Growing up in Crenshaw and seeing what it’s really like to be down badly hurt me and now I’m living in this big house that my dad’s death money paid for and living life to the fullest with my little sister Niecy. But it wasn’t always like that, let me take you back to “5 years ago.”

“ OMG OMG OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS” Momma said while crying. I heard her screaming and crying from the bathroom so I ran into the kitchen. At this time I was only 13 when we got the news about Dad. Momma was just screaming and crying while trying to tell me the news!  “ Shani Baby; sit down, I have something to tell you”.  “ Your father’s Body remains has shown up in ( The Tigris river of Iraq). I was speechless, didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what to do. When momma finally caught her breath after crying and explaining to me; she then tried to act like everything was ok or at least she made it seem as though everything was okay!

“Give me 2 days,” momma said.

After 2 days everything was back to normal; momma was back to take us to school. Meanwhile, We all just acted as if nothing ever happened and like we just didn’t receive the most unwanted news a 13-year-old would ever want to hear about her Father”. Later that day; I saw momma taking pills. I asked her; ” Momma what’s that?” I saw momma taking pills before so I wonder why now? Momma answered, and said; “ Oh girl, this is for my anxiety”. I believed her and went back to my room.  Our Aunt Lewis came over to help mama get out of her head. 

 The next day aunt Lewe took us to school. After school, we arrived home and momma wasn’t there? “ Auntie Lewis, where momma go?  I thought she said she’ll be home when I get out of school?” 

Aunt Lewis told us; “ She went to run a few errands. Now go get your homework ready.”………. At about 6:00 in the evening,  we were at the dinner table eating. I heard “Bang, Bang, Bang”,  it was  the police who told my Aunt Lewis that Momma had driven herself off a bridge. They said; “ To me ma’am, it looks as if Ms. Winston committed sucide.” He stated in a very firm and disturbing tone of voice.  “I just couldn’t believe it,  literally 3 days after my father died my mother committed suicide.” I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t talk. There was no emotion left inside of me, there was darkness, there was fire and rage.  I just wanted to die but I got myself together and the next day was my birthday so happy birthday to me.  What a fucked up birthday this year. I said.

A year has passed since Momma passed and Daddy’s body was discovered. I and Niecy lived with Aunt Lewis. I didn’t really like how she allowed different men in the house with me and my Lil sister around. The men she had running in and out, would make me and Niecy very uncomfortable and scared. The way they would look at us and say things like: “ How old are they? She’s pretty, tell her I’m not scary, come here!”. Aunt Lewis would say “ Leave them girls alone, you have me baby”. The neighborhood was even horrible. On each corner of the block, there were drug dealers, trash everywhere; it was a lot going on and we would just stay in our rooms after school and pray that no unwanted guests would come into our room.  Niecy cried every night, so I used to make her laugh saying things that made no sense in all different types of voices. “ galindaaaa gally gue”. and that would have us laughing all night, until we fell asleep. But that wouldn’t always work. She still would cry so all I could do was just hold her and say to myself;  I wish you were still here momma, we miss you and need u sooo much. Just tell me send me a sign on what to do!

