Dana L. Davis
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
“No! Don’t come back here. You can’t say these things to my grandma. She’d have a heart attack and die.”
“I thought you’d be happy.”
“Why did you think that?”
“Don’t you want to know who your father is?”
“Pretty sure you’re confused. I already know who my father is. Anthony Stone is my father. That’s what my mom told me, so that’s the story I’m sticking to. And I’m moving in with him. Tomorrow.”
He rubbed his head again, then held up an envelope. “Tiffany. There are letters, pictures—it proves your mother and I were a couple. The dates match up. Look, I’ll come back. I want to speak with Juanita about you and me taking a DNA test. I already spoke with a lawyer and—”
“Omigosh! You seriously can’t just show up here like this, with an envelope of photos, and expect me to go take a DNA test with you.”
“Tiffany, please understand.”
“Dude, stop calling me Tiffany. Stop acting like you know me or something.”
“If you don’t do it, my lawyer will make you. On October 14, Juanita will be served court documents. You’ll be required to submit to DNA testing. Look, I’d really like to speak with her. I’ll come back later.”
“No!” I grabbed my head for fear it would spontaneously combust and Grams would find my exploded head guts in the hallway when she came home from Bible study. “This would... I mean... Mom just... Grams is a wreck, okay? Please. This would destroy her. Do you really want to destroy an old lady who’s mourning the loss of her only child? Can’t you just go away? Like forever?”
“I want to know if you’re mine, Tiffany. I deserve to know. Deserve the opportunity to be a father. I think I’d be a good one.”
I snatched the envelope from his hands and ripped it open. Pictures of Xavior and my mom. Holding hands. Kissing. Wrapped in a loving embrace. Laughing together.
I leaned against the doorway for support, fearing my knees would buckle and I’d fall backward. “My mom’s not here to defend herself. Do you understand how unfair this is?” I asked so softly I wondered if he could even hear me.
Apparently, he did hear me because he replied, “I know it’s unfair. But what should I do, Tiffany? Tell me what to do.”
I looked up at him standing so tall and statuesque and adult, asking teenage me what he should do. How the hell should I know?
“I’ll take your stupid test.” I handed him back the envelope and photos. “My grandma doesn’t need to know about this.”
“You’re a minor. You’ll need to be accompanied by your legal guardian. We should let my lawyer facilitate.”
“Anthony is my legal guardian. What if I gave you his info?” I pulled nervously at my braids and wondered how this would play out if I gave Xavior fake info. Like the number and address to the Walmart on North Avenue. “You can serve him instead. Save my grandma all this drama.”
Xavior nodded. “That’s fair. I can do that, Tiffany. On October 14. That’s seven days from tomorrow.”
I nodded and repeated to myself, “Seven days.”
* * *
“You seem awfully quiet back there. You okay, kiddo?” Juan asks, snapping me back to my current reality. Sia has been replaced by a new singer. I don’t know who it is, but the lyrics, about a bash and some cash and...a hash? It’s making my head spin.
“I’m okay,” I reply. “But is there any way you could change the station?”
“I asked what kind of music you like. You never answered.”
“I like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix—”
“Sweet.” Juan nods. “Rock and roll it is.”
Traffic is getting much heavier now, so the SUV is slowing to a crawl, saving both our lives for sure. Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” blasts through the car speakers. Nice. I lean my head back against the seat and close my eyes.
“Wake up, kiddo. Almost there.”
I yawn lazily and rub my tired eyes.
A young security guard steps out of a guard gate as Juan pulls up to the entrance of what appears to be a large gated community.
“Dropping off,” Juan says to the security guard, handing him his driver’s license.
The guard takes a moment to check his computer. He hands Juan back the driver’s license, glances at me through the lowered window and waves. I wave back.
“Enjoy your day, sir,” the security guard says as the tall wrought iron gates slowly open.
I peek out the window and catch my breath, mesmerized by the extravagance of the houses. Correction: these aren’t houses—they’re mansions.
Juan whistles, looking just as mesmerized as I am, slowing the SUV while scoping out the expensive homes. “Your dad a doctor or somethin’?”
“Actually, yeah. He is.”
“Doctor, lawyer, oil tycoon, czar. Gotta be something fancy to live in a place like this.”
We continue on, deeper and deeper into the elaborate housing development, finally turning into a large cul-de-sac. Juan pulls into one of the driveways and clicks off the engine.
I stuff my hand into my front pocket and grab my tiny box of wild berry Tic Tacs, shake a few into my mouth and yank my long braids out of the bun on top of my head, pulling them neatly over one shoulder. Juan heads toward the trunk of the car and I smooth out my gray Guns N’ Roses T-shirt, leaning forward to check my face in the front mirror, suddenly regretting my decision not to wear makeup today. Everyone always tells me my dark brown skin doesn’t need makeup. But still, what if my dad doesn’t think I’m pretty enough? I dig around the other front pocket for my tube of cherry-scented lip gloss, add a quick coat, reach over to free my guitar from where it’s strapped into the seat beside me and carefully sling it back over my shoulder before hopping out onto the cobblestone of the massive driveway.
“Dropping your bag off inside!” Juan hollers over his shoulder as he casually moves toward the front door.
A surprising burst of loneliness creeps into my heart as I allow the evening breeze to warm my skin, icy cold from the air-conditioning that was blasted in the car. This place is classy. Fancier than anything I’ve ever been privileged to. Shouldn’t I be happy? It’s like I’ve won the jackpot. Plucked from the inner cities of Chicago and flown first-class to high society and all I can think about is my neighborhood back home. We lived in a high-rise apartment building with a smelly, wonky elevator in desperate need of a safety inspection. Every day after school, I’d risk my life in that stupid thing, cuz there was no way I was climbing twelve flights of stairs, and then I’d walk across a faded and dirty carpet in a poorly lit hallway to apartment 1203. Mom was sometimes home from work. She’d be yapping on the phone, greet me with a cheerful wave and point to a plate of snacks she’d left for me on the table. And even though she’d turn her back to me, a clear signal that she was deep into conversation and didn’t want to be bothered, I’d hug her and lay my chin on her shoulder and ask, “Did you miss me?”
She’d laugh and reply, “Tiffany, my dear, how can I miss you when you’re always here?”
I picture myself back in Chicago, stepping out of the cold into a local 7-Eleven. I’d approach a clerk, safe behind thick bulletproof glass.
“Here you go, sir.” I’d slide my winning ticket under the opening in the glass.
He’d scratch his head in confusion as he read the numbers. “Miss, you just won ten million dollars.”
I’d nod, well aware. “You can keep it. I’m going home.”
I smile at the thought. Across the street, a black Hummer is parked in a fancy, lit-up driveway, with a bumper sticker that reads My Kid Gets All A’s at Curington College Prep for Boys and Girls... What’s Yours Do?
Curington College Prep—it’s the name of the school I’m set to attend. I got good grades at my last school. Mostly As. A few Bs. But that was only the neighborhood public school on the west side. Not a private college preparatory. Though Akeelah says that all high schools are college preps and Curington only has a long, pretentious name so rich people will feel better giving them all their money.