Tuesday 1 November 2016

Blog Tour Excerpt - Love Child by A.M. Torres

Love Child
Author: A.M. Torres
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Date Published: March 29, 2014 (it was edited again last month and given new cover)

Book Description:
Tommy Hulette never asked to be born. Everyone wants to make him regret it even so.

Tommy Hulette hates his ghetto Brooklyn neighborhood. He's content living with his beautiful mother, his loyal caring father, his little sister Greta. He enjoys playing stick ball with neighborhood friends then really perks up when he meets beautiful and interesting Stephanie Mandan from Starrett City.

But Tommy's world is shattered forever. His mother becomes terribly unhappy and commits suicide. Things go downhill completely when his father decides he needs time to cope with the tragedy, sending Tommy and his sister to live with a brother Tommy never heard about. He promises that it will be for a short spell until he can come back for them.

He doesn't and it doesn't take long for Tommy to discover how this brother hates him and has since birth. He wants to punish Tommy for events occurred long before Tommy was born.Then it gets worse as he wants Tommy to end his life just like his mother...and to this Tommy is pushed and pushed and pushed.

Pushed to the limit, and with no one to turn to, Tommy takes solace in his sister's company and letters he receives from Stephanie. Will he be able to cling to life, and not succumb like his mother?

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Mama's Burden

As I pause by my apartment, I take a look around me. The halls are scribbled with graffiti. Garbage littered the floors. A bad urine odor drifts to my nostrils which leaves me feeling nauseated.

Stepping into the lobby, I barely acknowledged the familiar form of the wino who slept anywhere he could. Today he slept on top of garbage bags, while other times I’d notice the heroin addicts passed out on the sidewalk. More often than not I had to step over them just to get inside the building.

Unfortunately, this was considered normal in the ghetto neighborhood in Brooklyn New York where I lived in one of the project buildings with my mother, father, and my younger sister Greta.

Jerks sold drugs in street corners, and we heard gun shots ring out every night. Sometimes they were loud, sometimes they were faint, but we always heard them. Our neighborhood was dangerous, and we avoided going out at night as much as possible. My father was held up three times, while my mother once had her purse snatched.

My father wanted to move us to a better neighborhood, but he couldn’t afford to with the money he earned as a messenger which he said paid him a pittance. It barely paid the rent. Mama was the one who stayed home with Greta, and me.

She took care of us, and the apartment. She did the cleaning and the cooking, only money was so scarce that our dinner often consisted of chicken stew with white rice for dinner. For breakfast, we were lucky to have oatmeal or just plain toast. Butter was a luxury. At the beginning of the month, once the rent was paid we wouldn’t eat breakfast at all, and we were forced to skip the rice. We rarely if ever had dessert. Our priority was paying the rent. That needed to be taken care of first.

During the winter months, we rarely had heat, while in the summer we sweltered in heat. Our apartment was small with one tiny bedroom which Greta and I shared. She slept in a small cot while I slept on blankets spread on the floor.

This sucked especially when roaches crawled in the apartment, and I woke up repeatedly to shake them off me. This continued until the wee hours, so I never got a full night’s rest. I also kept an eye on Greta to make sure no roaches crawled on her.

Dad and Mama slept on a beat-up sofa bed in the living room which was the only piece of furniture we owned besides a small plank table where we had our meals. We didn’t own a TV or a radio.

We didn’t own many clothes so Greta, and I were forced to wear the same things which led to bullying in school. We were accused of being too poor to afford good clothes. I tried to ignore such nonsense talk, but sometimes I got angry enough to deck someone, and that would lead to suspensions which always made Dad angry.

“Tommy, every suspension pushes you back more and more,” he would tell me. “It’s not worth it not when you need your education which is your only ticket out of this dump. Don’t let stupid kids who will likely get stuck here set you back. Ignore them and concentrate on your studies. In the end, you’ll be better off for it believe me.”

I tried to do that I did, but I hated that school. I hated our neighborhood. My mother especially detested it. Her hatred of our neighborhood was making her miserable these days, and not a day would pass that she didn’t yell, or holler at one of us.

Dad felt her rage the moment he walked through the door after a long day at work.

I fished for my keys. My heart sank as Mama screamed at Dad again. I let out a deep breath while she lashed out loud enough for the building to hear. This occurred every day now. I heard her clearly, as I was sure the whole building could.

“At least you get to escape this hellhole every day!” she raged yet again. “You get to see people! You have an excuse to get out. What do I get to do? I just sit here cleaning, cooking, and waiting for you to get home. I don’t even have a TV to watch. I never see anything but roaches and Bridget Felder once in a while. Some company! But you don’t care! You never care!”