“Remember what I told yall, I hate living here?”Let me tell y’all about the other night.  I was faking sleep and I overheard my Aunt Lewis conversation over the phone. Saying;  “ Cristal, it’s so hard trying to provide for my niece’s, when I barely have money to take care of them. Girrrlll, what am I going to do? “To take care of them and pay the bills? I’ve been thinking about giving one of them to the system!” Aunt Lewis stated.  I shouldn’t be in grown folks’ business but I couldn’t help myself but to say; “Auntie, I can get a job. I’m 16 now and in a month I’ll be 17! Please don’t give us away, I can help.”  I said, crying and hugging her tightly, I can’t explain how my heart dropped to my ass hearing her say with ease how fast she will separate us because of money!.  She told me after I said my part;” Who was talking to you? Eavesdrop on my conversation again, and watch how fast you’ll be first to go. Play with me if you want. Now go to your room, grown ass. Walking to my room mad as hell, I just was thinking of any and everything I could do to help us out! When I thought Aunt Lewis had forgotten about me “Eavesdropping” earlier, She entered my room shouting, “ Oh you wanna be grown cutting in on my conversation! You think you can help? “You can’t do a damn thing but lay on ya back. Now get ya ass in my room…. NOW!!!!”She shouted while pointing to her bedroom. When I opened the door I saw Mr. Marcus; Aunt Lewis’ boyfriend. I stood in the corner; scared and uncomfortable. Aunt Lewis came in yelling; “where are you Shani? I came from behind the door crying; “Aunt Lewis im sorry, i wasn’t trying to be grown i just wanted to help! I’m really sorry, please forgive me? I said stuttering. Aunt Lewis then grabbed me by my hair, ripped my clothes, and repeatedly whooped me. I cried and prayed, hoping momma would stop her! Once she was done, she left me naked and cold. I then felt a warm hand touch my back, saying; “It’s going to be alright come here, let me make you feel better.” Marcus said. I said “NO, LEAVE ME ALONE!” Marcus grabbed me and threw me on the bed. I screamed for aunt Lewis and momma, knowing momma can’t help me and Aunt Lewis don’t care about me. He repeatedly had his way with me; while I cried until I was numb.  At this time, I was 17 with my period and he never used a condom as if he wanted me to get pregnant. I didn’t want to tell anybody because she said if I did she would give Niecy away and I couldn’t risk that 

The next day I went to school,I didn’t talk to my best friend, I couldn’t even look at her and I think she noticed. 

“Shani” Hailey said “Why have you been so quiet, please talk to me” 

I kept my head down and said “hailey , I can’t talk right now.” 

Later that night I slept and Niecy woke me up when she got off  her yellow bus and asked “if I was ok”. I said; “ yes” and she let me go back to sleep. Niecy woke me up to come eat dinner; it was pizza and wings and I was excited because for the last couple of days we have been eating noodles and Aunt Lewis nasty spaghetti that she swears is good. Aunt Lewis, is this lady that lives in a bad neighborhood but the house is put together. She has these long red nails, her hair is always braided and she has a gold tooth. Her new boyfriend was at the table. We don’t really know much about him except he brought us the food which I thought was nice of him. He has a different style in dressing; but I still don’t trust NO MAN . Aunt Lewis brings around, because of Marcus I am mentally dusturbed. As a young adult; being violated and left for dead feels horrible. Still no one knows. And holding it in doesn’t help either; I just want to cry and beat my aunt up, like a chick from school; tryna play tuff but really softer than a cookie! I laughed hard, while thinking this in my head; at the dinner table with everyone.

I noticed no one heard me having an “INSIDER” . I asked, “Aunt Lewis, how was your day?”

She responded, saying; “What made you ask me about my day?”

“Nothing, never mind I was just asking”…

We can never have a conversation.  I mumbled to myself.  She’s just so stubborn!

           The next day at school I saw my crush. “ Ohh He’s so tall and chocolate and them white teeth, gets me everytime.  He had his little iphone 13 pro max in his hand, He had on a nike tech with curly hair and had on the same off white jordan 4’s as me. We have liked each other ever since we were little but never had the heart to date each other because we felt like we were “cousins”. I failed my test and my Aunt Lewe found out.  I knew when I  got home, “ all hell was gonna break loose”… I made it home and there she was waiting for me like an angry mother. These are the times I miss my mom. “I wouldn’t be going through any of this”. She told me to go in her room and he pulled my pants down and raped me again at this time I  still didn’t get my period it had been 5 weeks I was scared. I always thought to myself at night I can’t be pregnant. I can’t do what I’m gonna do with a baby, I don’t want my baby to be brought into something like this. So the next day I lied to my aunt and told her I was going to the library. I had Hailey go to a store and get me a pregnancy test because I didn’t want any of her boyfriend’s homies to see me. Haliey and I went back to her house and took the test it came back positive I was lost for words I  was only 17 and pregnant and the baby father raped me. What do I do keep the baby? How will I tell my aunt Lewe, will she be mad, Idk. I came to the conclusion that I would have to tell her. I got home at like 4. I was shaking in my boots, I didn’t know what to do. When I told her she wasn’t mad. I couldn’t believe it.

