DESIREE’S REVENGE: A Romance by K.C. Carson
That was not what my Daddy wanted to hear. “It’s not ‘ain’t doin’ nothin,’ Desiree,” he scolded. “It’s ‘not doing anything.’ And it’s not ‘them teachers.’ It’s ‘those teachers.’ Like I told you, we’re not in Mississippi no more.”
I just crossed my arms and sulked. I was not gonna do homework. I didn’t even want to go to school.
It wasn’t always like this. During seventh grade back in Mississippi, the year before, I did all my homework every day. Most of the teachers there were Black like me, and they lived nearby. But in this all-Black Bedford-Stuyvesant school, nearly all the teachers were white, and they dashed out of the neighborhood before the dismissal bell even stopped ringing. I was passing the tests without doing homework, but I knew that was only because this school dumbed everything down.
That wasn’t the reason I got suspended, though. It was the fighting. Parents of the boys I beat up were complaining about it.
“Look, sweetheart,” Daddy began after he hugged me and sat me down. “I don’t know why you’re doin’ what you’re doing, and you won’t talk about it. But I think you know where you’re headed. Yesterday, the principal told me you’re ‘incorrigible.’ That means she thinks you’ll never change your ways. She’s ready to put you into a school for disturbed children because of all the fighting. Those places are just warehouses for future dropouts. You want to fight? That’s goin’ on all the time there, and most of the boys are much bigger and stronger than you are. Is that what you want?”
“Well, no. I guess not,” I murmured.
“So then why do you keep looking for fights?”
Tears welled in my eyes. “I don’t know, Daddy. Sometimes they make fun of me, ‘cause I’m so tall or ‘cause my skin’s so dark. They just make me mad, and I lose my temper and I don’t know when to stop.”
“They’re just jealous of you,” he tried to explain. “You’re growing up to be Black and Beautiful. Just like your Momma was, God rest her soul.”
Momma was gone two years, but I would never forget her. He told me she died of a sudden heart attack. I never believed that, but I would never call him a liar either. I figured he must have had his reasons. But Daddy was right. She was beautiful, and she was tall like I was getting to be. He said our skin color was “Espresso Brown,” his favorite.
And I had my reasons for being angry all the time, for fighting with boys. The making fun sometimes triggered me, but it wasn’t just that. It was something that happened down home, just before we moved to Brooklyn during the summer. But I couldn’t tell him about that. I vowed I never would.
“Look,” he continued. “I have an idea. Do you want to hear it?”
“After I got nowhere with the principal, I knew I needed help with you. The only place I could think to go to was the Community Center. I met a youth worker there who used to be in the Army Green Berets. Part of his job is teaching martial arts. How’d you like to get some real training?”
“Wow, yes!” I exclaimed, perking up.
“This is just a beginning, Desi. But my first priority is to keep you safe. Here’s the deal. First of all, you do all your fighting in his class, not in school and not on the streets. If you get provoked, if a kid pokes fun at you, then you got to just walk away. Of course, you can defend yourself if you’re attacked, but then and only then. And you’ll get better at it. Now, you’ll stay home during school hours while you’re suspended and catch up on your homework. At three o’clock tomorrow, you’ll put the books away and go to the Community Center, where Mr. Ezekiel Williams will be expecting you. When you’re back in school, you’ll go straight there after dismissal. You’ll do your homework there, and stay there until either he or I walk you home. You have to promise me that when it comes to the training, or anything involving fighting, you’ll do whatever he says. Can you make me that promise?”
“Yes, Daddy, I promise. I’ll do it. I really will.” He reached his arms out, and we hugged.
The next day, I met Ezekiel. He was about six-two, a shade or two blacker than me, built like an athlete and handsome as all get-out. He told me to call him “Zeke” and surprised me with a private lesson to get me started. We saw something in each other, and hit it off right away. Before long, I found myself trying to stand straight like he did, walk like he did, talk like he did. Most of all, I worked hard to move around the mats like he did.
I was excited about being trained to be a better fighter, but I had no idea what a turning point this would be. At school, while academics never became my main focus, my disciplinary problems came to an end. I put everything I had into learning what the man I called Zeke had to teach me.
Even though it was an unruly wild girl he began training that first day, he told me I was his star pupil before my first year was over. I felt myself becoming fast, disciplined and intensely focused. He had me work out in the weight room for an hour each day, and said I was developing remarkable physical strength. He began giving me private sessions at night, after the group lessons and my homework were done. Some nights, he ran out of gas before I did. I soaked it up like a sponge.
During my high school years, I got into only one fight with another student. Early in tenth grade, I’d shrugged off the advances of the football team’s captain, who seemed to think no female could resist his charms. He grabbed me as school let out one day in front of a big crowd, pulling me in for an unwelcome kiss. Within minutes, his crumpled form lay on the ground, no longer a magnet for any female attention. After that, no-one messed with me. And no-one poked fun at my height. When I reached six feet tall, I finally stopped growing. By then, I wasn’t self-conscious about it anymore. I wasn’t interested in making boyfriends or girlfriends, though. I still carried my anger around and it showed. I just didn’t care about other teenagers and their petty issues. Only Ezekiel had what I wanted, and I was getting it.
As graduation approached, I fended off questions from both Zeke and Daddy about what my future plans might be. Both men knew I hadn’t applied to any colleges, though, and I knew they worried I might slip into the neighborhood’s violent street culture. Actually, I did have a plan, but I was keeping it to myself.
One night, after an early workout, Zeke suggested we go to his place, just to relax and watch some TV. Daddy was working late, and he wouldn’t be home for a couple of hours. While walking the few blocks to his apartment, he said, “I don’t know if you’ve thought past graduation, but you could do pretty well now teaching martial arts. What do you think?”
“No,” I replied. “Not right now anyway. A teacher isn’t what I want to be.”
I didn’t reply, and we continued on in silence. Once inside his apartment, I asked, “Should I take my clothes off now?”
“Say what?” he stammered.
“Isn’t that what men want? Pussy? Booty? They talk about it all the time. You’ve given me so much, and I owe you at least that. I thought maybe you brought me here to collect.”
“Desi, sit down,” he replied. “You’re developing into an incredibly beautiful young woman. Any man you choose to share your passions with would be very, very lucky. I guess I’m flattered by the offer, but this is simply not possible.”
“First of all, you’re still seventeen, so it’s not even legal. I’m fifteen years older, so sex between us would be what they call a form of rape.”
“More importantly, though,” he continued, “I’ve been your teacher, your coach, for almost five years now. If we had sex, I’d be exploiting the trust you’ve put in me all this time. And by the way, my return on investment has been watching you soaking up the lessons and becoming strong, disciplined and confident. I don’t need any other payment.”
I realized I’d insulted him, and began to weep. “Besides Daddy,” I said, “I never trusted anyone but you. I’m sorry if it sounded like I thought you were using me. I just didn’t think I had a right to refuse you, not for nothin’.”
He surprised me then by asking, “Desi, have you ever had sex with a man?”
I blurted, “No,” but then the dam burst. I erupted in heaving sobs, punctuated by unintelligible attempts at a response, except by nodding my head up and down. Zeke moved next to me, held me close and said, “You’re safe now. You can tell me about it.” After a few minutes, I calmed down, pushed away and wiped my eyes.
“I want to tell you something I never told no-one,” I said. “But you have to promise that you’ll never tell no-one else about it. Especially my daddy.”
He agreed. As the story came out, I knew he could see his confident young woman shrinking back into a scared little girl.