Bridget Felder was our long-time neighbor, and Mama’s best friend. For Mama to badmouth her proved how frustrated she was. I heard this before, and I was sure to hear it again. I knew Dad was probably sitting on our stained couch holding his face in his hands like he usually did in the middle of these attacks.

Mama continued berating him. “I have no life in this house just the same damn thing day after day! I’ve looked for work, but no one wants to hire me! But you don’t care! As long as you can escape that’s all that matters to you, and to hell with me. That’s all you think, don’t you? To hell with me!”

Dad let out a loud groan another sound that’s become familiar in the apartment. “Sandy please,” he cried. “I do the best I can. You know that’s true. I do the best I can

with the little money I get. And my job is not as wonderful as you think. I don’t make much, but at least I make sure our rent is paid, and we have food to eat even if it’s not the best food. I try please give me credit for something. I never have money left to buy anything for myself. I don’t have any more than you do. My sneakers are ripping at the seams, and I can’t afford to get a new pair, and I have to walk all day.”

Mama was unsympathetic which was not like her at all.

“Oh yeah sure we have food. Oatmeal, grits, bread, cheese, and all the cheap crap you can get. How often do you get meat? It sure would be nice to have more chicken like Bridget does. It would be nice to go to a restaurant once in a while too. But no I have to stay here stuck with all the cleaning and two children whining all day long!” Her voice took on hysterical proportions.

I cringed at her last sentence. What did she mean by that?

She never showed resentment for staying with us before. She always claimed to love us. And why was she acting like this anyway? I hated when she got like this. I hated when she, and Dad fought even more which was so often now, and I had to admit because of her.  She started these fights the moment he came home.

With some anxiety, I looked around me again. If it wasn’t because I knew my little sister was somewhere cringing in our tiny bedroom, I would have rejoined my friends outside where they were playing stickball in our only yard which wasn’t far from our school. I often went there straight from school to practice my swings, but not today. I had to look after my little sister who was scared by all this fighting, and I couldn’t blame her. It was scaring me as well.

Finally, with great reluctance I slowly opened our door. The moment I did Mama turned on me like a green-eyed tigress. “Where have you been?” she demanded before I closed the door behind me. When I had, it closed she flung a full glass of water in my face stunning me. Unable to move from the shock of that move she now threw the empty glass at me, but I was quick to put my arm up blocking it so it fell to the floor with a crash.

Still stunned I could only stare at her while water dripped down my face. She rarely hit me or Greta. I could only stare at her unable to move or react.

“Where have you been?” she demanded again, but this time Dad grabbed her by the arm and nearly swung her across the room. His handsome face exploded with anger.

“That is enough!” he boomed. “Look Sandy I’ve had enough of this! It’s one thing to come after me, but I will not have you going after the children! If you want me to move out then say so, and I’ll go since the mere sight of me seems to upset you, but leave the children alone!”

“Oh shut up!” Mama yelled then turned to me again. “You’ve been out there playing silly games when I already forbade you from doing so. Disobey me again Thomas Hulette, and I’ll break your arm!”

For some reason Mama, didn’t want me playing stick ball.  I loved to play, and I did every chance I got, but she was always on my case though she never threatened to break my limbs before. I was scared. I quickly nodded while Dad turned away in disgust.

I sensed he was at the end of his rope with her, and he was trying not to explode again. He knew if he did it would make things that much worse like trying to detonate two bombs instead of one. No one in their right mind wanted to do that.

“Okay Mama, I won’t play anymore,” I agreed weakly. I was willing to agree to anything she wanted if it would calm her down.

She slapped me on the face and hard. Because my face was still wet it stung, and burned my cheeks. Now why would she slap me after I agreed to what she wanted?

This time Dad did fling her. She winded up on the couch, and she screamed even as she burst into wild tears. Dad glared at her hard, but his face softened like it always did when she cried like this. He looked helpless. He didn’t know how to deal with the storm that was now her, and it hurt him as much as it made him angry.

Helplessly, he clenched his fists but he kept them by his side. Mama kept sobbing, until she pulled at her own hair. Dad quickly grabbed her, but I had to run to our room unable to watch her turn her rage on herself. It was bad enough she hurt us, but I couldn’t stand this. It filled my eyes with tears.

I trapped them because Greta didn’t need to be more frightened by my tears. I found her in her usual corner crying herself. I took her in my arms as I’d been doing all week. I shook my head longing for Mama to be her old self, and it wasn’t that long ago either.

