She barely breathed as the two made their way to the professor’s home. She was curious as to why they were going to the woman’s home rather than to some hospital but she didn’t question it. She was actually glad that they weren’t going there; the very thought of being kept like an experimental lab rat only made the electricity slightly come up in small spurts. She cleared her mind for the umpteenth time and tried to think about what would lie in store for her. She found herself actually looking forward to a nice, warm meal and a soft bed to sleep in. A quick sniff and Tabitha knew that maybe a long, hot bath would be the first priority.
She slightly looked out of the window as the sun started to set and realized that she had no idea where she was. If this was Chattanooga, she was in an area she was not used to seeing. Her slight tour was interrupted as she caught a glimpse of herself in the side mirror. Okay… there’s no need to panic; there’s a perfectly good explanation as to why my hair is white, she told herself. She tried to take her attention off of her new hair color and glanced at the woman driving. Of course, she would have the answers that she wanted but Tabitha decided against speaking to her at the moment.
The professor looked very calm, despite having to deal with Tabitha’s odor. She deducted that maybe she wanted her to stay calm as well. Tabitha liked her skin tone; while her best friend had teased that she was the color of a lion, the professor had a medium copper tone. Her dreads were an odd mix: her roots were a very dark brown that subtly blended into a red-violet color on some strands, a golden brown on others; they were pinned up into a neat bun going towards the back.
The professor’s arms were as toned as Tabitha’s, showing off a few tattoos which surprised her. The one that stuck out the most was the slightly faded one towards her shoulder; two roses shaped into a heart. She knew that they were supposed to be roses however the petals looked more like claws. Of course, Tabitha thought, underneath it a man’s name was tattooed. She assumed that how the woman had chosen to wear a cotton top with short sleeves that barely covered her shoulders, he was the current boyfriend. Husband, Tabitha immediately corrected herself when the glint of silver wedding bands caught her eye.
Ten minutes passed and Jamila turned into a newly developed neighborhood. There was construction still going on in the front and they made their way towards the end of the street, where there were finally signs of housing. They varied in shape and style; some were two stories, some were not. Jamila parked her sage Mercury Mariner behind a tan Pontiac Grand Am. The front yard was neatly trimmed, evenly separated by the concrete sidewalk leading up to the huge porch that surrounded the home, a two-storied house with red brick and peach sidings. Two flags stood in front of the porch in the yard, silently swaying and greeting people to the home: U.S. Marine Corps on the right, University of Memphis on the left. It was enough to make Tabitha stop dead in her tracks. University of Memphis… was she actually in Memphis?! That was almost 300 miles away from her home; did the general actually have the audacity to dump her there?!
She took a quick scan of the neighborhood, just to make sure. Unfortunately, the professor was the only one who had anything of that effect in her yard. She looked back at her with a smile.
“Everything okay?” she asked. Tabitha gave her a quick nod and followed her anyway inside the house. Her ears were introduced to sudden, shrilled laughter. Thumps and thuds could be heard all throughout the house and a man’s desperate voice calling out to “ring the damn bell”.
Jamila looked back apologetically… and then realized the actual danger of bringing the mutant into her home.
“Remember what I told you, Tabitha…” she quickly added. Deep breaths, clear mind; deep breaths, clear mind, “I’m sorry. It’s Friday; ‘Smackdown’ is coming on tonight. This is how we get ready!” she explained. It never dawned on her that the married doctor would have children; from the sounds of it, small, active… hyper children. Before Tabitha could question what a “Smackdown” was, more thumping was heard coming towards them.
“Momma’s home!!” a little girl’s voice sang out and three hyper children immediately appeared; the girl was accompanied by two boys. Deep breaths, clear mind…
They bombarded their mother, nearly knocking her off her feet. Triplets, she could tell, all three were thin; one boy with jet black braids, the other with dirt brown braids and the girl had dark brown/reddish ponytails. All three reached their mother’s waist easily. The boys were spitting images of the professor, all the way down to their medium copper complexion, oval chestnut eyes and thin, bow-shaped lips; the girl had a beautiful mahogany tone with big, round nearly black eyes. When a man walked into the hallway, Tabitha saw that there would be no way the man would be able to deny that the little girl was his daughter.
