Excerpt from Anastasia’s Revenge's Urban Cinderella tale of adventure and revenge.
|This is what dreams are made of
An hour before show time Mon, dad, my partners, and me climb into the family car to keep our engagement. The girls and I sing all the way from my house to the studio. Before getting out of the car, we check our makeup, hair, and stockings. We wait on the lawn of the studio until our name is called then we enter the building and are led onto the soundstage where we perform before a crowd of studio executives. Our performance is flawless we sound like angels.
Following our concert, the applause is overpowering. I can hardly restrain the rush of tears that run down my face. I watch as Smokey Robinson then one by one the others nod their approval to Mr. Berry Gordy Jr. We are left wringing our hands they never really tell us weather we triumph. Technically, we linger as to our achievement, but Smokey does formally introduce us to the other judges who in turn praise our performance. A solid month passes with no further word from the company. Then on August 5, a registered letter arrives at our house addressed to mother. When I recognize the Motown logo, I accept it from the deliveryman. Immediately I phone mother at the restaurant to tell her about it. I bite my tongue as I stand listening to the phone ring.
When she finely does answer I blurt out, “Mama you have a registered letter here from the Motown organization.”
She is just as excited as I.
She yells, “Go ahead on girl open it.”
My hands shaking I find it impossible to muster the strength to open it.
“What does it say,” she asks.
“I can’t Mama I am to excited to open it.”
“Okay baby I will be done in a couple of hours. Can you wait until I get there without going crazy with anticipation?”
“Baby, just lay it on the piano I will look at it when I get home.”
I agree and plant it on the piano where I can keep an eye on it.
Jittery with expectation I answer, “Yes Mam I will just keep an eye on it until you arrive.”
I walk around all day yearning to open it, but to frightened to follow through with the task. Every few minutes for the next hour I walk past the piano I pick it up and try to force the strength in my body to open it, but the it is not present. I just lay it back down and go about my business. I phone Kandy and Bev to let them know about the letter. Sitting on pins and needles, I wait for Bev to answer; when she does, I call out to her.
“Hey girl this is Frankie.”
“What is up with you?”
“Girl I had to call you I am all excited.”
“You are excited; about what?”
“A registered letter came today from the Motown Organization addressed to my mom.”
Filled with as much excitement as I questions, what does it say?”
“I don’t know I can’t open it.”
“Why not after all the correspondence does concern us. Did your mom tell you that you couldn’t open it?”
“I’ll be right over. I’ll open it.”
She hangs up the phone and run up the street to my house. Before I can hang up, she is knocking on my front door. Together we make the call to Kandy.
“Hello may I speak to Kandy please.”
I ask as her mother who answers the phone.
“Who’s calling,” she asks.”
“It is we Mrs. Walker Bev and Frankie.”
“Okay girls hold on I will get Kandy for you.”
In the background, I hear Mrs. Walker call out to Kandy as she lay the phone down.
“Kandy, your friends Bev and Frankie are on the phone. Come on now get this phone. I am expecting a call from your dad.”
We are jumping up and down as we tell her the news.
“Kandy, a registered letter has arrived at my house from the Motown Organization for my mom. I know it has to be good news otherwise why else would the send us a registered letter.”
“If it is about us why don’t you just open it up?”
"It is addressed to my mom not me.”
“So what it is about us!”
“You do know it is a federal offence to open a letter not addressed to you.”
“Yes, but it is about us.”
“My mom will kill me if I open it without her. I am going to wait until she gets home from work.”
“Okay I will be over there before she comes home.”
"Good. You should be here so we can all hear the news first hand.”
Mom must have felt the enthusiasm in my voice or been just as excited about it as I because she came home an hour early from work. Present and accounted for when she and dad arrive we sit quietly around the dining room table to wait. When I see the car pull up in to driveway, I grab the lone envelope sitting on the piano and run toward the side door expectantly waiting for mother to enter. I open the side door in seconds Mother and father are standing before me I step back to allow them to walk through the door. Mother stops before me smiling turns toward me as I hand over the envelope.
Covering my mouth with my left hand, waiting anxiously I fight back the desire to bite my nails. Mother fumbles as she opens the envelope quietly she peruses the content then passionately reads the letter to herself then smiling reads the content aloud.
I must admit it blew me back. What really got me was the fact that Mr. Gordy himself took the time to sign the letter. After giving us the thrill of a lifetime mother passes the letter around for the rest of us to see. I place my hands over my mouth to hold back the shriek of joy I am feeling. Bev and Kandy join hands hug and jump for joy. I thank mother for all the attention and help she does in securing our position in the contest.
“Mother, you have given me what I have prayed for my whole life. Thank you. I will always remember how you believed in me and how hard you worked to give me a chance.”
