I ain’t never paid no mind to folk gossip about mama’s curse till I came across these letters. The white envelope in my back pocket got me thinkin about Claude, wonderin if he really comin home tonight like his last postcard say so I can show him. Wonderin how he gonna take knowin what I know.
I’m fixin myself somethin to eat in the kitchen when I hear him knockin. I ain’t gotta peek out the blinds or yell who there to know it’s him. He makin that same beat with his knuckles—that tap-ta-tap-tap-ta-tap sound he used to bang on my bedroom door back in the day to signal mama was pullin up. Gave me just enough time to help Helena tip toe out the back door and squat behind those evergreen bushes till mama was inside and outta sight.
I slice my grilled ham sandwich into two squares and grab a dill pickle out the glass jar on the counter. Pour my whiskey. Grab my chips. Let him stew on the steps for a minute. Took him a year to bring his tail back home this time. Boy can wait.
I don’t say much when I open the front door and find him standin on the crumblin concrete steps wearin a three-piece pinstripe suit and fedora. Shiny black caddy parked in the dirt driveway. Lookin like a bag of old money. He carryin a black suitcase, but ain’t no tellin how long he stayin this time. Claude been comin and goin since mama got sick. I don’t know much about where he been layin his head or how he makin his money these days, and it ain’t none of my business as long as he keep these checks comin. The money come in handy. Help me take care of things.
I give him a nod and point to the blue welcome home mat on the doorstep so he remember to take his shoes off when he come in. His green eyes stare at me through the screen door. He don’t blink or move his feet. Just stuff his hands in his pants pocket and stand there.
I ain’t got time for his hemin and hawin. My sandwich gettin cold.
I push the screen door open. “You waitin for a personal escort or somethin?”
He finally come to life with a smile. “Good to see you too, Louie.”
Claude follow me inside the house, take off his fancy shoes, remove his hat, pat down the swirl of deep waves on his head in the hallway mirror. My reflection hover behind him like a shadow—skin black as night, afro woolly and nappy again since I gave up on the conk. This high yellow pretty negro ain’t never needed to conk his good silky hair a day in his life.
My stomach start fussin and makin noises, so I head back to the kitchen and leave him and his bag by the door. He grew up in this house same as me. He know where to find me.
I’m on my last bite when Claude finally make his way down the hall. He stand in the kitchen doorway shufflin his feet like he nervous about somethin. I wipe down the counter and pour myself another shot of whiskey. I offer him a glass, but he shake his head. Boy could never hold his liquor no ways.
“So, you too good to drink with your big bro now?”
His lips turn up in his big ‘ole Kool-Aid grin. “Gotta keep my mind clear. I’m working on a book. I got some ideas when I stayed in Harlem.”
“Is that right?” I say, but I ain’t surprised. Claude loved stayin up till the wee hours of the mornin reading books under the covers with his flashlight, talkin my ears off about the Harlem Renaissance and becomin one of them New Negro writers when he grew up, the next Langston or Baldwin. Figured he end up there one day.
I see him eyein’ the crumbs on my plate. “You want a sandwich or somethin?’”
He pat his belly. “If it’s no trouble.”
“Wouldn’t be askin if it was.”
He step into the kitchen and lean back against the counter, his eyes watchin me as I search through the fridge for somethin to fix him since we outta ham.
“You always knew how to cook just like mama. Remember how everybody from the crew came over after school when you made fried chicken? Bobby. Cash. Big Mike. That was the best chicken we’ve ever tasted…even better than the chicken shack…”
Claude goin on and on about my finger lickin’ chicken till I can almost taste it, and before I know it, I’m pullin out a frying pan, buttermilk, flour and a pound of chicken wings out the freezer, coating the skillet with lard, lettin the grease sizzle in the pan till I hear the pop.
Damn Claude. That boy always know how to get you to do somethin without tryin. He always been one smooth-talkin son of a gun. Seen him talk Rita Moss outta her panties right after her daddy preached a sermon on virtue. She took one look at his light green eyes and curly hair and parted her legs like the Red Sea in the backseat of the church van while me and Junie stood on the curb as his lookout boys till they finished.
Claude point at the homemade cherry pie on the counter, a treat from my friend across the way. “I see Helena still bringing you her homemade pies.” He cheesin from ear to ear cause he want me to marry her even though he can’t keep a girl to save his life. Too busy chasin tail and money.