“Aunt Lewe ?” Shani said 

“Yes , Your home early” said aunt Lewe 

“Can we talk? I need to tell you something important and please don’t get mad” I said.

“Now why would  I get mad girl talk, you see me tryna make you and your sister a nice dinner”  aunt Lewis said.

“I’m pregnant and it’s that guy’s baby. You know the one you allow to violate me?” “I stated Sarcastically and frustrated.” 

That was the plan to get you pregnant because I couldn’t have kids and me and Marcus wanted one. Is this bitch crazy forcing me to have sex with this man just so I could get pregnant and take my baby….

Shani Shani Shani 

I looked up and aunt Lewe asked me why I was still standing there. She had told me to go help my sister with her homework. So I went…..

Nine months later …..

I had a baby girl whose name was Zara, 8 pounds 10 oz. I had decided to give her up for adoption because I didn’t want her going through the stuff I went through. The family that adopted her was a great family and they let me see her every weekend. When she turned one I stopped seeing her, because I didn’t want her to get attached knowing she would have a chance at a better life with them. 

Eighteen months later…

  After I stopped seeing Zara, my life went downhill. I got into drugs, drinking and dropped out of school. I haven’t seen Niecy since I had Zara. My aunt Lewe was cool about the whole pregnancy thing but when the baby came and she found out that I was giving Zara up for adoption she became the beast I knew she was. When I told her she kicked me out and told me to never come back, that my sister won’t ever see my face again, that if my parents were here they would be ashamed. This is when I fell into a drug addiction. I was popping all kinds of pills percs, e pills, snorting coke, smoking crack “this was the worst time of my life” but I loved it, there was no pain I didn’t have to think about Zara or Niecy I didn’t have to think about the trauma it’s like I had no life left in me.

Four months later,  I needed to better myself for Zara and Niecy. Her parents still wouldn’t let me see her because back then I was still on drugs, I was still a mess, why am I like this, I need to get better and I will. I told myself this 5 times a day to help me cope. After a long hard 5 months, I became clean, not even a drop of anything in my system. I was so proud of myself but then my dreams got crushed because they still wouldn’t let me see Zara. Then I  even tried to go to my Aunt Lewe house but it was burned down. Where was Niecy and what the hell was aunt Lewe doing to her. I looked everywhere and finally I saw Niecy but this wasn’t the Niecy I remembered. This wasn’t a 12 year old, this was a grown woman. 

“Niecy” I screamed , she looked back like she saw a ghost.

“Shani is that you” Niecy saying out of excitement 

Yes baby you got so big come here now what the hell are you doing here dressed like that.

“I will tell you all about it later but can we get something to eat? I’m starving,” Niecy said while rubbing her stomach.

“Lets go little girl”  as I laughed

Later that same day I found out that Aunt Lewe’s rapist boyfriend had killed her and he went to jail for life which left me on the streets because nobody wanted to adopt a lil girl who went through trauma.

“Trama” I yelled  what the hell happened Niecy 

Niecy told me everything and as she did I blacked out. I could feel the wind playing music in my ears but it wasn’t good music. I wanted to kill that Lady but Marcus had already done it. I was in fumes. My body was so hot you could cook eggs on it. I just acted as if everything was ok, but deep inside I wanted to kill the whole world. Later that night I took Niecy with me in my 2 bedroom apartment that I just got. I made her sleep with me because I knew that she might have been scared she has been through so much already. 

Five weeks later It was my birthday month, but this is when I knew me and Niecy’s life would change I got an email saying that we were going to get a big sum of money for our father being in the military. This was the best news I had/heard in a long time.Me and Niecy moved into our big house and we appreciated it everyday because we had to go through a lot to be here now.

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