Neka Parker is an intelligent seven-year old, the eldest of two children born to a single mother, and as another baby comes into her southern family she not only realizes the sacrifice she must make, but the struggle she must also endure for her mother's attention. She finds friendship in her mother's latest boyfriend and is abused by him, destroying her childhood and beginning a journey that is soul-stirring and in some cases relatable but most of all brave.
Neka Parker, the elder of two siblings, is a precocious seven-year-old who understands the additional hardship a new baby will bring to her impoverished Southern family. Not only will she now need to vie that much more for her mother’s affection, but she predicts with another mouth to feed, Christmas 1977 will be incredibly somber. The normalcy of Neka’s life is further set on its ear when she’s abused by her mother’s latest boyfriend. She then lives in terror as the Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered Children tragedy sweeps through her community. A downward spiral of teenage promiscuity, an ever-growing emotional distance between her and her family, a string of abusive relationships, depression and a suicide attempt, which lands her in a mental institution, shatter Neka’s faith in God.
Shortly after her release, Neka believes she’s finally met Mr. Right; however, he quickly abandons her when she reveals she’s expecting his child. Independent and irrepressible, Neka is determined to build a new life, a better life, for herself and her son. Though her tribulations persist, she ultimately finds peace within and even makes peace with God—and dares to find her rainbow amidst the darkest gray.
V Lyric Parker delivers a relatable and candid retelling of her life in this soul stirring memoir-novel; a retelling that is, in a word, brave.
IT TOOK YEARS OF denial and emotional suppression to understand
why I could not get along with my mother. After all, little girls
always want to be like their moms. Utopias of elegant style and
class are visions of little princesses worldwide, but not mine.
Even as I lined pretend utensils on cold, hard ivory tiles that held
up her two-inch Candies pumps, I was actually a mature version
of myself; the eldest child of a single parent with two kids no one
else claimed. We already depended on other family members to
help with school clothes and Christmas and now, another baby
wiggled into the picture. My brother was just plum delighted, but
he was only four and thought Mom had a doll. Finally, he’ll be big
brother. I, on the other hand, three years his senior, looked at this
little wrinkled bald-headed baby everyone said was a girl, as a
threat. With yet another mouth to feed, Christmas Day looked
We spent three days at our aunt’s. Because she was blind and
didn’t work, she volunteered to take care of us. My mom spoke
with us on the phone and said we had a sister. Until she walked
through the door with the small bundle, I didn’t realize she was
serious. I ran to the door like a lovesick puppy to greet its
provider, its master. See, up until then, I still worshiped my
“Hey,” she whispered. “Shh,” she motioned to my brother with
her index finger to her lips. He was even more excited than me.
“You’ll scare the baby.”
“Hey,” I greeted the tall dark man behind her. I had met my
sister’s daddy, and knew this man was not him.
“Hi,” he answered warmly. “I’m your momma’s friend, Nate.”
We gathered at the kitchen table while my aunt questioned my
mom about her ordeal during childbirth. She even felt the baby;
tried to get an idea of what she looked like.
“Ooh! She is bald-headed,” she gasped, giggling as she felt my
little sister squirm from her foreign touches.
My brother pulled a chair alongside my mother, and sat close
enough to smell the formula on the baby’s breath.
“Sit back some, Chris. You can’t breathe on huh. She’ll git
sick,” Mom cautioned.
I rolled my eyes, not enthused by the special attention she
already received. Mom didn’t seem the least bit interested in
knowing how things went these past few days with Play Momma.
(That’s what everyone called my aunt because she had no kids of
her own). She didn’t even seem interested in knowing how much
I missed her.
I walked into the living room pouting while the fiesta carried
on in the kitchen. Occasionally, I glimpsed out the corner of my
eye to see what the baby did whenever she made a strange noise.
Once I looked over and caught my mother’s boyfriend’s attention.
He noticed I was more than a little crabby.
He smiled and quickly said, “I’m thirsty. Anyone want a drink?”
In the South, a drink meant a soda. My mom and aunt declined
in harmony, but my brother and I accepted. Since Play Momma
seldom let us drink soda because she was convinced it would
mess up our kidneys, we were more than willing to take him up
on the offer.
“Squirt, why don’t you go and get Nate a drink?” Mom
My mother’s boyfriend at the time had named me Squirt when
I was just a few days old. He said I was short and round like a
squirt or a drop of water.
Great! I thought, now I can get out of here and away from all this
“I wanna grape!” shouted my brother, who startled the new
baby enough to make her cry.
“Shh!” Mom said angrily. “I told you to be quiet.”
“Well, what kind of drink you want, Squirt?” Nate asked,
singing my nickname as if to tease me.
“I don’t know. What kind you want?”
“I asked you first,” he replied.
“I asked you second,” I smirked.
We both laughed, and I was thrilled to see the attention on me;
even if it came from a complete stranger.
“I’ll have whatever you have, then,” he said with a settled grin,
as if he won the game.
We decided on Sprite. I turned up my nose, taking the change
from him. He turned up his nose to mock me. I could only laugh,
then, as I walked to the door stirring the four shiny quarters in
my hand like marbles.
When I reached the door, forgetting what Mom said about
silence, I screamed, “Ima git a earnge!”
Nate further patronized my childishness, without regard to my
mom’s caution, by screaming back, “I wanna orange, too.”
I let out a big laugh, and skipped down the hill to the corner
We took the baby home and Mom reminded my brother over
and over that night that her name was Denise and not “baby”.
“But you can call her Dillie,” she added.
I don’t remember much about what went on in the house
around me. Everything seemed fine. Weeks went by, I had a new
I got the attention I wanted, and felt I deserved. After all, I was
mainly the one who took care of my little brother. My mom
busied herself with men and work; having another child stopped
her from neither. She began working again soon after she
returned home from the hospital. But as always, she had trouble
finding a babysitter. It wasn’t hard getting someone to keep little
Dillie. Her father’s side of the family delighted in keeping her
overnight. My brother and I were not family to them, and either
they never offered or Mom never asked. I guess Nate must have
been a real loser because he never worked or left our house even.
So he agreed to babysit us day after day.
“Wanna play old maid?” I asked. Nate never turned me down.
We played old maid for about an hour while my brother played
with his garage and car set. Eventually, we both grew tired of the
card game, and I went in my room to find other things to play
with. I searched my toy box for a coloring book. I had only five
crayons, but felt that would be enough to make some pretty
“How ‘bout we play something else?” Nate asked standing in
the doorway. I was startled to see him in my room. He had never
come to my room, or any grown-ups for that matter.
“All right, what?” I asked timidly.
“House,” he said.