Dana L. Davis
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
Or maybe just seven days.
He’s here. Omigosh, he’s here. My hands are trembling as I swipe across my phone and scroll through my favorites list. I press the icon for Keelah Bo Beelah.
“Thank you for calling the Center for Disease Control. What horrible disease do you think you’ve contracted?”
“Akeelah!” I whisper. “Help me.”
“Why you whisperin’? Your new dad lock you in the basement?”
“I’m in my closet. I’m hiding.” I nervously flip my braids over my shoulder and yank on them.
“Weird. Did you forget to take your anxiety medication today or something?”
“No. I took it.”
“Then why you hiding in the closet?”
“I’m scared. Talk me through this. He’s home. He’s downstairs. I can hear him with the other kids. I hear him!”
“What other kids?”
“I have siblings. I think.”
“The fuck? What do you mean, you think?”
“Keelah. Help me out of the closet!”
“Girls or boys?”
“Dang! How come nobody told you that you had sisters?”
“But I’m sayin’. Four sisters and nobody told you? That’s so lame.”
“Keelah! I’m crouched in a closet hiding from this man! Help me.”
“Oh! Okay, I got something that can help. Remember that episode of Maury Povich where the girl thought her baby-daddy was between her cousin, her boyfriend’s brother and her boyfriend? And remember how happy the boyfriend was when he found out the baby was his?”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, girl! I love that one. That’s how happy your dad is gonna be when he sees you for the first time. He’s gonna be like that baby-daddy. He danced all over the stage and did a backflip.”
Unless he’s not the father. And suddenly all I can picture is the episode of Maury Povich I remember very clearly. Not the one Keelah’s talking about. In this one, Maury opened up a manila envelope and said, “Lula-Mae. Jim Bob is not the father.” And then Lula-Mae fell on the floor and started crying and Jim Bob screamed, “Fuck all y’all!” and ran off the stage.
“Keelah, I’m hanging up now.”
“Wait!” Akeelah exclaims. “What do your sisters look like?”
“Mixed? With what?”
“Does that mean you have a white stepmom?”
“I guess so.”
There’s a long pause.
“Hello?” I whisper.
“Sorry. I’m, like, trippin’. White stepmom? What if she hates black people?”
“She has black kids!”
“Half. Not the same thing. You’re all black. She might hate fully black people. She might Cinderella you, Tiff. Be careful. You’ll be sleeping in the attic with the rats.”
“Her husband’s all black! Uggh. You’re not helping. I’m hanging up on you!”
And I do, angrily tossing the phone into the opposite corner of the closet. I scratch my back. This stupid Anthropologie dress is making me itch like crazy. I do not like Anthropologie. I look like Suri Cruise in this getup. I almost passed out cold when I saw the price tag Margaret must’ve mistakenly left on it. Four hundred and fifty dollars. For one dress?
I hear a knock coming from the bedroom. I stand, smooth out my study-of-humans dress and push through the closet door and back into the Pottery Barn room. Another soft knock and I’m stuck in an Edgar Allan Poe poem with someone faintly tap-tap-tapping gently at my chamber door. ’Tis maybe my dad and nothing more.
I clear my throat. “Come in.”
The door opens and suddenly he’s here. He doesn’t do a backflip or anything. He only stands there looking at me. He’s really tall and thin but sadly the similarities between us end there. He’s light-skinned. And the eyes. Fuck my life, for real. They’re blue.
“Tiffany Sly. You look so much like your mom. It’s as if I’ve gone back in time.”
I barely hear him. I’m too busy looking at his hair. It’s cut short but the texture looks soft and wavy. It couldn’t be possible, could it? He’s mixed?
He moves into the room and sits uncomfortably on the edge of the bed. “Tiffany, I owe you an apology.”
I can’t even muster up a sound. I can only manage to stand, frozen in place, staring at this man that I’m most certain is definitely, probably, maybe not my real dad.
“When your mother contacted me and told me she was sick, that was the first time she told me about you. I should’ve flown to Chicago right then to meet you.”
I’ve still got nothing. Still standing as frozen as an ice sculpture.
“But she made me promise. She had a plan, I suppose. Told me to go through with DNA testing but I didn’t want you to endure the stress of that process. I didn’t think it was fair. I know you’re mine. I don’t need some DNA test to prove that.”
“She asked you to take a DNA test?” So did Mom know? Is there really a possibility Anthony Stone is not my real father?