Greta was eight; I was thirteen. She was a beautiful girl with all of Mama’s pretty features. She had the same wavy red hair and green eyes Mama had. She had the same long cheekbones, and the same lovely smile. She was Mama all over and Mama had been so proud of this. Our lives were normal enough where we were no different than the children around us.

Greta and I only knew our tiny apartment, but despite our struggles we were content to have parents who loved us very much. Dad worked while Mama stayed home with us. It was all good for a few years. We never saw the screaming fests we were witnessing now.

Mama listened to our stories about school, and laughed with us at dinner. Every night she tucked us into bed like any normal mother. She’d been loving to Dad always saving smiles, and love for him too.

She kept the apartment clean and made sure we always looked proper despite our pitiful collection of clothes. She made the most of our situation even cutting and shaping cardboard paper dolls for Greta to play with. And Greta did play with them. She couldn’t have loved real dolls any- more than she did those paper ones.

Mama often accompanied us outside (I never played stickball in front of her) and sometimes even played with us. We always got a kick of hide and go seek which was our favorite game, but we loved tag too.

I held Greta in my arms.  She broke into sobs and I held her tightly. Couldn’t Mama see the damage she was causing here? Didn’t she care anymore? She always did, and I knew she did now. Dad told me she didn’t mean the things she said; that she loved us, and of course I knew that was true. I had to make sure Greta believed that too.

“Mama hates me, “sobbed Greta as I stroked her hair. “She screamed at me today Tommy. She blames me and you for ruining her life. She said it was our fault!”

That shocked me. Mama blamed us for ruining her life, and on top of that she screamed that out to her eight-year-old daughter? I winced at the thought, but I also winced that she would say that, and worse mean it. Had she meant it? How could she say it? How did we ruin her life? Even so, I couldn’t say anything, but what needed to be said.

“Oh no Greta don’t you believe any of that. Mama’s angry at the world not at you. Dad told me she’s been getting more and more frustrated at not finding the job she’s been looking for. It’s really upsetting her, but it’s not our fault. Mama didn’t mean to say such a thing. Sometimes grown – ups say things they don’t mean.”

That was true enough, but it sounded lame to me. Mama had no reason to blame us for her life turning out the way it did. No one forced her to have children. But that seemed to be part of her frustration now, and it hurt.

Greta nodded thoughtfully, but she didn’t look reassured. “Why is she mad at the world?” she asked. “What does the world have to do with anything?”

I kissed her forehead still holding her. How could she understand what that meant?

“It means she’s angry at everyone, and everything even though she doesn’t mean to be. But she loves us Greta, and people say things they don’t mean when they’re angry about their lives or anything for that matter. They blame people they love without meaning to. You understand, don’t you?’ She nodded, but didn’t understand any more than I did.

That night as I laid on the floor wrapped in nothing more than a large stained blanket I allowed my thoughts to dwell on my mother. I remembered how loving and beautiful she always was. Dad always bought her better clothes than he did for Greta or me. He even bought her make- up, and earrings whenever he could. On pay day he never failed to come home with flowers for her, and the ice cream for Greta and me. We enjoyed that, and Mama washed her hair, and put on her make-up for him.

These days she neglected her appearance unless she had a job interview. Only then would she comb her red hair, and put on some make-up. She owned two business suits which she kept ironed, and hung in the closet for such occasions. Years ago, when she was pregnant with Greta she’d been overjoyed. Like most older children I felt jealous about an impending sibling, but that didn’t last long.

Greta had been a sweet and beautiful baby that somehow slept all night on most nights.

I’d been expected to help Mama with diapers and bottle feedings which I did.

I didn’t mind doing it; especially when Greta would follow me around babbling while trying to talk to me. She was so adorable doing that. Sometimes it annoyed me, but most times I melted when she followed me. Mama had been such a loving mother during these times. She saw to our needs while Dad worked.

There were days we didn’t have enough to eat, but she made sure we children had enough even if it meant giving us some of her meals. She always had a smile for me when I came home from school, and I’d take over with Greta so she’d have some breathing room.

At some point in the evening she’d sit with us wanting to know how our school days went. Since we owned no television we spent more time talking, than the average family did back then, and probably even today.

I remembered her being so romantic with Dad despite them sleeping in the living room. They tried to be discreet with their loving, but there were nights I still heard sounds I shouldn’t have heard.  Greta was a sound sleeper who always fell asleep fast.

