Polishing Jade is set in the 1960’s in rural Mississippi where the secrets are as sticky as the jams sold at Taylor’s General Store. Jade Gentry is a young girl whose past will not control her future even if it cost her everything. Gripping and suspenseful, Jade will leave you sighing when she sighs, running when she runs, and celebrating when she is triumphant! Meet an odd cast of characters, including kindly Miss Ellen, a superstitious woman who plants corn in front of her living room window, Renée a peculiar woman who instinctively knows the deep hidden secrets of Jade, and a school teacher who begins the process of Polishing Jade.
“Better find something to do young lady or you’ll be bored to pieces! These bus rides take
the longest time.”
My seatmate sighed and grabbed her needles and started knitting so fast I couldn’t even keep up with her fingers. “You know how to knit?” She asked it as if I should, but I had only just learned the basics of sewing from Miss Rita.
“No, I-I- haven’t ever had anyone teach me.”
“Well, you’re going to need to learn so you can make clothes and blankets for that baby!” I gasped wondering how she could know such a thing. I mean it was a secret and I wasn’t even showing yet or was I? I looked down at my small protruding pouch and back at her fingers that seemed to fly across themselves.
“How did you…I mean who told you I was pregnant?”
“Well, it doesn’t take much to see that. I mean look at you, you’re young and scared and on a bus all alone and you keep rubbing your belly. Anyways, I’m what we call a ‘seer.’ I know certain things at times, secret things.”
“You do?” I said sitting up with eyes wide with wonder, hoping to know what my future held.
“Yes, dear, and don’t you go hunting for palm readers or fortune tellers ‘cause them kind could put a curse on you and your baby. You see,” …and then she stopped talking and knitting and looked at me with widened eyes.
“You are named after a birthstone.” She gazed upward. “Yes, Lord Jesus, thank you Holy Spirit!” Her eyes looked as if she were speaking to a real, but unseen person. Her face appeared so peaceful as if she was listening intently.
“Go on!” I said. “What else do you know? My name is after a stone. It’s Jade, you were right! Now, what else, what else!?”
“Calm down, honey, God don’t answer in restlessness, no, no, child. God comes in the still soft voice. I stopped talking and bowed my head, remembering how I had told God how much I hated him.
“But, He’s mad at me.” I began to cry remembering how I’d screamed at him. I was suddenly terrified of the God my mama had worshiped endlessly. The words I had screamed just days before echoed in my head now. “I HATE YOU! I hate you, God!” I felt so ashamed.
I suddenly missed my mama terribly and the tears were trying to flow. I kept wiping them quickly and sniffling. Then, my fellow traveler reached into her bag and gave me some tissues. I calmed myself and waited as she seemed to be thinking. All the sudden this stranger was placing her hands on my belly and praying in some language I’d never heard before. Her eyes were closed and she looked serene and peaceful. My belly suddenly felt a warmth flowing through it, and I felt a peace I’d never known.
“Jade, this child has a gifting in music and the Lord is going to use his voice to set the captives free. Oh my, you have been wounded badly by someone! The Lord is going to heal you of that hurt. He says He is peeling you like an onion, layer by layer until the hurt is gone and you are free. He says, don’t worry, He will protect you and open a door for you. But you must wait on His voice.”
“It’s a boy?” I asked, holding onto every word she had spoken. Set the captives free? What did it all mean? I couldn’t seem to grasp what all her words meant, but I was intrigued by it all and listening intently.
“Yes, Jade, a fine baby boy gifted in music! Praise the Lord Adonai!” She said it with such strength and confidence, and such joy. She stretched out the same hand she had laid on my abdomen just minutes before, silently inviting me to clasp it.
“My name is Renée, by the way.” Her voice had that southern drawl that made the word “way” linger on and on. “It means ‘born again,’ you know.”
