by Sadeqa Johnson
In the tradition of I Don’t Know How She Does It, Second House from the Corner centers on the story of Felicia Lyons, a stay-at-home mother of three drowning in the drudgeries of play dates, lost pacifiers and potty training who occasionally wonders what it would be like to escape the demands of motherhood. But when an unexpected phone call threatens to destroy her life, Felicia is forced to return to her childhood home where she must wrestle with an ex-lover and long buried secrets to save the family and home she loves despite the daily challenges.
Felicia Lyons is a character who mothers can identify with and laugh along with. You can’t help but cheer for her in Johnson’s engaging and well-written novel.
PRAISE FOR SADEQA JOHNSON
“A captivating tale to savor…Felicia is a wonderfully flawed, compelling main character, one who has stayed with me long after I finished the book. A winning novel from a writer to watch.”
—Benilde Little, bestselling author of Welcome to My Breakdown and Good Hair
“Sadeqa Johnson is one of those authors you rarely find these days. Her gift of writing sings on every page. When reading her second novel, Second House From the Corner, you can’t help feeling like you just received a letter from an old friend…. or an old lover. It is a must read!”
—Here’s the Story Bookstore in Union, NJ
Excerpt from Second House from the Corner: A Novel
The Witching Hour
That four-hour window between after-school pickup and bedtime? It’s like walking a tightrope with groceries in both hands. The slightest hiccup will land any mother in a quagmire with her legs in the air. For me the whole afternoon was a fail. I locked myself out when I went to pick the kids up from school, but didn’t notice the missing house keys until I pulled into the driveway. The snacks had been demolished at the playground, so the hunger meltdown began on the drive to my husband’s office for the spare key (a drive that usually takes seven minutes, but ended up being twenty round-trip because of traffic). Things got even shoddier once I discovered we were out of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. My children will not eat baked chicken unless I dip the pieces in buttermilk, roll them in cornflakes, and bake until crispy. The oven was preheated, the potatoes were boiling for the mash, and I was thirty-three minutes off schedule without the magic cereal that makes my chicken finger-licking good. No time to change the dinner plan. So I swap in seasoned bread crumbs and cross my toes that they won’t notice.
“Mama, this doesn’t taste right.” My son, Rory, frowns.
“Just eat it. There are children right down the street who are starving.”
“But it’s disgusting,” whines Twyla.
How does a four-year-old know what disgusting is?
“I have to go pee pee and poo poo.”
“Stop smiling at me. Mommy, she’s smiling.”
“Can we just have dessert?”
Like a song on repeat. Like it’s the last word in the English dictionary. They call “Mommy” until my lips pucker, eyebrows knit. And it takes all my strength not to respond with that inside voice that nobody hears, that you wish would stay quiet, that tells the truth you don’t want anyone to know. That damn voice is hollering. Shut the fuck up!
At what point do I get to shout What the fuck do you want from me? I wouldn’t drop an F-bomb in front of the mommy crew at the park, and I hate to see parents on the street cursing out their kids. But here in my kitchen with everything working against me, I would like to liberate myself just once and let the profanity rip. It’s the nipping at my nerves that gets me. The feasting on my flesh like starved sea urchins. Them, fighting like thieves for their individual piece of me. Me feeling like I have nothing left to give. Any mother who says that she has never felt like her whole life was being sucked out through her nostrils is a damn liar. I feel it every day. Especially when I don’t get at least five hours of shut-eye, like last night.
Twyla (whom I call Two) walked her four-year-old self into my room every hour complaining about being scared. Scared of what? The curtain, the bed, the wall—she had an excuse for each visit. Never mind that she had to walk past her father to get to me. They never bother him. It’s always Mommy. So I upped and downed all night while he slept like a hibernating black bear.
Tapping out my emotions so I can get back to feeling right. It’s that new technique where I say what my issue is and use my fingertips and hit my meridian points until I’m back to even. It usually takes about five minutes and several rounds before I feel centered and strong. My husband, Preston, calls it woo-woo, but he’s not at home with three children all day. I am, and I have to use what I’ve got to carry me through. I turn my back to the kids at the kitchen table, take two fingers, and tap the side of my hand while whispering my setup statement.
