Tamika Newhouse lands at #13 on the BBWO 50 Fabulous Women Entrepreneurs – 2014 Honorees #PassionateSpot
Synopsis: Zoe Shaw’s childhood was anything but perfect. Zoe, her sister Pam, and their mother, Martha were terrorized by Otis Shaw. The man that vowed to love and protect them had become a drunken, abusive animal that took pleasure in their suffering. But when he begins to look at Zoe with lover’s eyes, she finds herself taking drastic measures to ensure that he ll never hurt any of the Shaw women again. When word gets out that Otis may be resurfacing Zoe, being the strongest of the trio, decides that it’s time for them to move away and start anew. Zoe’s best friend, Desmond Page, moved away a long time ago. Having had a difficult childhood of his own, he and Zoe found love and acceptance with one another and did their best to shield each other from harm. Now that she’s looking to relocate, he suggests that she join him down south.
Their new home offered everything the Shaw women ever wanted; peace, security, opportunity and even the possibility for love. When Ramon Martinez introduced himself to Zoe, the attraction was undeniable, and despite her better judgment, she allowed herself to fall for the uncommonly handsome business owner. What she didn’t realize was that he was also the product of an abusive home, but unlike her, he chose to follow the example set by his father. His jealousy and insecurity led him to deliver painful consequences for what he deemed inexcusable behavior. But he has clearly underestimated Zoe and the question now is which one of them will survive this battered love.
Despite all of the thoughts that were running through her head and the heaviness she held in her chest, exhaustion overtook her and Zoe fell into a deep slumber. She was having the sweetest dream where she, her mother, and sister were in their old home, laughing, and baking cookies. Martha was sharing stories from her childhood while she and Pam eased chocolate chips from the counter and popped them into their mouths. As they were all using their sticky fingers to drop dollops of cookie dough onto the metal sheet, they heard the front door slam. Instantly, all of the joy was sucked out of the room and replaced with fear. Otis stumbled into the kitchen, looked at Martha with bloodshot eyes and started in.
“What the fuck you bitches doing?”
“Daddy, we’re baking cookies. See, doesn’t the batter look good? Do you want to taste?” Pam asked with a smile on her face and a tremble in her voice.
“Do I look like I want to taste some damn raw cookies?” Otis yelled as he snatched the pan of cookie dough from his oldest daughter’s hands. He threw the batter at Pam and when he’d flung the last plop of it, he began to beat her about the head with the pan. “You have got to be the dumbest bitch ever born,” he spat as he hit her over and over again. “I told your sorry ass mama to have an abortion, but no, she had your dumb ass.” Whack… “You stupid bitch.” Whack… “You sorry whore.” Whack… “I hate you!” Whack…
Martha grabbed his arm, “Stop it, Otis, you’re drunk. Leave her alone.”
Without hesitation, Otis turned his anger on Martha and struck her across her face with his open hand. “Bitch, did I tell you to touch me? Don’t you ever put your hands on me!” He drew his hand back and broke Martha’s nose with one punch of his now closed fist. As blood spewed from her nose, Otis yelled, “Bitch, your fat ass better stop bleeding on my damn floor.” Martha held her face and screamed in pain which only angered him more. He grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head into the cabinet, “Shut the fuck up and stop bleeding.”
Zoe cowered in the corner as she watched her father turn his attention back to Pam. “You want to give me something, girl? Come on, I know what you can give me.”
He grabbed her by the arm and dragged her down the hall as she kicked and screamed. Martha took off running behind them, but Otis slammed the door in her face and locked it. All Martha could do was weep at the door as her daughter cried out and begged for help. Otis was stinking drunk which meant he took even longer to finish his business. Zoe cried for her sister and covered her ears to try and mute the pleas for mercy. Finally the screams stopped and the door opened. Otis stumbled out and Martha ran in to try and comfort her baby. As Otis headed out of the door, he looked at Zoe still cowering in the corner and warned, “You’re next, baby girl.”
The blaring alarm clock jolted Zoe from the horrific dream. She sat up and wept as she realized that the dream was actually one of the many memories that she’d unsuccessfully tried to bury. Otis was like a savage beast that had been turned loose on them. It took years for him to be caught and caged and Zoe cried uncontrollably at the thought of him being unleashed on them again. They only had two months before he would walk out of prison a free man. She had to devise a plan and implement it quickly.
Driving in to work, Zoe decided to call her best friend, Desmond. They’d grown up together in DC and supported one another in a way that no one else had been able to. His house was her hide out when she needed to stay out of Otis’ path and her shoulder was the one he’d cried on when neighborhood kids tormented him for being gay. Early on they developed a mutual love and respect for one another, a bond that remained unbreakable. Even though Desmond decided to move to Atlanta in search of a better life and more acceptance, they still spoke daily, serving as one another’s sounding board for whatever issues might arise.
