Dana L. Davis
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
“Think about it, though,” she explained to me while helping me pack a few weeks ago. “For forty thousand dollars a year, you ain’t gonna send your kid to a school called West. Trust me, all the high schools with one-syllable names...free. Them expensive schools got long-ass names.”
I inhale, drinking in the sounds of the peaceful neighborhood: crickets chirping from somewhere deep in the bushes, the beep-beep of a truck some distance away, the yap of an angry, undoubtedly harmless puppy.
“Well, well, well...look what the cat dragged in straight from LAX.”
I turn to face a young, smiley-faced girl with a mouth full of silver braces and pale blue eyes. She has very light brown skin and wild, curly hair pulled into a bouncy ponytail. She wears a beautiful yellow tunic dress that cuts off an inch or two above her knees, showing off her long legs and bare feet.
“Excuse me?” I’m suddenly self-conscious about my casual attire: boot-cut jeans with strategically placed holes in the knees, brown leather wraparound bracelets on both wrists and scuffed black-and-white Converse sneakers.
“Cool hair.” She reaches out and grabs a few of my braids, massaging them curiously with her fingers. “Are these extensions?”
“They are, yeah.”
“Sweet! I’ve always wanted extensions but my dad won’t let me.” She smiles as she scans my wardrobe with a slightly judgmental smirk. “Guns N’ Roses? Shouldn’t you be wearing, like, a Lil Wayne T-shirt?” She giggles. “Totally kidding. I’m Nevaeh. It’s heaven spelled backward, which I personally think is so dumb. Why would anybody spell heaven backward, right? People think it’s pronounced Nah-vee-ah. But it’s Nah-vay-ah. I’m only twelve now, but when I get older, I’m legally changing my name to something simple like Jane. Do I look like my name could be Jane?”
My eyes bulge. Nevaeh talks fast. “I’m sorry...what?”
“Hey? Do you need a tip or something?” Nevaeh calls out as Juan exits the house and moves toward the SUV. “I can run in and get some cash from my mom. She’s out back setting up.”
“Already included with purchase.” Juan tosses me another toothy grin. “Triple five. Eleven, eleven.”
“Huh?” I reply.
“My number. Easy to remember, right? You find yourself needing a ride, don’t hesitate to dial it. Oh, and every time you eat an In-N-Out burger, remember it was me who gave it to you first. Good luck to you, kiddo.”
He hops into the car and backs onto the street, leaving Nevaeh and me standing alone on the cobblestone driveway underneath the light of the full moon.
“In-N-Out?” Nevaeh frowns. “Don’t tell my mom you already ate. She’ll freak. She cooked a feast.”
“Who’s your mom?”
“My mom?” She raises an eyebrow. “My mom is Dad’s wife.”
“My dad’s wife?”
I try not to show my surprise, though it’s a weak effort at best. Did Grams know my new dad had a wife? Another freakin’ kid?
“I don’t really see the resemblance,” Nevaeh declares with a shake of her head. “I mean...not just cuz you’re dark...”
My eyes narrow. “I’m not dark. I’m dark-skinned.”
“Oh, shiz! Did I offend you?”
“No, no,” I mumble, realizing by the apologetic tone of her voice that offending me truly wasn’t her intention. “It’s fine. I don’t like the word, is all. There are negative connotations attached to it in regards to African Americans. Like, dark is the opposite of light and associated with evil and—”
“Whoa.” She raises a hand to stop me. “Trust me, I get it. Sometimes people call me a mixed breed and I’m all—do I look like a puppy? Do I bark? I mean, I am a mixed breed. Of the humanoid species. But aren’t we all? Oh, and seriously. I really am sorry if I offended you. I want us to be more than sisters, you know? We should be friends.” She beams. “Isn’t this wild, though? The craziest thing to happen to our family, like, ever. And it’s your birthday! Omigosh, happy birthday! Can I hug you?”
She lurches forward and pulls me in for a hug.
“Give her some air, Nevaeh. God.”
Another girl moves across the driveway with a face that matches Nevaeh’s. She’s got the same braces, light skin, blue eyes and wild, curly hair pulled into a ponytail. A realization quickly sets in—they’re twins. Identical twins. I might have identical twin sisters?
“This is Heaven.” Nevaeh rushes to meet her. “Get it? Heaven and Nevaeh? So lame.” She groans. “Why couldn’t our parents have named us Mindy and Pindy or Lisa and Pisa?”
“Pindy and Pisa? Those aren’t even real names.” Heaven rolls her eyes. “I happen to like my name.”
“I like your name, too. It’s not spelled backward.” Nevaeh turns to me. “We have another sister. She’s fifteen and her birthday is exactly two months after yours. Isn’t that so awkward? Dad knocked up two women at the exact same time!”
“Another sister?” I croak.
“Nevaeh, shut up.” Heaven elbows her in the side. “You can’t get two women pregnant at the exact same time. It’s physically impossible.” She turns to me. “I’m so sorry about her. She has Tourette’s. And she never stops talking, so I hope you brought earplugs.”
“I do not have Tourette’s and I do so stop talking. I gotta sleep, don’t I?” Nevaeh says seriously. “Besides, I’m just stating the facts. Dad was obviously some sort of Casanova sixteen years ago. A real ladies’ man.” She makes a thrusting movement with her hips and Heaven covers her face in embarrassment.
Two women pregnant at the same time? Three sisters? What the hell did I just walk into? “I’m superconfused, you guys.”
“Of course you’re confused.” Nevaeh casually wraps her arm around Heaven’s shoulders like they’re the best of friends, which I imagine they are. “I told Mom sending a car was rude and would confuse you. But Dad was supposed to pick you up and then he couldn’t and Mom didn’t want to leave the party prep.”
Heaven elbows Nevaeh. “It was supposed to be a surprise! You ruined it!”
“Ruined what? We weren’t gonna jump out from behind furniture and scream, ‘Happy birthday.’”
A party? Now Nevaeh’s fancy dress makes sense. And Heaven is dressed up, too. Sort of. An ankle-length blue cotton tank dress blowing ever so softly in the evening wind.
As if reading my mind, Nevaeh grimaces. “You should change. Dad’s weird about holes in your clothes. In fact, I’d hide those jeans if I were you. Dinner attire is always Sunday chic. It’s the house rule.”
“We have lots of house rules,” Heaven adds.
I pull the leather strap on my case to take some of the weight off my shoulder.
“Cool guitar case. Is there a guitar inside it?” Nevaeh asks.
“Why would she be carrying an empty guitar case?” Heaven replies.
“It could be, like, a suitcase or something... I dunno. Whoa!” Nevaeh jumps excitedly. “You know who you look like? Janet Jackson!”
I sigh. It’s like I’m watching the twin Olympics and Heaven and Nevaeh are going for the gold. Can’t they be quiet for, like, one second so I can figure out what the hell is happening here?
“Janet Jackson is short and sporty. Tiffany’s tall and thin,” Heaven states simply. “She looks more like Kelly Rowland.”
“Holy shiz, you’re right!” Nevaeh squeals.
“I said shiz, Heaven.”