At this moment, I forgive her for all the discontent we may have endured as a mother and child. No one had ever believed in me or done so much to give me my dream.
Bev grabs mother around the neck kisses her on the cheek and spews, “Thank you so much Mrs. Vestra.”
Kandy follows suite, “Thank you Mrs. Vestra.”
I kiss Mama with tears rolling down my cheeks. I take the letter from her hand and off we go running down the street to each of the girls’ houses to share our joy with their families. Along the way, we show the letter to every body that we feel is interested in our joy.
That night Mother riffles through the costumes we created. I chose the next outfit the one we will wear in the upcoming show. Together we decide on a bright red sequined form fitting gowns with layers of lace fanning from the knee to the floor. It has a single spaghetti strap on the right shoulder. Mother pairs it with a red three-inch sequin stiletto to complete the manifestation of sophistication. She decides upon us having big hair teased high with full bang flipped at the shoulder, Perl earrings, and necklaces. With the costumes out of the way, relentlessly we work on the choreography and lyrics of our choice.
The show at the Fox Theater comes and goes. It is a most brilliant obsession a young girl can ever have in her imaginings. As a tribute to the woman that gave me the fight I needed to win we sing, ‘Dancing in the Street’ Originally performed by Martha Reeves and the Vandella’s.’ The crowd goes wild and Mr. Gordy in turn chooses our performance to be an ingredient in his final round right there on the spot. Every single day we spend at least an hour rehearsing for the final show.
Nearly a month later early one morning we are unexpectedly aroused by a loud thud at the top of the stairs. Immediately we jump to our feet, break out into the hall, and find Mom lying on the floor clutching her chest. Popi phones 911.
He reports the situation, “Please help! My wife is lying on the flood barely breathing.”
“What is your name sir?”
Loudly and nearly incoherent father responds.
“What does that have to do with my wife laying here nearly dead?”
“Calm down Mr. Vestra please, she responds.
“I am only trying to help you sir, but I need you help to save your wife. Where are you calling from Mr. Vestra your address sir please?”
“Miss she is barely breathing! Please help me,” he screams into the phone.
“ Please Mr. Vestra, tell me is she still breathing?”
He turns to us and asks, “Is your mother still breathing?”
“Yes,” Greg calmly informs.
Father reports to the technician on the phone,
“Yes Mam, but barley. What can I do to help her?
She looks as thought she is a lot of pain.”
The technician reassures, “Okay Mr. Vestra please stay on the phone. Now for helping your wife sir, does anyone know how to perform CPR?”
Greg also reports, Yes Popi I learned in health class.”
“Is that your son sir?”
“Yes Mam,” Popi replies.
“Let me speak with him sir.”
“The tech instructs Greg to begin CPR.”
“One, tow, three breath, Greg counts.”
An ambulance arrives within minutes. They waste no time examining her. All sorts of frightening ideas plague my mind. I say little. Thoughts of losing her shows through my solemn domineer. I cannot take my eyes off her. Then moments before they take her away I see her chest heave. A slow steady rhythmic tempo is set in motion.
The pain in her chest-wreaked havoc, but CPR and the hard work of the attendants brings mother back to us. Immediately they rush Mom to Henry Ford’s Hospital. All of us quickly dress, pile into the car and follow the ambulance. Frightened and confused, we say a special prayer as we ride. Upon arrival, we pace the floor in the sterile weighting room for some news.
I study the faces of the others, but see nothing. After hours of not knowing, the door swings open and in walks, her cardiologist Dr. Bonnet.
They shake hands.
“Mr. Vestra Carlotta has suffered a mild cardio infraction. She must remain with us for a few days to build up her strength.”
Dad raises his hand to his forehead while collecting himself. He breaths deeply releasing to ask, “Will she be alright doctor?”
We gather about them holding our breath in a close huddle awaiting her answer.
“Your wife has an enlarged heart an irregular heart beat, but with complete bed rest she will definitely recover nicely.”
Only then, do we all breath a sigh of relief. I guess I believe him, but nothing truly sooths the fear raging inside me. Between the tears, I hear only the word recover. I cannot allow myself to hear anything else; I do not want to hear anything else. I need her in my life right now. The boys and I walk a few steps away
“Can we see her now,” Steve asks us.
I do not know. They will tell us I am sure.” Arm in arm we comfort each other. Greg caring holds me; he clings to me as tight as he can.
As soon as they feel possible, they allow us to go in and see her. We pile into her room. She is lying still in bed. She is weak, but she still manages to smile up at us with a reassuring gaze. We sit with her as long as the head nurse allows. Weakened by her bout with heart failure she drifts in and out of consciousness. With everything we have in our hearts we let her know how much we love and need her.
Dr. Bonnet returns. He informs us, “Children, your mother needs all the rest she can get. You look tired yourselves. Ian take your children go home and rest. I will take good care of Carlotta until you come back in a few hours.