Finally after several rings, Desmond picked up. “Girl, what you doing calling me this early? You know I don’t speak or move before 10:00am.”
“Boy, can’t you just say hello like normal people?”
“Not before 10:00 I can’t. Now tell your man what’s going on because you never call me this early unless there’s a problem.”
“They’re letting Otis out,” Zoe said bluntly.
“Zoe, that’s not funny and it’s too early to be playing.”
“I’m not playing, Desi, they’re really going to let him out.”
“I can’t believe it; after all he did to you and your family they’re really going to set him free.” Desmond sat up in bed, now fully awake and thinking of the horror that this could mean for his beloved Zoe. “Did they give you guys a chance to speak out against him at the parole hearing?”
“Yep and we were there front and center. We told them how he beat Mom and all the sick ways he tortured Pam, but apparently it was all in vain. In two months he’ll be walking the streets and I’m sure that by now he knows where we’ve relocated to.”
“So what are y’all going to do? You can’t stay there, that fool will be on your doorstep within a week of his release.”
“I don’t know yet. The bank has branches in Virginia Beach, maybe we’ll go there.”
“No, come here.” Desmond suggested.
“Desi, I don’t know anyone in Atlanta and my bank does not have locations in Georgia. Remember, I’ll be the sole supporter of us all for the first few months. Mom will probably find work within a month or two, but it always takes Pam longer. Hell, we’ll be in our new place six months before she’ll feel comfortable going out alone.”
“Zoe, you know me and I have made a lot of connections. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty cool with this guy that holds a high position at Citizen’s Bank. Send me your resume today, I’ll talk to him and put in a good word for you.”
“Wow, Desi, Atlanta is such a long way away. We’ll be cutting ties with everything and everyone we’ve ever known. That is going to be a major, and I mean a major adjustment for Pam.”
“Would you rather have her make the difficult adjustment or be attacked by Otis again?”
The realization of what Desmond said hit Zoe like a ton of bricks. She’d vowed years ago that Otis would never hurt any of them ever again. “You’ll have my resume by the end of the day and I’ll give serious consideration to your suggestion, Desi. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? ”
“Alright, sweetheart, I’ll talk to you tomorrow, but please think about coming down here. I really think it would be best.”
“I will,” Zoe assured him and then disconnected the call.
She parked the car in front of the bank and took a few deep breaths in an effort to prepare herself mentally for another days work. She walked in the front door and the rest of the day was a blur. She didn’t remember engaging in any conversations with her coworkers, couldn’t remember the face of not one of the customers she waited on. Her mind was all consumed with thoughts of Otis and what she should do to keep her mom and sister safe. She’d come to love a lot about Manassas. It was a friendly, peaceful place to live. The only downside to it was her boss, Susan, who was simply an unpleasant person. When she first said that she couldn’t wait to get away from Susan, she thought that she might be relocating to another branch on the other side of town. She didn’t imagine she’d be considering leaving the entire state of Virginia.
After eating a little of her mom’s leftovers and researching landmarks, housing options, and jobs in the Atlanta area, Zoe decided to jump in a hot shower and watch television in bed. She tuned in to a new show about Atlanta’s hip hop scene. She didn’t know what to think of the women that put up with all of the shenanigans from the men. She was stunned that no one seemed to have the ability to complete a sentence without dropping the “F” bomb, but she had to admit that it was an entertaining show. Not necessarily a good show, just entertaining. She adjusted her pillows and tried to fight against the heaviness of her eyelids. The heaviness won and Zoe drifted off to a restless sleep. She tossed as she dreamt of Otis beating her mother. She moaned as visions of him spitting on Pam danced in her head. She cried as she saw him turn his attention to her. “It’s your turn, baby girl,” he slurred as he reached for her. Her mother and sister tried to protect her, but Otis locked her in the room and began to tear at her clothes. She fought against him, but he smacked her across the face and threw her down on her twin bed. As he hovered over her and unbuckled his belt, Zoe reached to the night table for her porcelain piggy bank and brought it down with all her might across the side of Otis’ head. She screamed as she hit him in the head with the remaining piece of porcelain over and over again. When her arm was too tired to lift again, she dropped the porcelain and screamed for her mother as if she were some kind of wounded wild animal. The screams pierced the quiet of the night and woke her from her nightmare. Again she sat in the middle of her bed, sweating and heaving over the memories that wouldn’t stay buried.
It was 4:30am and Zoe found herself sitting at her computer sending Desmond her resume. The decision had been made; the three Shaw women would be packed and gone within a month.
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