“Thank you, thank you.” I thought Renée was a very appropriate name for her, such a vibrant and lively person. I wished I had a tape recorder to play back the words she had spoken over me and my unborn baby, but I knew somehow they were engraved in my heart. “I’ve been so worried and so scared about my situation. My mama died of cancer last year and my daddy is a real bad alcoholic.” I stopped talking and wondered why I felt comfortable around this perfect stranger, and why I was telling her my whole life story. “My daddy just never could stop drinking. He tried over and over again, but he just never could. Then Mama died.” I lowered my head remembering the last night I had held her hand and listened to what she wanted for my life. Before I knew it I was opening my mouth and spewing out all the evil that had transpired.
“One of my daddy’s drunken friends…” I couldn’t say his name. I didn’t want to relive the nightmare, but something was telling me to let it all out. Something about Miss Renée and her sweet spirit made me feel I could let it all out. I studied her peaceful blue eyes and soft grey- blonde hair that was draped down her back and felt tranquility. She wore a long turquoise dress with a copper belt and she had the rosiest cheeks I had ever seen. They were more like two pink apples than cheekbones. Her glasses were held by a strand of beads and perched on the tip of her nose.
“Go on, dear,” She nodded and repeated the words adding “you can tell me anything, and I will make sure it stays right here between the good Lord and us.”
“Well, my mama was a mighty good Christian woman and she raised us in church. My daddy beat her real bad sometimes. He just — the drinking you know, and after my mama died, he met someone else and all they do is party. Her name is Verdi and you should see her! She’s a real live hoochie-mama!” Miss Renée and I both laughed in spite of the serious conversation we were having. “Well anyways, one night Daddy had his friends over to play cards, and one of his friends that I trusted, who is married, came into my room and raped me.” I said the word “rape” in a hushed tone and I didn’t go into any details. I just blurted it all out in one big long breath. Then I looked up at her again with my tears flowing.
“And this baby is a product?” I could see the concern and sympathy in her eyes.
“I don’t know, Miss Renée.” I realized how horrible that sounded now that I’d said it and began to sob rather loudly. The bus driver kept looking back at me in the rear view mirror and other passengers were staring boldly. Miss Renée eyed the bus driver with a look that seemed to say “Mind your own businesses.” She stared the other passengers down too and cleared her throat as if to say "get back to looking out your windows." She leaned over and took me in her arms. Then resting my head atop her large bosom, she began to sing ever so softly:
“Why should I feel discouraged,
why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion… My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me
I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.”
I spoke abruptly after the serene song had ended. “I’m not a whore. Really, I’m not, Miss
“I know you’re not, dear, now take this handkerchief.” She handed me a pale blue cloth. I wiped my eyes and blew my nose. She said, “I want you to keep this little hanky as a memento of our meeting on this bus and the way the Lord is speaking to your situation and your future through me.”
“I want to explain this to you, Miss Renée. I only had sex with the person I loved to get the evil man’s dirty finger prints off of me. I thought that if I was pregnant by the man who raped me, maybe the one I loved could replace his seed. I know it sounds stupid, but I was so scared and that horrible man was stalking me. I am in so much trouble. Miss Renée, you can’t even begin to know how much!”
“It’s okay, Jade, now take a deep breath and let it all out slowly. Where are you planning on going? Do you have a family you are going to stay with?”
“I have an older brother who left home when Mama died. He’s been living with our uncle and aunt out in Topeka.”
“Well, I’m headed to Topeka too, going to stay with my niece. She is having a baby right soon. But it’s her third. Poor thing always gets the morning sickness and can’t even get out of the bed. Her husband was recently deployed to Germany for a year, so I am going to help her out all I can.”
I turned toward the window and looked out as the road moved under the wheels of our bus. The scenery had changed. I was feeling extremely drained. I found my pillow and put it on the window and began to hum the song Miss Renée had sung earlier, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” Then I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Tekoa Manning is the author of two fiction works, Polishing Jade & Walter the Homeless Man. After a neurological illness left her disabled and eventually homeless, Tekoa began to channel her creativity into writing and devouring the Word of Yahweh. She is the wife of a retired police chief and the mother of three sons. Tekoa and her husband reside in a small town in KY. The pen name Tekoa means Trumpet, the instrument that unites people at a sudden impulse.
You can find out more about Tekoa and her writing endeavors at tekoamanning.com