Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas At Zaire’s Place

It’s almost Christmas! I already shared excerpts from Zaire’s Place for Halloween and Thanksgiving. In continuation of that tradition, here’s an excerpt from Charlene’s chapter. Merry Christmas!

Zaire's Place
(Book Description)
When thirty-four year old Charlene Wilson discovers she is dying, she makes the biggest move of her life and leaves her abusive husband. Not knowing how many days she has left, she is determined to spend them in peace. She turns to Zaire's Place to find comfort.

Aisha Carter can be found at the center of every conflict at Zaire's Place. While she plots disruption, Aisha finds herself on an alternate path that takes her on a course she'd never imagined.

Rebecca Reich was raised in a prejudiced home and has issues with black people. A fish out of water at Zaire's Place, a predominantly African-American shelter for abused women, she is forced to rethink the lessons of her youth.

Zaire's Place explores the relationships among these women as their lives converge, as they make decisions, large and small, that will impact the rest of their lives.
Christmas was coming and I wanted to get Rebecca something real special. She had been so good to me, so attentive since [blank]’s death. Slowly, I was getting back to normal, but I couldn’t help but notice the eight pounds I’d shed even though I was still eating like I normally did. Rebecca noticed, too, but I tried to divert her and hoped it worked.

[Blank]’s death had me thinking more and more about my own. People always talk about bucket lists, grandiose things they want to do before they pass on. Not me. I just want to simply be … taking in all the little pleasures of life: the stars, the wind on my face. Those are the things that I think we miss most when we’re gone. I do believe that we still experience them when we’re in our different form—perhaps energy that travels through the universe at the blink of an eye. But without this body, all those things—the wind, the stars—would be different somehow. And I was certain I wouldn’t be able to play Scrabble.

Speaking of Scrabble—Rebecca was getting better and better every day. It was common for both of us to get at least one BINGO during a game, but I would still come out on top, even after I lagged behind sometimes. I was starting to look forward to our games again and even entertained the thought of throwing a game just to let her win at least one time. But I didn’t. I enjoyed the determined look she had on her face too much to sit back and lose on purpose. That look: absolutely priceless.

[Deleted Scene]

ZP staff asked for a volunteer to oversee the putting up of the Christmas decorations around the building and Jennifer took the initiative. Taliyah was thrilled. She would run around carrying a Christmas bulb or a handful of tinsel, waiting for Jennifer to tell her where to put them. That little girl was too cute.

Everybody seemed like they were in the spirit of the holiday season. Christmas music filled the halls from many a room and accompanied us as we put up the tree.

“Ma, I want to put the star on the tree,” Tristan told Bianca, his voice sweet, which was such a contrast to how he normally carried on, running around the shelter and wreaking havoc. Bianca looked at Jennifer, pleading with her eyes. Jennifer looked at Taliyah like she was wondering how Taliyah would handle the request. Taliyah nodded.

“Go for it.” Jennifer handed the star to Tristan and gave him a lift.

 It was then that I understood why the staff at ZP gave us so much autonomy: to foster bonding moments like these. And it worked, because I had come to regard them as family. I folded my arms around my chest and sighed, feeling content as I watched Tristan put the star on top of the tree.


“Charlene, you shouldn’t have. It’s beautiful,” Rebecca exclaimed, holding the necklace up in the air and fawning over it.

I’d gotten the silver necklace with its teardrop-like pendant yesterday and couldn’t wait to give it to her.

Rebecca stood up and walked over to her mirror, putting the necklace on, fingering it. She picked up a gift-wrapped present and walked back over to the bed. “This is for you. Merry Christmas.”

I tore into the package, curious to see what she got me. It was a burgundy leather-bound journal with my name monogrammed in beautiful cursive writing on the cover.

“I see you writing on the computer all the time and thought it would make a good gift.” She looked at me like she was trying to determine how I felt about her present. “I hope you like it.”

“Like ain’t the word. I love it,” I said, fingering the pages, which were edged in gilt. The color reflected on my fingertips. I leaned over, giving her a big hug. “Thank you. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.”

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