by Michele Cunningham
Christmas was the biggest holiday of the year for the Pride family. Normally, they gathered at their grandparents house for the big event. But this year they were breaking tradition. Monicha was hosting this year’s annual party. A tradition that had been in their family more than 35 years, ever since they moved to Commons. Family would travel from out-of-town, to attend the festivities.
Monicha knelt on the floor in the family-room with the huge cardboard box unwrapping ornaments. She wasn’t just hosting the Christmas party, but her housewarming as well. This Christmas was destined to be one they wouldn’t forget.
Her entire life she had been taught to work hard and put God first in everything she did. That’s exactly what she had done. All of that hard work led Monicha to launch her own cybersecurity company. And, business was booming.
During a recent interview with a local magazine the reporter referred to her as a self-made boss. She quickly corrected her by saying, “I am not self-made I stand on the backs of a lot people who paved the way for me. I am far from self-made I would be disrespecting my mom and grandparents who worked so hard to put me here to say that.” Monicha was raised by her mother and grandparents. It was no way she was going to be titled, self-made.
After that statement the reporter didn’t have much to say because her whole story was based on the fact that Monicha Pride was a self-made boss. The new angle for the article when it was printed was about a humble boss. A copy of the magazine was placed in each of the christmas stockings that she had prepared the night before for the family.
Everything was coming together. The only thing missing was the food, which her mom and grandmother were going to prepare. As she unwrapped the last ornament, she heard the doorbell. She looked down at her phone and it was already noon. Everyone would be arriving around six that evening for the ugly sweater party. She hurried to the door so whoever was laying on the doorbell would stop.
“Hey Cookie Monster,” Monicha’s mom Patti said. “You know I wouldn’t have to lay on the doorbell if you would just me the code,” she stated as she brushed passed Monicha with an armful of grocery bags.
“Hi Mommy,” Monicha replied as she rolled her eyes up into her head. She was not in the mood to get into a debate about giving her mom the code to her house. It had only been three weeks since she moved in, she liked the fact she was the only one with the code. Eventually she would give her the code, but for now she was keeping it to herself.
“Your brother is bringing in the rest of the items, and your grandma has some cakes to bring in as well.”
“Do they need my help?”
“Naw Big Sis, I got it,” Montae said as he brought in a huge box.
As her family was strolling in to help her prepare the final touches, she became overwhelmed with joy. Ever since she was a little girl, she dreamed of the day she would be able to host the Christmas festivities. Aunts, uncles, and cousins would be traveling from Maryland and DC for the holidays. And, now they would be entertained by her. This is going to the best Christmas ever, she thought as she began to hang the ornaments on the tree.
“So what else needs to be done,” her grandmother asked as she tied her apron around her waist.”
“Just the food. I finished the stockings last night, wrapped the presents, and the tree will be done shortly.”
“Alright. Well, I’m going to get started in the kitchen.”
“Have at it Granny. I purchased everything on your list.” Monicha turned and looked towards the door, “Where’s Papa?”
“Outside waiting on Montae to come out and help him hang all those lights he just went out and bought,” Grandma laughed.
“Montae get out there before your granddaddy tries to climb that ladder.”
After everyone settled down and started working on their contributions to the party, Monicha turned on Christmas music. “Alexa play Silent Night by The Temptations.” It wasn’t officially Christmas until you heard The Temptations sing Silent Night.
The tree was finally finished. All she needed to do was move the boxes to the garage. As she was moving the boxes, she noticed a box labeled Matti’s Box. She had no idea who Matti was or what was in the box. She figured Montae must have grabbed the box when he brought over the ornaments from their grandparent’s attic the day before.
Monicha stared at the box and debated whether or not she should open it. Her entire life she had always been curious, and this time was no different. The moment she opened the box she noticed it was filled with photo albums, trophies, and other mementos. She started thinking if she knew of any one in the family named Matti, or even heard of anyone by that name. And, she couldn’t think of a single one.
“Cookie Monster, you haven’t opened your box of pots and pans. Girl, you can’t eat out every day,” her mom yelled from the kitchen.
“Yes mam,” she yelled back. Her focus was on going through the box to find out who Matti was.
The first album was filled with childhood pictures of her mom and another little girl. With her mom’s face. As she flipped through the pages, there were dozens of pictures of her mom and what appeared to be her twin sister. All her life she thought her mom was an only child.
Her curiosity was now piqued even more as the pictures showed her mom and her twin going to the prom, graduating high school and college. She even found Matti’s high school diploma and college degree. Once she finished looking through the first two albums, she started to go in the kitchen and ask about the strange woman in the photo. But something else caught her attention. Another photo album that was labeled Matti and kids.
“Matti and kids,” Monicha said aloud as she opened the photo album. She started wondering if she had cousins out there somewhere.
“Cookie Monster, your grandmother wants to know if you have any paprika?” Patti walked in the room and immediately picked up the photo albums. “Where did you get this?”
Monicha could tell by the look on her mom’s face, she wasn’t supposed to be looking at the photo albums. Then Patti snatched the album right out of Monicha’s hand. Sheer terror was in Patti’s eyes. Monicha didn’t know what to say.
Just then her grandmother stepped out of the kitchen. “Patricia Denise, I told you to ask Monicha about some paprika for my potato salad.” Her grandmother stopped when she saw Patti clutching the photo albums. “What’s going on in here?”
No one said anything. They all just kind of looked around. Patti was standing there clutching the photo albums when Montae and her granddad came in the house.
“What’s going on,” Papa inquired.
Monicha turned towards her granddad, “Who’s Matti?
