my hair. I flinched and hurried away. I told Grandma Lucy about it, and she told me she would go with me next time. I shared everything with Grandma Lucy. She knew I didn’t trust men and couldn’t stand to be around them. I accepted my truth; I was over 30, single, and intended to stay that way.

“I thought I didn’t see you again until tomorrow.”

Dr. Phillips stopped writing to look at me.

“When was the last time you remembered seeing me?”

“Yesterday.”

“What’s today?”

“Wednesday.”

She closed her notebook and regarded me again.

           “Right. We had an appointment scheduled for today. You were even on time.”

           “I was?” This surprised me. Usually, I was perpetually late.

           “You were.” She seemed to study me closely. “You don’t remember bringing me this Snickers bar?” She held up the empty wrapper.

           I shook my head. “No way, I did that.”

           “Why?”

           “I don’t eat chocolate.”

           She nodded but stayed silent.

           I looked down and that’s when I noticed my clothes. Heels adorned my feet and a frilly pink dress with lace underneath that scratched my legs.

           “What am I wearing?”

           It seemed Dr. Phillips was trying to hold back a smile. “I think you look nice.”

           “I look like I’m about to be picked up in a pumpkin carriage to make it home before midnight.”

           I reached to scratch my head and felt the bun instead. My hair tumbled to my shoulders after pulling out the bobby pins. I sighed in frustration. This must have been Grandma Lucy’s doing.   

Dr. Phillips examined me silently.  

“What?” I asked.

“You mind if I ask you some questions?”

           “Shoot.” I responded, running my fingers through my mane.

           “Can you tell me what year it is?”

           “2021.”

           “Who is the president?”

           “Joe Biden.”

           “What is your name?”

           I gave her a look. “Dr. Phillips, you know my name.”

           She smiled. “Humor me.”

           “My name is Kennedi.”

July 08, 2021 01:08

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14 comments

Amy Moreland
15:30 Aug 19, 2021

I looove your stories. They are so amazing.

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S. Nicole
21:02 Aug 19, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Shavonne White
01:26 Jul 15, 2021

You did an amazing job with the details. I definitely would like to read more. You had me from the start. Your word play was excellent and they painted a picture so clear. I definitely will be reading more.

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S. Nicole
02:13 Jul 15, 2021

Thank you so much!!

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Layla Donovan
21:09 Jul 14, 2021

This is a great story and really well written. The details have great imagery. Keep it up!

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S. Nicole
21:35 Jul 14, 2021

Thanks so much!

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Layla Donovan
22:17 Jul 14, 2021

No prob, can you check out my story The Doors of Giving and Taking? Thanks

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S. Nicole
23:32 Jul 14, 2021

Sure thing!

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Alex Sultan
10:30 Jul 13, 2021

I really enjoyed reading this. Your sentence structure is great, very fluid, and easy to read - you control the pace of it so well. I like Charlotte's character, and how the storms rumble when she hears the name Kennedi, and the dynamic she has with the characters you introduce. Nice work :)

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S. Nicole
12:15 Jul 13, 2021

Thanks so much! :) Even though I don’t work in the Psychology field I’ve always been intrigued by it; especially multiple personalities. I too enjoyed writing this and Charlotte became a fun character. Thanks for your feedback!

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Cassandra Levone
23:30 Jul 09, 2021

Nice! This was interesting and as usual, not exactly what I was expecting. I love the main character's relationship with the therapist! I've written something similar, it's really fun to toy around with! Keep up the great work!!

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S. Nicole
14:37 Jul 10, 2021

Thanks so much!

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Cassandra Levone
14:56 Jul 10, 2021

:D If you don't mind, could you check out and give me some feedback on my recent story? It's titled They're Just Fireworks- Just Fireworks

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S. Nicole
14:58 Jul 10, 2021

Sure!

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