fiction, poetry & more



by Jeanine DeHoney

I promised myself I wouldn’t mention our daughter Breanna’s name at Sunday supper. I wouldn’t plead her case to my husband Marcus. Nor would I quote a scripture on forgiveness, one I had held close to my bosom from my own fall from grace to him and Great Aunt Berta, Marcus’s seventy-seven-year-old aunt, a fixture at our Sunday suppers.

Breanna was our miracle baby. After years of trying to conceive, two devastating miscarriages, the nail-biting anxiety and expectant glimmer of fertility treatments, I found out I was pregnant a week after my mother died after a long battle with breast cancer.

When we found out we were having a girl, Marcus and I both agreed we would name her after my mother. She was our greatest gift, and helped me mend as she suckled at my breast in her nursery at night. Burrowed in my arms, she calmed the squall of my grief.

As Breanna grew up and out of my arms, those wiry legs of hers more often running away from me and towards her father, always Daddy’s girl, I’d study her at her preferred distance, still in awe of our miracle. She was like a beautiful painting in an art museum, her espresso skin, her doe eyes, her pouty lips, and button nose inherited from her grandmother.

She’s been gone for three weeks now. Each week for Sunday supper I make her favorites, wishing she was sitting across from me at our oak dining room table, chatty and obstinate about her opinions and full of imaginings.

I can hear her now, debating about the state of the world, the politics that divide us and don’t help the black and brown communities and women. Although she never cursed in front of me and Marcus and Aunt Berta, she would shout, when she was angry watching something on the news, “This is BS! We can’t just sit and take this!”

I can see her now, printing up flyers at Staples, gathering up her friends and marching in solidarity with those who held her beliefs close to their bosom. But that’s not her now. Now she is stuck, trapped in a cerulean sea thinking she can remain afloat and not capsize with the reed thin anchor that is her boyfriend.

Two Sundays ago, I made Breanna’s absolute favorite dish, chicken and dumplings. As I dropped spoonfuls of the soft white dough into the simmering stockpot of chicken stew, I longed to have her sitting at the kitchen counter rolling out dough to the perfect thickness before cutting it into tiny squares like she always did.

The Sunday after that, I made pot roast using grass-fed chuck roast that she insisted we buy from Whole Foods that I braised in red wine in our slow cooker with pearl onions, potatoes and carrots, leaving out the celery because she didn’t like it even though Marcus did.

And tonight’s supper is turkey meatloaf slathered in mushroom gravy with mashed potatoes and honey cornbread. I drizzled honey on it the way Breanna did, a bit too much, because she loved the extra sweetness.

I’m holding on to hope, like a rosary, that she’ll come back home. That our story as a family won’t end like this, with her confronting Marcus and me about not liking her boyfriend. And me standing there, frozen, not knowing how to stop my eighteen-year-old daughter from packing her belongings in a duffle bag, a puke green one that belonged to her boyfriend who did a one-year stint in the Army before he was dishonorably discharged, as he stood outside our door, no longer welcome in our home.

She never said he was controlling, but I saw all the red flags. How he criticized her, how he swooped her up in his arms around males, friends of hers she had known since grade school, as if she was his property, and the interrogations he jokingly played off as just being concerned. And I saw the squeeze marks on her wrist, that she insisted were from them just roughhousing.

At eighteen, she was blindly in love, just as I was at that age. But I refused for her story to end as devastatingly as mine—before I reemerged and knew the beauty and breadth of my wings.

She is our miracle. So even before she walked out our door with her stuff in that puke green duffle bag, I forgave her. I forgave her for choosing a life she wasn’t meant to live, one that was unfree and chained. One that didn’t make her soul sing. And I prayed, that night on my knees, that she would come through this unscathed.

It pained me that Marcus couldn’t offer her that same clemency, and neither could Great Aunt Berta. She, who raised Marcus as her own son, stood in accord with him in this sacrament of unforgiveness. And sometimes I think it was her way of secretly wounding me. Marcus once told me she didn’t want him to marry me. That she thought I was from the wrong side of the tracks. But I forgave her. Offered her the grace she didn’t give me when Marcus and I were dating and during the beginning years of our marriage when I felt the quills of her dislike. Then Marcus stood up to her, even backed away until she at least pretended to treat me better. Now, though, he just threw his hand in with hers. But I pray time heals all wounds and trust that with each passing day Breanna is gone, their hearts will soften just as I trust Breanna will find her way back home.

I held on to the belief that she’d know home was where she needed to be. It was where she could exhale. It was where she was safe. That home was where she could be herself, where her laughter could reign, and she could dance barefoot with her size ten feet to her own melody, and her tears could fall without restraint on her pillow until she was spent and ready to dry her eyes because tears are sacred and purgative. They always make way for something deeper, like reflection and even joy.

I wanted Breanna to etch in her heart like the tiny dragonfly tattoo she has on her shoulder—and tried to get me to get so we would be twinning—that even when her home is far away from Marcus and me, it will be full of these things. Home is where she’ll always find something warm and satiating as Sunday supper, manna for her soul, waiting for her.

And I want her to know that if she still wants me to get that dragonfly tattoo, I will.


Jeanine DeHoney has been published in Rigorous Magazine, Wow: Women on Writing, Mutha Magazine, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. Her work has won several contests including the Colorism Healing Writing Anthology Contest and table//FEAST’s Blossom Contest. One of her projects, a picture book, has been acquired for publication by Sleeping Bear Press.

May 2023