"Small begins with A Portrait of Abuse, a marvelously written prologue that doubles as both a series of detached observations about the physical scars, called incidents, covering Ansar's body and an intimate description of Ansar's appearance. It's one of my favorite prologues of all time mainly because it does a great job introducing Ansar, the self-destructive main character caught in the cross hairs of his parents' battles, and the story's abstract, sometimes poetic, tone."
-Tiffany T. Cole, Reviewer
They love in cycles like the changing seasons, flow of blood monthly. Love for them is volatile. Disruptive. It mandates passion—a fight. In the middle of a mostly hollow love, they battled over what connected them.
“I just want you home sometimes.”
“I’m here now, and you’re still not happy, Riana. What do you want me to do?”
“You’re only here now, Hoil, because of the weather; otherwise you’d be at work or someplace else you don’t want me to know about.”
“Yeah, I’d be at work providing for my family. Is that the problem you have with me? You mad because I’m doing the right thing?”
Riana noticed that her husband squirmed at her reference to him being “someplace else,” but that didn’t cause her to lose her place in the argument.
“I’m mad because you neglect us and you use work as an excuse.”
“I don’t neglect you and Ansar. Why do you think I work every day? I don’t have to. This house is paid for, so is everything in it. I can do without things. It’s you and your son who need so much. All I need is quiet.”
Hoil watched his wife without making direct eye contact. He knew when he did that, Riana felt ignored. She believed Hoil was refusing to see her when he tilted his head slightly in her direction while his eyes were focused on something else across the room. He rubbed his salt and pepper hair mindlessly as if in deep contemplation. If he were quizzed on the current style of his wife’s shoulder length hair or the shade of lipstick she’d dabbed on her lips with her finger that morning, he could describe both perfectly. Riana was not the type of woman who could go unseen. A man had to keep an active eye on her because if he slipped and took his attention off of her, Riana might very well snatch his heart out of his chest.
“And you get quiet in abundance, don’t you, Hoil? It’s too quiet in this house. Because of you, Ansar is afraid to speak. He walks around here on tiptoes. I think he’s happy when you’re gone to work ‘cause for a little while he doesn’t have to be scared.”
Her words were like a rope around his neck, tugging Hoil’s head to face her shining eyes full on.
“You think I scare Ansar? I’m not the one who scares him. It’s you. Being up under you all day, all night, that’s why he’s scared. And I know you’re trying to turn him against me, Riana. That’s why he won’t hardly talk to me when you’re around. But I won’t stop reaching out to him. I’ll try every day for the rest of my life, because he’s mine.”
Riana pressed her hands onto the hips of her shapely, five foot, six inch frame as she stared at her husband. “He belongs to the mother who gave birth to him, nursed him, and cared for him alone the first three years of his life.”
“I took care…”
“You weren’t there.” Riana’s words crashed into Hoil’s attempted defense, which led him to maneuver his large, solid frame so that all of him faced his angry wife. “Money. Yeah, we got that. But where were you? I don’t know. You won’t tell me. Sixteen years and you still won’t tell.”
“You always go there. No matter what we argue about, you always take it back to Abbi. You won’t let it go. And there’s nothing I can do to soothe you.”
Riana allowed a trace of a smile to surface on her lips. “You can tell me what I want to know.”
“No.” Hoil’s black eyes flashed red, and the thick veins in his neck pulsed. “I’ve said no for sixteen years, and I’m still saying no.”
“I have a right…”
“You don’t have a right to any part of me before our marriage. You can ask me about anything I’ve done since you’ve been my wife. I have a responsibility to answer to you for the last sixteen years. But the time before our marriage, you have no right to. That was my own time. It belongs to me.”
Riana dropped her eyes to the floor in front of the chair her husband occupied. In her mind, she watched herself press her whole body into the giant “Hoil” button she often fantasized about when they fought.
“I had your child, Hoil. All of your years belong to me.”
“Let it go, Riana.” The growl that cushioned his words was her first warning.
“One day I’ll know what you did during those three years. And when I find out, I’m going to kick you out of here. It can’t be anything good. You’ve kept the secret for too long.”
“Then me and my boy will just have to handle things together,” Hoil hissed. His entire body was rigid.
“You won’t take Ansar. He’s mine.” She wanted to press her full weight on the button, but Riana knew what was coming. She couldn’t defend herself if the growl and hiss morphed into a full on attack.
“Yes, Riana, I will take him. You signed the papers, don’t you remember? Ansar belongs to his daddy. I could take him now if I wanted; especially now that he’s sick. He’d come on his own, but you know he has to.”
She hated it when Hoil waved his guardianship of Ansar in her face. She had done desperate things in the past to get Hoil and to keep him. She wouldn’t do anything differently, but thinking too long over the sixteen years of selling her soul for a man, led Riana to bite into the thick, pink flesh on the inside of her cheeks. She had scars no one knew about.
“Maybe we’ll start looking for a place tomorrow. There are some nice houses over in East Point. Need some work, but I can handle that. It won’t be any harder than fixing up this place was. I could give Ansar a whole floor to himself. I don’t need much room. I just want my boy to be content.” Hoil paused to watch his wife react to his plans. “You shouldn’t make such a mean face, Riana. It doesn’t become you. Now, straighten up your attitude and get my dinner.”
“You don’t control me, Hoil Mince,” Riana spat as she lifted her body from the chair directly across from her husband.
“Never have wanted to, Riana. I just want some quiet and to keep my boy safe. Now, get my dinner. I won’t hear another word of your mess.”