“Y’all been seeing each other since forever, Lou. Don’t you think it’s time to settle down? I know you not trying to die alone.”
“Don’t we all die alone? It ain’t no community event.” I flip over the chicken with metal tongs and dip the next batch in flour. “Plus, I ain’t got time to think about settlin down right now. Got other stuff on my agenda. Other priorities.”
Claude follow my gaze down the hall that lead to mama’s room. He ain’t been checkin in these days, and I ain’t fussin with him about it either. Thatta be his guilt to carry one day. Not mine.
“How’s mama doing? I think about her all the time.”
“She doin. But you can pop on down the hall and see for ya self.”
He check his watch. “Nah, it’s getting late. Don’t want to bother her.”
“You not comin round here botherin her. She notice from time to time. She was just askin, ‘Where’s my Claude? I wanna see my baby.’ Said it to me right after her bath last night.” I drop the wings in the skillet and raise my right hand in the air. “Hand to God.”
Claude fiddle with the fancy gold watch on his wrist. His eyes blink real fast, and he take a deep breath to pull it together. “Y’all been getting the money? It’s helping, right?”
“Yup. We gettin by. Found a nurse to help out when she can.”
He tap his fingers on the counter. “I can call more once work calms down, you know.” Claude call himself a salesman these days. I don’t ask too many questions though. From what I gather after his last postcard, he went door-to-door sellin’ furniture, appliances and whatever else he can talk folks into buying. Look like he make good money with that slick mouth of his. Enough to help us out around here.
Claude clear his throat. “I spent some time in Jersey. Now I got a job up in New York working for this cool Italian guy I met in Yonkers. Rich too. He also hired me for part-time work as a driver.” He pause, catch his breath, sip on his bottled water. “Plus, I’m busy writing this book. You know how it is.”
I dry off a plate with mama’s red holiday dish towel. I spot her wheelchair against the back door. The medication list on the fridge. The row of prescription bottles on the countertop.
“Can’t say I do. Don’t get out much these days.”
He start shufflin his feet again. “What are the doctors saying?”
“Nuthin that bears repeatin.”
Claude stare at me like I’m speakin Hebrew or somethin. “What’s that supposed to mean? Last time I was home, she was doing good. Looking good too.”
“Doc say it’s God’s will.”
His face scrunch up and he turn away from me like I’m the doc that gave him the bad report. “Man, that’s what folks say when they’re ready to give up. We just can’t accept their report. We need to keep the faith.”
“God’s will,” I repeat in a firm voice. “Ain’t much more to say.”
“Well, that don’t mean I gotta accept it.” His shake his head. “She got a lot of time left.”
I fry the last piece of chicken, turn off the stovetop and put the hot chicken on the plate. “Welp, some things easy to believe when you don’t see the sufferin.”
He mope over to the white table with his plate and plop down in the chair, shoulders slumped over, bottom lip hangin down to the floor, tryin not to cry. Guess this pretty negro forgot about life ‘round here while he off trottin round the globe in fancy clothes, shuckin and jivin, coonin for white folk in the big city. Most folk on the block tryna make it day-to-day. Leanne next door tryna feed four mouths since Jimmy ran off on her. Mac still can’t make a decent livin after doin time for some bogus drug charge. Miss Mable hire him from time to time to mow her grass and tend to that sugar maple tree in her front yard since she still gettin money from her husband’s settlement. Won’t last too much longer if her daughter keep robbin her to buy smack.
I watch him dig into the chicken, smackin his lips, tearin the meat off the bone. “This is good, Louie,” he say between bites. “Just like you used to make it.”
I let him get some more food on his stomach before I grab the shot glass and whiskey bottle out the liquor cabinet and plop ‘em in the middle of the table right next to the hot sauce. He barely look up as he reach for the next piece. “Nah man. Told you. No liquor tonight for me.”
Somethin about his demeanor remind me of mama. The tone in her voice when she ain’t wanna be bothered with the same question. The cocked brow when she wanted you to let somethin alone.
I run my hand over the envelope in my pocket, make sure nuthin fallin out. “Mama steady askin about two people. You and some cat named Jonathan.”
He look up at me and tilt his head to the side. Somethin else mama did when she had a question or revelation. “Who’s that?”