Mama knitted sweaters for us, and she patched up out clothes whenever she could especially with the freezing apartment we had to deal with in the winter. Sometimes she sewed clothes for us too. But those sweaters kept us warm for we wore up to three of them whenever the weather got cold, and there was no money for coats. And it did get cold very cold in our apartment.

There were nights Mama kept Greta and me huddled with her in the living room couch for warmth. In the mornings, she’d turn on the stove where she’d have us dress since there was rarely any heat in our apartment.

As usual there was never enough money for anything. Even so Greta and I felt loved, and we were patient as Dad hoped for a better future. I hoped with him. I believed as he believed. I worked hard in school hoping he was right about education being the key to our escape one day.

I dreamed of the day I’d be able to get us out of here. I’d buy a house for us way out in the country somewhere far away from the ghetto.

As for Dad, he’d always been good to her as well as to us. Dad was my hero. He was the only one who believed I had a future as a baseball player, if I really wanted one.

I thought about it many times for I swung a good stick, and hit very well.  But others including my third-grade teacher scoffed at the thought, and Mama hated the idea; in fact, she outright loathed it.

I could still recall a day in the third grade when my teacher Ms. Ross went around the class room, asking each of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I could still hear fellow students like Justin Anderson who wanted to be a doctor, and Mabel Roberts who said she wanted to be a teacher just like Ms. Ross.

Ms. Ross nodded approvingly at those responses. When it was my turn to say what, I wanted to be I’d dreamily responded “A baseball player like Roberto Clemente.”

I was serious but Ms. Ross frowned, and shook her head while some kids laughed probably because of the incredulous look she gave me.

“That’s not a realistic goal Thomas.” she said. “You need to focus on something more realistic than that. A baseball player sounds wonderful, but it’s a very hard profession to get into. I don’t want to discourage you, but it would be very farfetched. It’s nice to have dreams, but that’s all that would be for you a farfetched dream. You need to choose something more realistic like doctoring or teaching.”

“But you said we could be anything we wanted to be,” I reminded her more than resentful at her attitude towards my dream.

How did Roberto Clemente make it a reality? How did Babe Ruth? Joe DiMaggio? I wanted to ask this, but I waited for her answer. She shook her head.

“Well that’s true. But there are goals, and there are dreams. Goals are easier to reach than farfetched dreams.”

She already said that but it still, didn’t address my reminder. She moved on with the class as if she wanted to avoid addressing it while leaving me to wonder why my dream couldn’t be achieved like they’d been for others.

I was crestfallen as I walked home that day. I cried, and that was how Dad found me when he returned from work. I relayed everything to him. I expected him to agree with Ms. Ross the way Mama had when I told her the story. However, Dad disagreed with both of them, and assured me that if playing baseball was my dream then by all means I should pursue it no matter what.

“A teacher shouldn’t be the one to discourage you,” he said looking angry. “She’s right; dreams are hard to reach, but they can be reached. But goals are dreams and they’re hard too. Nothing in this life is easy. It will be hard, but not impossible. If you want it then by all means go for it Tommy. You can do anything you set your mind to, but remember it will take a lot of hard work. It took a lot of work for Clemente, and Ruth and look at Jackie Robinson. In addition to the game he also had the additional pressure of being baseball’s first black player. But he did it and it took strength and determination on his part. Look at Clemente and all the discrimination he faced too. Even if it doesn’t work out for you at least you can say you tried it. Not many people have the courage to pursue hard dreams, but just pursuing them can say a lot.”

I nod, but I still saw my teacher’s disapproving frown.

“But Dad Mama called it unrealistic folly. She agreed with Ms. Ross. I like playing, but they made it sound impossible, and Mama hates it so much. Why does she hate it so much?” I couldn’t understand that. I wanted to know why she hated the game so much.

Dad disagreed that it was unrealistic folly.

“No way son. Like I told you it will be hard, but nothing in this life is impossible once you set your mind to it. You just follow your dreams no matter what, and don’t let anyone discourage you. As for your mother hating it, well don’t worry about that. She’ll come around, and if she doesn’t then she’ll get over it. It’s your life Tommy. Remember that.”

I wanted to believe him, but I had my doubts even then. After that conversation he went out of his way to help me. We couldn’t afford a real bat so he joined me, and my friends in playing stickball. He spent hours showing me the basics of the game, and sometimes he stopped by the yard to watch us play.

Dad had been the old Brooklyn Dodgers fan who played his share of stickball when he was a kid. But now that they left New York as did The New York Giants he became a fan of the New York Mets since he never could dig the New York Yankees despite their rich history. He couldn’t stand them and never could.