At first, the man smiled at the scene of his children tackling their mother, finally getting her down on the ground. Her once neat bun escaped its restraints and her dreads flowed an inch past her shoulders. The husband’s attention finally landed on Tabitha and he cleared his throat. Deep breaths, clear mind…
Jamila was finally let up from the floor and gave her husband a quick kiss. Any other time, Tabitha would have laughed at the fact that the couple was nearly the same height. However, his dark eyes made it known that he didn’t have a clue who she was, why she was there… and why she smelled as if she just crawled from out of a sewer.
“Who’s this, mommy?” one of the boys asked, looking up at Tabitha. The other two followed suit. Deep breaths, clear mind…
“This… is Tabitha. Tabitha, this is my family. That’s my husband, Albert and these three are our babies…”
“We’re not babies!” the girl stated for her brothers. Jamila raised her eyebrows at the brazenness of the children but let out a small laugh.
“Fine! These two… young men are Albert…”
“A.C., momma; she’s gonna get confused…” A.C. corrected her. Jamila huffed as his father gave him a stern look.
“Boy; what did I tell you about that?!” Albert’s accent wasn’t as strong as Jamila’s but Tabitha could tell that he was southern as well. Jamila sighed and hugged her children.
“Anyway; this is A.C. and Jamil. And, this young lady is Solonia. Guys, Miss Tabitha’s gonna be staying with us for a while.” Jamila finished but soon regretted her last sentence. Her children’s eyes lit up and they started to approach Tabitha. Her eyes widened slightly and she immediately hid her hands behind her back. Deep… mind, clear… breaths…?
“Really?! She’s gonna watch wrestlin’ with us?!”
“Who’s your favorite cuz if you say Randy Orton then that’s a smart choice, right dad?!”
“You must be as old as granny and paw-paw cuz your hair is whiiiiite…”
“H-hey! That ain’t nice!” Albert snapped at Jamil. Jamila quickly intercepted her children and pushed them through the hallway.
“Your mouth gonna get you in trouble, again! Now, that’s enough! She will watch wrestling with us if you three behave from now on! Is everyone’s room clean?”
“Don’t ‘aw, ma’ me! You know the rule; if you wanna watch Randy Orton, you gotta clean your room! Now, march; all three of you!” she ordered. Even while going upstairs, Tabitha could hear the unpleasant groans. Jamila walked back into the hallway in time to see her husband reaching his hand out for Tabitha to shake… and Tabitha slightly backing away. She quickly approached the two and immediately grabbed Tabitha, forgetting about the danger of doing so. She had tensed up… but was surprised that she didn’t shock the professor.
“Uh… no! She… uh… she needs a bath!”
“I’ll explain later, after dinner. Just… just make sure they clean their rooms!” she hurried Tabitha upstairs.
She didn’t know how but Tabitha survived her long awaited bath. The technique that Jamila had taught her seem to had worked as she found herself actually enjoying being in the presence of hyper children watching and imitating their favorite wrestlers. She even let out a small laugh as Jamila repeatedly told the children to eat while they had dinner afterwards. She didn’t blame them for their curiosity; there sat a white-haired stranger who didn’t speak and they were determined to get her undivided attention. As soon as their plates were almost empty (Jamila realized that the three were not going to finish their dinner that night and gave up), their father took them upstairs and got them ready for bed. Jamila excused herself to help out; the three were still excited about their new houseguest.
While the triplets were being tucked in (their questions non-stop), Tabitha carefully placed herself on the comfortable couch and started to nod off. She had been bathed, slightly taken care of, fed… and finally out of that alley. She was so exhausted she didn’t stir as Jamila made her way back downstairs.
“Oh… yeah, I guess you’ve had a long day, yourself. Let me show you where you’ll be sleeping.” her voice woke Tabitha up. She yawned, stretched and smiled at her slightly.
“No worries! I would let you stay there but the guest bed is much more comfortable.” she said. Tabitha groggily followed her upstairs and immediately saw the two rooms that were meant for the children; each door had been customized to their likings. Jamila opened the door next to Solonia’s room and Tabitha immediately plopped into the bed.
“This will be your room. We’ll talk in the morning…” she slightly laughed. Tabitha lifted her head and glanced back at the professor, a small smile on her face.
“Thank you… for everything…” she said. Jamila only shrugged.
“No problem. Good night.” she said but knew that Tabitha probably didn’t hear her; she was breathing soundly into the blanket.