Papa dropped his hat to the floor. Patti dropped the photo albums she had been clutching in her arms. Her grandmother dropped down on the sofa and started shaking her head as if she was trying to shake the question out of it.
“Child, what are you talking about?” Papa bent down to pick up his hat, “Why would you ask such a question?”
Monicha looked over at her mom. She was standing there with tears running down her face. Then she finally said, “It’s time daddy.”
“Time for what? Did I miss something?” Montae was looking at his mother, grandmother and sister who all seemed to be in some sort of trance.
“No.” Patti was looking down at the book, “We, I have something to tell you.”
“Patti, this is not the time to do this,” her grandmother stated sternly.
“When is the time, Banner? They need to know.”
“Ed this is not the time.” Her grandmother stood up. “Why now after all this time?”
“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?” Montae was getting agitated and wanted to know what was the big secret.
“Your sister found the one thing that I prayed that you all would never run across.” Patti picked the photo album up from the floor, “You both have to know what I did; I did because I love you both so very much.”
“Go ahead and tell them,” Papa walked over to the sofa and sat down.
“Matricia Dawn Pride was your mother, is you mother,” Patti stated.
The looks that came across Monicha and Montae’s faces was a cold look as if their souls had been pierced with a dagger. Monicha dropped down in the chair behind her, and Montae walked over to where she was.
“Matti Lou, as everyone called her, was the best sister that anyone could ask for.” Patti looked over at her mother who was still shaking her head. “She was the kindest, sweetest, caring and smartest person you ever could know.”
“Wait, wait,” Monicha held her hands up to her mom, “so, you telling me the woman in those books is our mom.” She was pointing to her and Montae.
“Yes. It’s a complicated story, but we had to do what was best for you.” Patti sat down on the chair across for Monicha and Montae.
They, Patti and her parents, had sworn to never reveal the truth about what had happened to Matti. Not even to Monicha and Montae. A secret they had held on to for 35 long years.
“Matti Lou and I decided that we wanted to change the world by becoming reporters. After we graduated college, we decided to stay in DC to work instead of moving back to Delaware with Mom and Dad.” Patti stopped for a minute to gather her thoughts.
“Mama, are you ok?” Monicha could tell her mom was trembling.
“I’m fine,” she said as she grabbed a tissue. “We had been living on our own about 3 months before your mom met your dad. He was quite the charmer. He was tall, dark, handsome and married.”
Monicha looked over at her grandmother who was now clutching her pearls in a tight fist. She didn’t know what her mom was about to tell her, but she knew that she didn’t want her mom to stop talking.
“Matti Lou didn’t find out he was married until she was 8 months pregnant with Montae. Monicha you were about two years old. Hell, he stayed at our apartment so much that the option of someone else being in his life was never a question.”
“How did you find out?” Montae asked.
“His wife came home from her tour overseas. Your dad started coming over less and less. He said he was working a second job to provide for his family. He even talked about them getting married.”
Patti picked up the photo album and rubbed her hand across the front, “The night Matti Lou went into labor with you Montae, I called your dad’s apartment and this woman picked up. I thought I had the wrong number so I apologized and re-dialed. When I called back the second time the woman asked who was I calling for. I said Orlando.”
“What did she say then,” Monicha asked.
“The lady was snappy. She told me that she was back at home and Orlando would not be playing with his whores anymore. She then informed me she was his wife and to stop calling.”
“Dirty bastard,” grandma mumbled under her breath.
“Well me being me I called back and informed her that Matti Lou was at the hospital about to have his second child, a son. Then I hung up.”
“Mama you don’t have to finish if you don’t want to,” Montae told her.
“No it’s been 35 long years and you all deserve to know,” Papa was looking at Patti wipe the tears from her eyes.
“After your father confessed to his cheating ways things kind of went downhill from there. He only came over every other Sunday to see you kids. It was harder on you the most Cookie Monster because you were so used to seeing him all the time.”
“I was a daddy’s girl?”
“Yes, you were.” Patti took a deep breath, “I remember it like yesterday. We had just celebrated Easter in Maryland with mom and dad. It started getting late, Matti Lou wanted to get back to DC.”
“I begged you all to stay,” Grandma interjected.
“Banner lets go in the other room and let Patti talk to them,” Papa told her.
Patti stopped to give them enough time to leave the room before continuing. “Orlando had called Matti Lou while we were in Maryland, saying he wanted to see her that night. He said he had left his wife and was staying at a motel. On the way back to DC, Matti Lou begged me to watch you all while she went to see him.”
Monicha knew whatever was coming next would forever change her life. Her life was already changed knowing Patti wasn’t her mom.
“Matti Lou had only been gone from the house about two hours when I heard banging on the door. I figured she had forgotten her key. When I got to the door it was two officers asking me did I know Matricia Pride. My heart sank. The officer advised me that Matti had been
killed and they needed me to identify her body.”
Monicha’s heart broke instantly hearing the story. Her mother had been killed. But, by who?
“Orlando’s wife had followed him to the motel and was sitting outside watching. When she saw Matti Lou go into the room she snapped.”
“Wait, our dad’s wife killed our mom,” Montae asked.
“Yes. She stormed up to the room banging on the door screaming for Orlando to come out. He opened the door. She shot him in the chest.”
“She killed our father, too?” Monicha asked.
“Yes. After she shot Orlando, Matti Lou tried to run in the bathroom. She was hit in the back three times. They both were gone before the police could get on the scene.”
Tears started rolling down Monicha’s face in disbelief. This was like some episode from Fatal Attraction. But what her mom said next blew her mind. She said, “I’m Matti Lou.”
Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student