Dad loved baseball. He offered tips that helped me improve my game. And I listened to everything he taught me. I was determined to be the best player in our yard. My friends, and I were amazed that he could still play as good as any young person out there.

I longed to play in little league, but Dad couldn’t afford that so I had to make these outings the best I could make them.

My neighborhood friends never knew what to make of my passion for a game we only played for fun. I loved when Dad joined us, for those were the best times. Unfortunately, it became another reason him and Mama fought.

In fact, looking back a lot of their fights may have begun over this. Mama still didn’t approve of my ball playing, and she didn’t want Dad helping me. Now that he did she accused him of undermining her.

On top of that she accused him of wanting to be something he wasn’t; young. She stung him with that, and I got steamed at her. It was uncalled for, the way she treated him now. After getting the reaction she wanted from him she would then accuse him of not caring about her.

Mama admitted hating the game period. She considered baseball players to be sloppy, sweaty, and just no good. She looked down on them for being uneducated, uncouth, and just plain savages not to mention brainless idiots.

Mama and I shared some closeness, but this put some strain between us. It hurt that she wouldn’t share my interest even on a small level. One day I tried to tell her about a home run I hit, but all she did was drill scornful eyes at me.

“Swinging a stupid stick when you should be here doing your chores!” she yelled. “Keep it up Tommy. Keep disobeying me, and not doing what you’re supposed to! Keep undermining me you, and that stupid father of yours!”

Now I was stung, but I gave up arguing with her. I always did my chores, but for Mama none of us were doing enough these days. Her behavior towards me and Dad worsened during these baseball fights.

As for Greta, she and Mama were even closer, but Greta was becoming afraid of her which made her avoid her. That hurt just to notice. It hurt even more how Mama didn’t seem to care or she pretended not to which was likely the case.

Greta looked confused from this, but she didn’t mention it. Mama was abandoning her responsibilities even for us her own children She wasn’t waking us up for school anymore so Dad would wake me up, while leaving her asleep on most mornings.

It was up to me to make sure Greta would get up, get dressed and be ready for school on time. Our school wasn’t far from our apartment so I often walked her anyway, but now I had to see to all her needs since Mama wouldn’t anymore.

It was June 1974 and school was almost over. Greta, and I and I didn’t own too much clothes so it wasn’t hard finding something to wear. I left her the room while I dressed in the bathroom. The moment I came out, Dad pulled me aside.

“I want you to come straight home today,” he whispered. “No hanging out today. No stickball not today, and not for some time actually. You’re to come straight home to your mother. I don’t want her alone for too long. I’ll try to get here as fast as I could, but I need you to do this okay?”

I had no choice but to agree. I worried about Mama too. She was awake now, but she was sitting on the couch not acknowledging us. She wore her dingy white robe while keeping her red greasy and unkempt.

Mama was a beautiful woman and too young to be acting like this. “Dad, what’s wrong with her?” I asked.

This was nearly a week after that argument, and it seemed to be getting worse. Dad shrugged.

“I don’t know. Maybe I should leave only if I do who will pay the rent around here? If she could just find a job she may be able to decide if she wants me to leave.” He looked so miserable saying that, and I felt so bad for him, and for her for I loved them so much, and I wanted them to stay together.

“Maybe I should miss school today so I could stay with her.” I suggested. Dad waved that suggestion away.

“No, that won’t be necessary Tommy. I don’t want you missing school especially now that’s it’s almost over. Just make sure you come straight home you hear me?”

I was going to suggest a doctor for her, but I didn’t. Dad repeated his demand. I agreed knowing I had no choice. 

About the Author
A.M Torres is the author of nine books. The first of these books Love Child which was originally published in 2011, but it was edited in 2014, and again in 2016. Love Child is a book in Fiction/Suspense category, and it was given a good review by Midwest Book Review who described it a "A tragic story of standing up for oneself, Love Child is a fine and very much recommended read." Her second book, and the third books were the sequels to Love Child, Child No More, and Child Scorned. A.M Torres is also the author of the Christmas theme book J and K Christmas which include poems and short stories. She has released one copy of this book every year since 2011. J and K Christmas 2013 received four stars from Readers Favorite. A.M Torres earned her Bachelors Degree at Ashford University and is the mother of two boys Jason and Kristofer. She was born in New York City, but was raised in the projects of East New York Brooklyn. She lived in Sunset Park for over seven years, and currently lives in Staten Island, New York.

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