I steal a wing off his plate and suck all the meat off the bone. I hate how Claude don’t clean the bone before he grab the next piece. “Sometimes she call him Johnny and mention a train. Kept sayin she had to meet him. I thought it was gibberish at first cause she be talkin crazy. Mixin up stuff. You remember how she can get. Some days better than others.”
Claude stop smackin and keep his eyes on the pile of bones stackin up on his plate. Mama’s sickness got her all messed up in the head. Started some years back with simple stuff. Losin house keys. Forgettin appointments. Comin home to a pitch-black house cause she forgot to pay the light bill. She went to church after cookin breakfast without turnin off the stove. House woulda gone up in flames if Miss Mable hadn’t smelt the gas from her garden. One day me and Claude found her sittin on the curb in the Piggly Wiggly lot, rockin back and forth, cryin with her head in her hands, a puddle of ice cream on her dress cause she forgot how to get home. Things been downhill since.
I stroll over to the drawer underneath the microwave and pull out a photo I found in a brown jewelry box stashed behind a bag of old clothes. Claude sit straight up in his chair, bitin his greasy bottom lip, watchin my every move.
I ease back into the chair across from him and glance at the photo in my hand before I set it face down on the table and slide it his way. “I ain’t think much of it till I found this in the attic last week.”
He flip the black-and-white photo over and frown like I just dealt him a losin’ hand. His eyes squint at the white man in the picture sportin a tux and one of them top hats he like to wear. He trace his finger over the faded ink at the bottom: For my Natalie.
“Never seen him before. Who is he?”
I fill the shot glass to the brim and push it toward him with my finger.
“Ya old man.” I don’t sugarcoat it. Ain’t never been good at holdin my tongue no ways.
He toss the photo back across the table and start doin that nervous laugh, the one that sound like he chokin on air. Guess he think I’m jokin since folk always teased him about havin a white daddy.
“That’s not funny, Lou. You know my daddy’s been dead.” His laugh come to a stop when he glance my way and see my lips pressed in a straight line. No curve.
“Sh-i-i-i-t-t-t.” I lean closer and hold the pic up to his face. Give him another chance to look in the mirror. See his reflection. “Look again. Same nose. Same butt chin. Same eyes. Damn near the same complexion.”
He stroke the dimple in his chin and shake his head but he don’t look away. His skin turn ‘bout red as the dish towel the longer he stare.
“Everybody knows my daddy is Reginald Davis the Third. And he may have looked white but he wasn’t,” he say through gritted teeth like I don’t know his daddy’s name or how he looked. Drops of spit fly out his mouth, some land on the photo.
I keep my mouth shut and nod toward his drink. He drum his fingers against the glass and stare at me with a scowl till he throw it back. His lips pull back in a grimace with the burn. I wait till the warm hum of liquor run through his veins, calm his nerves before I keep talkin.
“The man in that pic name Johnny. I ain’t gotta last name, but I know she-”
He flick the photo outta my hand with his fingers and watch it fall to the floor.
“I’m not up for hearing folks damn gossip about mama. Since when you start listening to it anyway?” He lean forward and put his elbows on the table. “I don’t care about a photo. I know who my daddy is just like you know yours. And you went to both funerals last time I checked.”
Anybody with one good eye and lick of common sense could see me and Claude got different daddies. Folk say both of ‘em dead from mama’s so-called curse. The rumors ain’t never stop men from swarmin’ around her honey-coated skin after my old man Otis died in a coal mining accident in West Virginia. She married Reginald and had Claude a few years after we laid my daddy to rest and watched gravediggers in gray jumpsuits lower his wooden casket into the ground. Wasn’t too long after Claude started walkin we got word Reginald was killed in a car crash up North, and we back at the cemetery again, watchin gravediggers in black jumpsuits shovel dirt on top of his daddy.
I pull the white envelope outta my pocket and put it on the table, smack dab in the center.
“From what I can gather in these letters, she used to clean his folk house with Cicely.”
Claude stare at the envelope without sayin a word. His leg shakin hard against the table, movin the bottle back and forth.
I point to his empty glass. He give me a nod. I pour. He drink.
“I only found a few. But I think you should read ‘em. Find out the truth for ya self.”
“Nope, I’m good,” is all he say.
‘Nother refill. ‘Nother shot. ‘Nother burn.
Claude run his fingers along the flap about ten times before his curiosity get the best of him. He open the envelope and pull out five folded letters, four of ‘em typed up on white paper, signed in blue ink, the other one in cursive. He slowly unfold the first one with a shaky hand and glance my way. I pull my chair up next to him, nod my head for him to go on. I read along over his shoulder though I know these letters by heart at this point. The words hit different when Claude read ‘em out loud.
