Authors: E. Lynn Harris
Also by E. Lynn Harris
Just Too Good to Be True
I Say a Little Prayer
What Becomes of the Brokenhearted
A Love of My Own
Any Way the Wind Blows
Not a Day Goes By
Abide with Me
If This World Were Mine
And This Too Shall Pass
Just As I Am
E. LYNN HARRIS
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Karen Hunter Publishing
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by E. Lynn Harris
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. Distributed by Pocket Books. For information address Karen Hunter/ Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Karen Hunter Publishing/Pocket Books hardcover edition October 2009
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Designed by Jamie Lynn Kerner
Manufactured in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Harris, E. Lynn.
Mama dearest : a novel / by E. Lynn Harris.—1st Karen Hunter Pub./Pocket Books hardcover ed.
1. African American women singers—Fiction. 2. African American actresses—Fiction. 3. Mothers and daughters—Fiction. I. Title.
ISBN 978-1-4391-6671-0 (ebook)
Dedicated to Four Great Mamas
My own lovely mother, Etta W. Harris
My loving aunt, Jessie L. Phillips
And two wonderful ladies who give
me motherly love and friendship
Laura Gilmore and Jean Nail
and to Frank McCourt,
a friend who will be missed
I had that dream again last night. It’s been tormenting me for a long time. It plays in my mind as clearly as a movie on the silver screen, with me in my most glamorous role ever. I’m the star of this imaginary filmstrip, taking center stage, with all my dreams coming true for the world to see.
But this beautiful dream always turns tragic. It turns ugly in a million different ways, as if Satan is writing the script and has so many ideas for horrible endings that he’s making me watch every one of them while I sleep.
But oh, the beginning is so sweet.
As always, I’m wearing a glittery silver gown that makes me look like a statue of pure diamonds. My hair is laid and I’m dripping in bling, with too many icy karats to count, sparkling in my earrings, necklace and eye-popping ring.
I look so hot, the TV cameras can’t help but keep returning to show off my glam to the world by focusing on me in my aisle seat just a few feet from the gleaming stage. I see myself on the giant screens, framed by rows of Hollywood’s who’s who, all decked out in tuxedos and sparkling gowns. Beside me, my date’s face is a brown oval blur, but I know he’s handsome and sporting that tux like a Sean John model. His mouth and eyes come into focus; he’s smiling at me lovingly, like I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. And in my dream, I am and the world knows it.
Then Denzel Washington steps up to the microphone carrying a single white envelope. His world-famous face beams with a huge smile. He keeps looking at me like he knows a juicy secret. Sometimes he gives me a wink. Other times all I get is a mischievous grin.
In his best movie-star voice, Denzel looks at the teleprompter and says: “The nominees for best actress in a motion picture are Meryl Streep for
Angela Bassett for
The Beyonce Knowles Story,
Beyonce Knowles for
The Sasha Fierce Story,
Jennifer Lewis for
and Yancey Harrington Braxton for
Her Mother’s Daughter.
And the Oscar goes to—”
Denzel pauses as he opens the envelope. He smiles, looks at me and announces: “Yancey Harrington Braxton.”
My head spins. I’m smiling so hard that my cheeks ache. Tears of joy sting my eyes. I feel like my body is floating up on a cloud. Until I press my lips to the warm cheek of my date, who’s smiling and joining the thunderous applause.
I’m so floaty with happiness that I don’t feel my silver stilettos touch the plush red carpet as I walk toward the stage. The black steps are a blur through tears that stream down my face. This is the moment that I’ve been dreaming about all my life. I’ve rehearsed my acceptance speech over and over.
But with this tingly jolt of excitement shooting through me, would I remember to thank all the people in my life who had made this magic moment happen? I grip my sparkly purse containing the note that will help me remember to thank all those who have supported me, those who have loved me. The crowd is clapping and screaming at a fever pitch and I have never felt so important and loved in my entire life.
Finally, I make it up to the stage. Denzel kisses my cheek and hands me my gold statue. Then in a magical wave, his long arm directs me to the podium and my loyal subjects. The lights are so bright and hot. I’m nervous, but I’m ready. From my purse, I retrieve that paper that I wrote on when I won my first pageant.
“First I would like to thank God, even though I don’t know Him.” I smile at the audience with a great deal of bravado. My voice sounds smooth and strong, despite the fact that every muscle in my body is shaking with excitement. “I would like to thank the Academy, even though I can’t understand why it has taken you so long. I would like to thank my producers and directors, even though you made it perfectly clear that I got this role because Halle Berry and Vanessa Williams turned you down.”
I pause for dramatic effect. I’m loving the captivated expressions on all the important Hollywood people’s faces as I deliver an acceptance speech that’s way more bodacious than anything they’ve ever heard.
“I would like to thank my agent, even though he wouldn’t return my phone calls until I withheld a commission payment.” The crowd is laughing and cheering me on at the same time.
“You tell it, Yancey!” they shout. “Go on, girl, with your bad self!”
But then the back door of the auditorium opens with a blaze of light. Out walk several people from my past. They’re smiling, so I assume they’re here to congratulate me. There’s my first boyfriend, my first vocal and dance teacher and Nicole Springer, an actress and former friend until I showed my ass. Here comes John Basil Henderson, the dangerously handsome man I almost married; he’s carrying a bouquet of red roses. Also coming toward me is a beautiful young girl whom I don’t recognize. She looks so excited and happy to see me as she skips past all my friends.