Nearly a month later early that morning, the household unexpectedly aroused by a loud thud is our greatest fear realized. It sounded like it came from the upstairs hall between our bedrooms. We jump to our feet break out into the hall and find Mom lying on the floor clutching her chest. Pops phones 911an ambulance arrives within minutes. They waste no time examining her. It was a heart attack. They place her on a gurney still feverously working to revive her. All sorts of frightening ideas plague my mind. I say very little thoughts of losing her shows through my solemn domineer.
Before they take her away, I see her chest heave. A slow steady rhythmic tempo is sets in motion. The pain in her chest-wreaked havoc, but CPR and the hard work of the hard work of the attendants brings her back to us. Immediately they rush Mom to Henry Ford Hospital. All of us quickly dress… pile into the car and follow the ambulance. Frightened, we say a special prayer as we ride. Upon arrival, we pace the floor of the sterile weighting room waiting for some news.
I see the faces of the others, but hear nothing. After hours of not knowing, the door swings open and in walks Dr. Bonnet.
“Mr. Vestra Carlotta has suffered a mild heart attack. She has to remain with us for a few days to build up her strength.”
Dad raises his hand to his forehead while collecting himself.
His breaths deeply releasing only to ask, “Will she be alright Dr.?”
We gather about them in a close huddle awaiting his answer.
“Your wife Ian has an enlarged heart she has an irregular beat, but with complete bed rest she will recover nicely.”
Only then do we all breathe a sigh of relief. I guess I believe him, but nothing truly sooths the fear raging inside me. Between the tears, I hear only the word recover. I cannot allow myself to hear anything else. The boys and I walk a few steps away.
“Can we see her now,” Steve asks us.
“I don’t know. They will tell us I’m sure.”
Arm in arm we comfort each other. Greg crying holds me; he clings to me as tight as he can. As soon as they feel it possible, they allow us to go in and see her. She is weak but she smiles up at us with a reassuring gaze. We sit with her as long as the head nurse allows. Weakened by her bout with heart failure she drifts in and out of consciousness.
With everything we have we let her know how much we love her. The doctor returns he lets us know that we must let her rest if she is to recover.
“Children, your mother needs all the rest she can get. You look tired yourselves. Ian take the children go home and rest. I will take good care of Carlotta until you come back in a few hours.”
None of us wants to leave her alone, but we linger as long as possible. The private conference between the doctor and Dad worries me. I cannot tell if they are keeping something about her condition from me so I hide behind the door to listen.
I hear the doctor say, “There isn’t much more that we can do for Carlotta. Her heart so weakened by the episode that I do not expect her to live out the year. I am going to keep her here for a couple of more days to build up her strength then you can take her home. See to it that her activity is kept to a minimum and that she does not get over excited.”
When I see that their conversation is ending I sneak back to the room where the boys are milling around fawning over mother. I want to tell them what I heard, but I do not risk it because I do not think that Greg can handle it so I keep my mouth shut. After spending some time alone with Mom, Dad reluctantly takes us home. The ride is so solemn that Greg falls to sleep in my lap. I feel sorry for him he is so young. I do not believe he can possibly understand the significance of the situation. I make a promise to God, “Lore if anything happens to mother I will help him as much as I can if you will only give us a little more time with her”.
The more I think about the severity of her condition the closer we become. I stop all of my outside activities to spend that time with her. It was somewhat funny; when I quit the group, she took it harder than I did. She knew how much I wanted to sing. Performing on stage had become my whole world. I looked forward to it because it was a way of us spending time together. Now that she was unable to have my back, it meant very little to me. I was unable to focus on anything except my mothers deteriorating health. I do not care what they say I know in my heart that she is going to die.
Without telling anyone how I feel I spend most of my free time making plans for her imminent demise. Dad tries, and eventually convinces me, that everything will be all right. The mere thought of her leaving me sends my life into a tailspin. I cannot figure which way was up. Confusion blocks my sense of purpose at every turn. All I can imagine is the emptiness facing me. How is my life going to change? Will my family survive this heartbreaking episode? There is a lot I still need to learn. Will she be here long enough to fill me in on half the things I need to know?”
There are no answers for all of my questions. All I can do now is hope for the best. She knows what I am feeling. I can tell because for hours on end she tells me the most fascinating stories. She speaks of love she speaks of sharing, but most of all she speaks of family. These are her exact words concerning that subject.
“People come and people go, but when faced with insurmountable odds, look in your own back yard and you will be able to overcome most evil.”
She believes that and makes me believe it too. Her words attach themselves to my heart. I need to believe what she is saying. As time passes the more fragile, she becomes. Mom rarely gets out of bed anymore except to shower or shuffle around the house. My heart brakes to see her wasting away. She is beautiful and yet so fragile.