Excerpt from True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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True Believer

by Virginia Euwer Wolff

True Believer
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2002, 272 pages

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"Yes, I remember my college plans," I say, polite.

"Well, you make sure you do.
Because I got a better job offer, I'll quit this mere little job
if you're sure you remember about college.
This job pays more,
I can put more in your college account.
It has better health benefits and dental."
And she says she'll have night meetings,
and for sure more paperwork. "I have to know," she says.
"Will you make me proud I took this big jump?

"Put yourself in my place, LaVaughn.
More of me goes to the office, less of me can stay home.
You understand?"

Sure, I'm happy for her new job.
This might mean I'd have more room to myself
without her standing over me
watching my own personal judgment.
"I understand," I say back.

"I don't think so.
You know what this means?
This means you can't do anything
real
dumb,
LaVaughn."
She looks at me with her face full of rules.

I know the rules, have always known them.
Go to school, do homework,
have safe friends,
have a job after school,
don't make bad decisions.
When I baby-sat for that Jolly
with her two babies and no husband
was a bad decision my mom thought,
but I come out of that with no harm done,
and I also helped Jolly get up
after what her life done to her.
And those little kids were so cute, I miss them still.

"'Cause I can't pull you out of any mess, Verna LaVaughn,"
my mom aims her eyebrows at me.
"You got your work to do,
I got mine. There's only just so much of me
to go around."

At this moment I love my mom real much
knowing so much of her has been going around me
my whole life.
Then in the next minute she says,
"I seen many youngsters change their minds,
forgetting their life plan
or they pretend they never had one.
You need a long memory, LaVaughn.
You can't go forgetting the minute it gets too hard."

I say I know that.
We agree I still mean it about college.
I tell her I appreciate her.
And I truly believe
those things are both completely true.

And three hours go by till she starts again.
I'm in bed, still awake.
She comes in and sits on the edge
and she says,
"And another thing.
"You know what would stop your college plans
for sure, LaVaughn."

This too is not a question.
I'm supposed to know. I can think of many things,
money first of all.
Or a deadly accident on the street, her getting fired,
me getting low grades,
all the disasters that happen in many varieties
to people just trying to go along.

"A baby," she says.
"Oh!" I say, in huge surprise. "Not me. For sure. Promise."
"So you say now," she says.
"Promises are easy to break," she says.
"People get confused.
You can't do that, LaVaughn.
You can not let yourself get confused.
You know what I mean?"

"Mom," I say, "I'm not confused."
"People are confusable," she goes on.
"You keep your eyes on college.
I tell you this, LaVaughn:
What's down there between a person's legs
gets them into more trouble than anything."

This is embarrassing. I don't want to hear her opinion.
"I'm counting on you like I never counted on anybody
since your dad was here."
I tell her she can count on me.
We say Goodnight
and I am relieved my mom is out of my own private room
with her depending and counting on
and warnings.

I have hopes for life and some love too
and surprises.
After a long time I go to sleep
and dream of dancing
with somebody, nobody clear, just vague
with his arms around me.
And he likes the real LaVaughn in me.

4.


Copyright © 2001 by Virginia Euwer Wolff

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