My beautiful Natalie,
I found your letter in the blue vase in the study today. You switched it up. That’s one of the things I love about you. You keep me on my toes. It was so refreshing to see your beautiful face. Although I was disappointed you had to leave so soon. I hope you didn’t rush out on my parents’ account. They planned the dinner party and invited Holly over at the last minute. I had no idea she was coming. I’m sorry. I don’t like her in that way anymore. I hope you believe me.
I can’t wait to see you next weekend. My parents will be departing late afternoon for their trip. You mentioned you found a sitter for Louis. That gives us two full days together. We’ll have plenty of time to watch the films we’ve discussed or read the Langston Hughes poetry collection you told me about ( I love how your eyes light up when you talk about it). I’m looking forward to every moment.
P.S. Please don’t feel you need to go through the back door. I’m leaving the key for you under the mat. Let yourself in.
P.P.S. Thanks for the photograph. You’re so beautiful.
Claude tighten his grip on the letter. His eyes drift to the photo of his daddy on the table. He take a deep breath before he read the next one.
My sweet Natalie,
Hope you slept well, my dear. I want to apologize about kissing you in the study yesterday. I can see that my carelessness upset you. I understand the ramifications would be detrimental if anyone were to find out about us, particularly for you. Please don’t mistake my excitement for disrespect. I just couldn’t help myself. I can’t stop thinking about our weekend together and how much you mean to me. I dreamt about kissing your lips, feeling your skin on top of mine again. It was better than what I imagined. I want to let everyone know how I feel about you, but I understand we have to be careful. Please know you can trust me. I would never jeopardize your safety or put you in danger.
P.S. I finally read the Dreams poem you left for me in the study. It’s lovely. I see why it’s your favorite. It’s a reminder for us to hold fast to our dream.
P.P. S. We talked about finding a way to make this work. I believe we can.
My dear Natalie,
With your permission, I’ve reached out to my friend William in New York now that my studies are coming to an end. Willy and I have been buddies long before our college days. He assures me things would be better if we moved up his way. I’m in the process of developing a plan. I’ll go first and get my affairs in order, and then I’ll send for you and Louis.
P.S. I’m starting to think you enjoy tormenting me. That explains why you stood so close to me at the kitchen sink. I behaved this time, even when your fingers brushed against my hand. You also did something different with your hair today. I love it. I couldn’t take my eyes off of you.
P.P.S. Does Cicely know about us? She caught me staring at you several times. She just smiled and looked away. It’s fine if she does. I know how close you two are. I don’t mind if she knows how much I love you.
With love always,
My sweet Natalie,
Great news beautiful. My trip to New York was a success. Willy has found a place for me to stay. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I think you’re going to love it. The apartment is small, but it’s cozy. And the kitchen has the same bay windows that overlook the garden in the study back home. I’m sure we can spruce up the place and make it look nice. I even spotted a mahogany bookcase with sliding glass doors on display at a furniture shop around the corner. I think you’ll love it.
I’ll be moving here in a couple weeks. I’ll leave two train tickets in the blue vase. I’m going to miss you like crazy while I’m gone. I can’t believe it’s finally happening.
P.S. I can’t stop smiling since your last letter. I’m glad to know you’re just as excited as I am. And I can’t wait to hear the good news you have to share with me (I understand you’d rather tell me in person, but the suspense is killing me!).
P.P.S. You asked for a photo of me while I’m gone. I tucked it inside of your book. It’s on the bottom shelf.
Love you always,
Claude eyes grow wide when he unfold the final letter and see the cursive handwriting. He drop it on the table and stare at his hands. I wait for him to pick the letter back up, but he slide it my way, say he don’t wanna read it. I clear my throat and read the last letter.
My Johnny ,
It’s been six months since we last spoke. I’m not sure why I’m writing a letter I’ll never mail. Guess it’s just a way to get this off my chest. Get rid of this pain I’ve been carrying around in silence. I don’t know if I’m coming or going these days. I just know I miss you. Your smile. Your laugh. The way you sneak glances my way with those green eyes. The way you said my name, like you was always happy to see me. I miss talking about our dreams…old and new.
