“Daddy was furious.” Ella said as she sat across the table from Ms. T.J. “He dragged me to the police station cause I was too young to stay alone back then.”’
“We gotta file a report, Lil Ella,” he said. “Plum unreasonable. Who woulda done such a thing? Disrespectful, needs to be locked up. They’s just crazy you know.”
“On and on he went. I’m telling you, Ms. T.J., I was scared half outta my wits and crying on the inside at the same time.”
T.J. sat with her elbows on the table leaning forward glued to every word. She loved Ella and wanted to help her any way she could. “Go on Ella, I’m listening.”
“Well, when old Mr. McKinney went to lock up the building, I snuck into the ladies room and stood on top of the toilet just in case he would come in there to check. When I heard him close the front door and bolt it, I came down off that toilet and headed straight for mamma.
The room she was in was down a long, dark hall. The place smelled like a flower garden, no, like a hospital room. You know what I’m talking about?” T.J. nodded. “I was real scared, Ms. T.J. but I had to do it. My hands were shaking and my stomach was all full of butterflies. I thought I was going to get sick.
I had to feel my way to the door because I couldn’t see anything. I knew where it was. I’d been in that building a lot. Mamma cleaned for Mr. McKinney every weekend. I went with her and pretended to clean too. Mostly I snooped around but mamma always took me for an ice cream after she was done. She’d say, “Ella, you’re my best little helper ever. One day you‘re going to be somebody.” I knew the place inside and out.”
“Ms. T.J. mamma was beautiful. The prettiest smile you ever seen and she always smelled read good. Yeah, mamma smelled like the best rose you ever picked from a garden.” Tears welled up in Ella’s eyes.
“So, guess what I did? I went into that big room where daddy said she was sleeping and pulled up a chair beside the big old box she was in. I was real little, but I was no dummy. I knew mamma wasn’t sleeping and I cried and cried all alone in that big room and my tears fell on mamma’s face.”
“Mamma, I said. “I’ve got to have something, something to remember you. Mamma, please don’t be mad. Nobody will ever know it was me. It’ll be our secret. Just you and me, mamma.”
“Daddy told us kids he fell in love with mamma in the first grade when he saw her running across the playground. You know what he said?” He said, “Your mamma had the longest, curliest hair I ever seen. It bounced every time she moved.” He told us his life’s ambition from that day on was to marry mamma”
“I loved mamma’s hair too. So many times when I was hurtin, I would bury my head into it and cry. I could smell her shampoo and feel her soft hair brushing my tears away. It helped so much, you know.” Ella lowered her head, pondering.
“Anyhow, you know what I did? I pulled out the scissors I snuck in with me and starting cutting. The more I cut, the harder I cried. Ms. T.J., I cut and cut and cut some more until I had all of mamma’s ringlets in my hands. Then I kissed her and ran out of that place. To this day, daddy don’t know I done it.”
“What did you do with all that hair, Ella?”
Ella reached into her purse and pulled out a lock of brown hair. Gently she raised it to her face, breathed deeply and said, “Ms. T.J. you know I can’t tell you that.”
Ella’s favorite counselor finished writing notes in her notebook, stood and said, “Ella, we’ve come a long way today. I’m so proud of you. I’ll see you next week, ok?”
Ella smiled. She thought about the box buried in the back yard full of mamma’s hair and decided to bring Ms. T.J. one of her precious locks. She was so much like mamma.
“Yes, Ms. T.J. I’ll see you next week.”
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