Mama doesn’t trust her. That, Jade knows clearly. Or maybe it’s better to say that Mama trusts no one but herself to do right. Jade will have to be disobedient to her. She’ll go sweat in the sun, be blinded by a cloudless sky, stare down lines of officers, try to breath steady as her heart beats so fast it might trip over itself, lose its rhythm. She’ll fall out like a woman in church, overwhelmed after stomping away the demons.
“Hell nah, you ain’t goin,” Mama says as she looks at herself in the mirror, straightening her work uniform. It’s dark navy contrasts against the dingy whites and light browns of the bathroom.
Jade glances up at the moist dark spots on the ceiling knowing she was never asking permission. “Imma be with my friends,” Jade says as her phone vibrates. “We’ll stay together.”
Mama looks at Jade over her glasses. “So you think I trust yo friends?”
“We won’t go where it’s bad, and we’ll leave early.”
Mama pushes past Jade as she exits the bathroom. Jade keeps quiet. Today, she’ll be patient. Mama goes into her bedroom, and before going after her, Jade checks her phone. Zion will be here to take her and others to the courthouse. She swipes the notification off her screen.
“And they wanna get violent?” Mama asks. “If you end up arrested, I’m leaving you in jail.” Mama turns away. She grips the sink with her hand and stares down at the faucet. Her eyebrows draw close together. “Or I might catch a case,” she says, half talking to herself. “Cause Imma have to kill them or kill you myself before they can touch you.”
Mama always says things like this. That she’ll punish Jade before they do. That she’ll eat Jade up before the world can eat her up. That they can’t have her.
“And you like to act up, so you’d be one of them lootin some Target.” Mama had liked when they looted the Target. She looks at Jade’s pocket as her phone vibrates again.
Jade doesn’t touch it and wills the messages to stop coming in. “I won’t. And what do these stores matter? We don’t own nothin.”
Mama turns to Jade with a jerk that makes Jade flinch back even though she’s across the room. “I know,” she says, “but they ‘gon act like they own you.”
Mama laughs, pauses, and laughs again. “You wanna stay here?” Mama throws her arms wide, motions to the apartment, its worn carpet and thin, smoke-stained walls, its weak window A/C units. “You get arrested, oh, you’ll be stuck. But you know that. Cause you couldn’t act right in school and got in trouble enough. If you get arrested, I ain’t bailing you out,” Mama snaps. Jade knows she couldn’t. Not right away.
Jade swallows. “That’s why I gotta go, Mama.”
Mama gets that nod. That slow, measured nod.
Jade’s phone vibrates again.
“Is that about the protest? Show it to me. You done graduated but don’t think you too grown.”
Jade walks into the bedroom and pulls out her phone. Jade exhales. “Yes, ma’am.” It’s a few texts about a show from someone else.
“Ain’t even funny,” Mama says under her breath as she grabs her purse from the bed. She walks around Jade and out the room. “I have to leave. Close the door.”
Jade follows her out. It’s silent as Jade sits down at the dining room table and Mama kneels down to put on her shoes. She struggles to keep her hands steady and unknot them. Jade’s phone vibrates again. Zion’s outside.
Mama stands up and walks over to Jade, glancing down at her phone. “Baby, I don’t want you to be no revolutionary. Not Assata, not Huey, none of them that you stay reading. Make it out of here. Live. Do what you can.” She looks away. “It don’t have to be you in the streets.”
Jade nods. Mama wraps her arm around her, hugs her daughter into her chest. “Stay home. Food’s in the fridge.”
When Mama leaves, Jade texts Zion that she’s coming down. After grabbing her shoes, bookbag, and sign, she leaves, too. She can’t stand to stay inside.