Words can’t describe how I felt when me and Cicely showed up and found your mother in tears, telling us you was killed in a train collision. I cried with her. Had to pretend I was grieving only for her.
My stomach kicks with little feet as I’m writing this letter. Judging by my weight gain and nose spread, I think I’m having a boy. The same thing happened when I was pregnant with Louie. If I’m right, I’ll name him Claude (after my daddy) and Malone (after you). I know how much you loved your middle name (Claudette Malona if it’s a girl). The baby’s last name gonna be Davis. Yup, the same name as the minister who been trying to court me forever. He know good and well this baby ain’t his, but he don’t care. He just want to be with me. I don’t love him but I’m okay with it. Keep these nosy folks from talking. Plus he look the part. Anyhow, I wish I told you before you left. Wish you could meet him or her. I rub my belly at night and read our baby poems from that Langston Hughes book I used to leave around the study for you. Just finished reading Claude the Mother to Son poem. His feet kicked my belly soon as I read the words…like he knew how much we loved that one.
Folks always said I’m being punished for my grandma Josephine’s sins. One day a lady put a curse on her for stealing women’s husbands. It turned every man she loved into a cripple or crazy. Looks like the curse skipped a generation and landed on me since men around me end up six feet under. It all started when Mitch Jones drowned in the lake. Then Otis. Now you. Maybe it’s true. Maybe my bad luck killed you too. I miss you so much. I’m sorry if it did.
P.S. I found our tickets in the blue vase like you said. I took them home with me. Tucked them under my pillow. Sometimes I dream of me and Louie headed on the train to New York to meet you. I wake up praying you somewhere waiting for me.
P.P.S. I never thought I could love anyone after Otis. You proved me wrong.
Love you Johnny,
Claude already up and outta his chair pacing before I finish the last sentence. I don’t offer to refill his drink this time. Nuthin brown could wash down the burn he feelin right now.
I refold the letter and set it on top of the others. He had a right to know the truth, ‘specially since he stayed askin mama questions about Reginald when he was a boy. Claude wanted to know everything about his old man. Least he know who his real daddy is before he leave town again. And mama ain’t in no position to tell him. Had to be me.
“Well, I figured you’d believe me once you read ‘em.” I nod to the letters. “And we thought all that talk about mama’s curse was just gossip. These nosy folk may’ve been on to somethin.”
Claude silent for once. He still pacing from the fridge to the table, starin up at the faded water stains on the ceiling. I clear my throat, try to get his attention. “You good?”
He put his hands behind his head. “How come I’m just finding this out? How come she never told me.” His voice screech, makin my ears hurt.
I shrug. “Guess she had her reasons.”
He stop movin and give me a cold stare. “Easy for you to say. You know who you belong to. What could be more important than telling the truth about my real father?”
“And how you think these folks woulda reacted to her having a baby by some white cat on the other side of town? Far as I see it, she raised both of us on her own. She did the best she could with what she had.”
“That’s no excuse not to tell me. I understand not telling other folks but what about me? His son?”
I keep my mouth shut until I think of somethin to get him to laugh. “Least these letters clear up something else. Now we know where them waves on top of ya head come from. ‘Cause Reggie afro was bout nappy as mine.”
He cut his eyes at me. The vein poppin out his neck at this point. He ain’t laughin.
“Glad you think it’s funny she been lying to me my whole life. Telling me my daddy was a minister from Chicago. Telling me stories about them. At least your stories been real. Mine all been B.S. She never even loved him.”
“Don’t sound like she did. But it seem like she loved ya real daddy.”
Claude stomp over to the table and snatch the letters up one by one. His eyes keep driftin to the hallway, and I already know what he thinkin. He thinkin he gonna get answers about them letters. Thinkin she gonna respond like his last visit home. Thinkin a year don’t make much of a difference.
“So, you think you finna run down the hall and talk to her about it at this hour?”
He look right past me. “What do you think?”
I’m already outta my seat before he make it across the white tile. He got me in height by a few inches, but I’m bigger, stronger, quicker.
I jump in front of him and point to the table. “Take a seat.”
He push my finger away and try to step around me, but I block the doorway.
“Get out my way, Louie.” Claude ball his hand into a fist, eyes dartin’ around like a madman, nostrils flarin up like he lookin for somethin to hit. But we both know he ain’t that tipsy or crazy. I stare him down till he relax his hand.