“Even though I feel stressed out, anxious, and tired of being alone and responsible for my kids I love and accept myself.”
“Mommy, what are you doing?”
“Calming down.” I try whispering the statement again but Tywla is out of her seat.
“My stomach hurts.”
Rory puts his fork down. “I’m full.”
My fingers stop. I haven’t made it through one minute, much less the five I need. I take a deep breath and usher everyone upstairs. Maybe Preston will surprise me and come home early. The damn voice laughs. When was the last time he did that? He never makes it home before their bedtime and I bet that’s on purpose.
Rory moans. “That’s my boat.”
“Dad gave it to me.”
“No, he didn’t.”
Breathe. “Cut it out and get undressed.”
I run their bath and sneak in a quick tap. Repeating my setup statement, I move from my hand to my forehead, to the side of my eye, under my eye, under my lip, under my chin, full hand on chest, bra strap and top of the head. Fill my lungs with air and exhale. Twyla and Rory are back. I read my body. Better.
“Can I bring this in the tub, pretty please?” Twyla clutches the mesh bag with their toys.
They climb into the bathtub and play. This should give me a few minutes alone with the baby.
“Guys, I’m going to change Liv into her pajamas. No water on the floor.”
“Can we have more bubbles?”
“Awwww, man,” Rory replies, imitating Swiper the Fox. “You only gave us a little bit.”
I cut my eyes in the direction of my six-year-old and hold his gaze for a beat longer so that he knows I mean business.
The upstairs of our house is small, and it only takes three long strides to the girls’ bedroom. Liv, the baby, squirms in my arms and I find solace burying my head in her neck. I could sit and smell this child all day. At ten months old, she still has that fresh-to-the-earth smell that forces me to slow my pace. It’s hard to look at her without feeling deep sighs of relief. She is our miracle child.
When I was twenty weeks pregnant with Liv, a routine sonogram found something suspicious. I was sent to the Robert Woods Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick to see a pediatric cardiologist. There was a pinch in her heart that could hemorrhage. Her chances of being stillborn were high. When the doctor suggested that we terminate the pregnancy, I was bilious. By then I had already heard her heart beat, felt her flutter and kick, loved her. Preston didn’t even look my way when he simply told the batch of white coats that we would take our chances.
On our way home, the traffic on the Garden State Parkway held us hostage. I slobbered and blubbered against the passenger seat window, trudging through my past, knowing which karmic act brought this down on our family. My husband kept patting my hand, but when that didn’t work, he pulled our ice-cream-truck size SUV over to the side of the road and pressed the hazard lights.
“Foxy, look at me.” He is the only person who calls me Foxy, and even with hearing my personal pet name, I couldn’t bring my eyes to his. Tilting my damp chin, he forced eye contact. “This is not your fault.”
But it is.
“You trust me?”
I shake my head, of course, because there really is no other response when your husband asks you that question.
“So the baby is healed. It’s done, no more worries.” Preston clapped his hands, as if he had just entered a contract with God.
“Now stop blaming yourself, you didn’t do anything.”
As our vehicle crawled up the Parkway, he informed me that we’d name her Liv.
“Not short for anything. Just Liv.”
I knew what I had done to deserve this even though my husband did not. I wanted it to be all right. Needed something to cling too, so I agreed to everything that Preston offered because the only hope I had for a favorable outcome was him. I had burned my bridge with God a long time ago.
( Continued… )
© 2016 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Sadeqa Johnson. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
Contemporary Women Fiction
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About the Author
SADEQA JOHNSON is a former public relations manager who spent years working with well-known authors such as JK Rowling, Bebe Moore Campbell, Amy Tan and Bishop TD Jakes before becoming an author herself. Her debut novel, LOVE IN A CARRY-ON BAG was hailed by Ebony.com as “this summer’s hottest read.” It was the recipient of the 2013 Phillis Wheatley award for Best Fiction and the 2012 USA Best Book award for African-American fiction. Originally from Philadelphia, she now resides in Virginia with her husband and three children. SECOND HOUSE FROM THE CORNER is her second novel. For more visit: http://www.sadeqajohnson.com