“Now you gotta right to be upset Claude, but you need to take a breath. Sleep on it. Let the anger simmer down. I ain’t tell you so you could go fuss at her your first night back. She not gonna be up for it no ways. This was for you to know.”
He wave the letters in the air. His body start swayin side to side, like the liquor finally kickin in. “So, I’m just supposed to keep quiet about this because you don’t think she up for it?”
“I know she ain’t. Good chance she won’t even remember.”
“She was up for talking about old times the last time I was home. She remembered stuff.”
“That was last time.”
He take a long pause. I don’t budge till the flush in his cheeks fade, till his breathin even out. Soon as I move out the way, Claude stumble into the living room and crash on the brown sofa, fussin and cussin under his breath, starin at the letters and photo in his hand. I let him be.
I wipe down the kitchen one last time and stop by mama’s room at the end of the hall to do a final check on her before I go to sleep. I’m surprised to hear her bed creak like she movin around at this hour.
I turn on the nightlight and step into the room. “You good, ma?”
She sittin up in bed, wide-eyed, lookin more alert than she has all week. Her thick gray braid swingin over her shoulder, comin loose again at the end. I don’t see the rest of her till I move closer. Them beige quilts Cicely dropped off swallow her up, almost make her disappear.
She turn her head to the door. “Who you talking to out there?” Her voice come out clear. Strong. The yellowish color in her skin washin out her smooth honey complexion, but she still a looker. Nuthin can change that.
I clear my throat. “I gotta suprise mama. Claude home.”
Her brown eyes light up with somethin I ain’t seen in a long time. A wide smile spread across her narrow face and she squeal. “My baby.”
I can’t help feelin some type of way watchin her come alive at the mention of his name. I’m the one who feed her. Bathe her. Take her for walks when she up for ‘em. Comb her hair. Tell her she beautiful. Sit at her bedside with the Good Book and read Psalm 91 to her every mornin. Put on them doo-wop records her and Cicely loved shimmin and shakin to while they cooked in the kitchen. She still look me dead in my face some days and don’t know who I am. Don’t remember nuthin we talk about. But Claude pop up and she come to herself all of a sudden. Boy been gone more than he been around since she fell ill. Comin and goin as he please. Driftin through life any way the wind blow.
“It’s late. Imma send him in to see you in the mornin. One more day won’t hurt.”
My voice come out rough and cold, but I can’t help it none. I fix the pillows behind her back and place my hand on her forehead, make sure she not warm. She grab my shirt when I reach for the lamp on her nightstand, tuggin on my sleeve till I sit on the bed. My heart thumpin fast when I see her lookin at me with that crinkle in her eye. Remind me of the times we sat on the back porch coolin down with lemonade while she told me stories about growin’ up in West Virginia, stories of how she met my daddy. She lookin at me now in that same way.
“Louie,” she whisper. The way she say my name warm the cold within me. “Claude is Claude. Always gonna be Claude. But you….” her lips crack a smile. “You my Louie. You take good care of me.” I don’t even feel the tears till her fingertips wipin’ my wet cheeks.
It don’t take long for her to fall back asleep. I tip toe out the room soon as her eyes close and head upstairs to bed. Claude passed out on the couch in his suit, letters across his chest, snorin’ with his mouth wide open. I toss a blanket over him and keep it movin.
Seem like the sun come up soon as I shut my eyes. I stumble downstairs, pass through the living room on my way to make my mornin brew. First thing I see is the crumpled blanket and empty whiskey bottle on the floor next to the photo. The letters spread out like a fan across the coffee table, only one missin is mama’s. The white envelope tucked under the throw pillow got a check inside, an amount I ain’t never seen before. An amount I ain’t know he could pay.
I mosey over to the front door and step on the porch, squint my eyes against the sun. Ain’t nuthin to see but fresh tire tracks in the dirt driveway.
He already gone.
Kendra Y. Mims-Applewhite is a writer in the Chicagoland area. She holds a BA in Journalism from Columbia College, and is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction at her alma mater. Her fiction and nonfiction work have appeared in Avalon Literary Review, Permission to Write, Hair Trigger, SheKnows Media and healthcare publications. She lives in Chicago with her husband, where she is an associate editor for a medical association. When Kendra is not writing, she can be found with her head in a good book, concocting a random recipe, or unleashing her inner movie buff. She is currently working on her debut novel and short story collection. You can find her on Instagram @kymwrites or https://kendraymims.contently.com/.