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“I got home at about 3:00 in the afternoon and locked the front door. I went to my room and turned on the CD player. Usually Dora would not get home till five and so I didn’t have to hear her mouth cause I would be bumpin’ till four-thirty then turn it off before she got home. I used to do this every day.” “The phone rang and I went into Dora's room to answer it. It turned out to be a hang-up call. Well, on the way back to my room, I heard the key in the front door and the door opened just as usual but mom was an hour early. I dove on top of my bed and turned off the stereo. But when I got down to the living room it wasn't Dora, it was him.”

“I cursed her for not changing the locks. ‘You stupid bitch,’ I said out loud. “ ‘Who you callin a bitch?’ he said. ‘I just came by to say hello.’ " ‘You better get out of here,’ I said. “ ‘I knew you was gon’ be fine,’ he said. ‘Big ass, big titties, you got it all.” “Get out! Get out,’ I yelled.“ ‘Shut up,’ he said. ‘Not yet,’ and he started coming toward me. “I backed into the kitchen until I had my back to the sink. I turned my head when he tried to kiss me so he tweaked one of my breasts. “ ‘You know, I got to get me some of this.’ “I reached for the kitchen phone but he grabbed it and pulled the receiver out of the wall. He grabbed me. I began to fight and punched him in the face. That got him off of me. “He held his hand to his jaw. ‘You done got all strong now and think you grown,’ and that's when he slapped me and knocked me into the dishwater the dishes were soaking in, waiting for me to wash them. I was up to my elbows in water and my shirt and jeans were splashed and wet. Something scratched my hand. It was the blade of a butcher knife that I pulled out of the cold dishwater. It was covered with food and that's probably why he didn't take me seriously.

“He faked a lunge at me and I cringed. ‘See this? Your father did this to me in prison.’ He lifted his shirt and showed me a terrible scar on his chest. ‘Y'all both like knives, huh.’ He began to laugh, “I'm gon’ stick that knife up your HOLE.’ He pounced on me. We both fell to the floor, then he stopped moving. “He was on top of me and, when I finally crawled out from under him, I was covered with blood. He had fallen on the knife. I called Dora and begged her to come home. She did and she acted like she was mad with me. She always chose this man over me. “She called the police and they handcuffed me and brought me here. They’re trying to charge me as an adult with first degree murder. They’re talking about certifying me as an adult. They’re talking about the death penalty.” A tear ran down Ebonee’s cheek. “I wish my grandma was still alive,” she said to me. Ebonee went to trial and was acquitted on the murder charge. Goldboy’s heart had been severely damaged in the prison incident. It was discovered that Ebonee had very little to do with his death. Her father had unknowingly saved her life. The whole process took two years and Ebonee was then eighteen. Although she spent most of the two years behind bars at the Center, she used the time to study and work hard to get her GED. I found out later that when she was finally released, following her acquittal, her mother was too busy to pay her any attention. "Why didn't you come to the trial Dora?" Ebonee asked. Dora said, “I can't talk now, I have AA meetings.” or “I have NA

meetings.” Dora didn't have time for Ebonee, she was still addicted. The meetings had just taken the place of the drugs. Before she left the Center, I had given Ebonee information on college because I thought she was bright enough to do the work, as did she. She applied and was accepted. She worked hard and won a scholarship. But when she went to an interview to pick up the check, they found an irregularity on her high school diploma. She had to sit in front of a stern woman who questioned why Ebonee received a GED instead of a diploma.

She said, “We did not see this because of the college you are about to attend. We assumed you had a diploma. How were you ever accepted into a top-notch school with this? We cannot award this scholarship to a person with a General Equivalency Diploma. I hope you understand. You have to be a role model for other students. You seem like a bright girl why did you get this? Can you explain?” “’Cause I was in jail, alright? I was in jail. ARE YOU SATISFIED?” yelled Ebonee. That was the end of her scholarship but Ebonee had still been accepted at a top university. She had two choices: give up and drop out, or come up with the money. At first Ebonee went to Dora and asked her if her grandma had an insurance policy. "No!” said Dora, “Leave me alone. Be quiet.” “No, I won't shut up,” said Ebonee. “You took that money just like you did when you sold her house, didn't you? Didn't you?” “No,” she said, “Your Grandma cashed in the policy and she only left enough to bury her with. I told you she was just a selfish bitch.” “I don't believe you,” Ebonee said. “You took her money to buy drugs, didn't you? Just like you took her couch.” They screamed at each other all day and that’s when Ebonee decided to move out. Ebonee called her boyfriend the next day and told him that she was moving out. She asked him to come over and help her move so he borrowed his father’s station wagon. She was going to live in an apartment with two of her girlfriends until she got a job. Her mother was at work and, although her boyfriend was late getting there, Ebonee was already packed and ready to go. She had boxes neatly stacked on the curbside waiting for him. They loaded the boxes and then she wanted to take the couch.

“We can't take the couch,” he said, “It won't fit in the car." “I don't care, I'm determined. We can put it on top or something but I' m not leaving my grandma’s couch here.” Her boyfriend told her, “We can get it later,” but that only made Ebonee angry. She grumbled, “I’ll move it myself then.” "Ebonee, you can't carry a couch,” he said. “I don't care how determined you are.” Her boyfriend sat in the car and waited, believing that sooner or later she would have to give up. Then he heard a terrible crash. When he jumped out of the car the boyfriend saw that she had managed to get the couch through the doorway but dropped it down the steep concrete steps and onto the sidewalk, smashing it into three big pieces. Ebonee broke into tears and yelled "My Grandma’s couch! I wrecked it! I should have left it where it was! That’s what I get for being spiteful; that’s what you always get when you are being evil.”“You are not evil,” said her boyfriend, “and we can get the sofa fixed. We'll take it with us. At least now it will fit in the car.” When he went to pick up the three big pieces and the pillows, something fell out of the main section of the sofa. It was a garment bag just like the one where her grandma placed her gun.

Ebonee opened the bag and, inside, she found savings bonds, all in her name. Seventy-five thousand dollars in savings bonds. Her grandmother had looked out for her after all. She had sewn the bag into the body of the chair before she went to prison. Her grandmother could have used the money on lawyers or on a medical specialist but she left it to her granddaughter. Ebonee looked up at the sky and thanked her God and her grandma in that order. Her tuition, books, room and board would all be taken care of
now. When Dora arrived at home, all Ebonee's possessions were gone and so was the couch. A neighbor, who had been watching, told her that the kids had found a bag full of money in the couch. "So that's where that old bitch hid it, “said Dora. “I’ll bet she had a good laugh when I sent her that picture of me sitting on it.” Dora had torn the grandmother’s house apart looking for money but it was right under her nose the entire time.

I saw Ebonee again, years later when one of my young doctors had to testify in court. I always went with then to give confidence and guidance. Ebonee told me the rest of her story She is a lawyer in the juvenile courts. She champions and protects vulnerable girls. Ebonee found a way to win against all the odds, to overcome the abuse and despair. She found a way to triumph over tragedy. There is redemption in whatever happens to you, good or bad. Even the most horribly treated person can blossom. Sometimes adversity, being treated horribly, may actually be a preparation for better things to come. People who succeed do it by knowing that there are better days ahead. No matter what they go through, they know that they are just being equipped

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Dr. Carlton Payne has more than 30 years of experience in the field of psychology. He earned his BA in psychology from LaSalle University, his MS in Counseling Psychology from Villanova University and his PhD. in Educational Psychology from Temple University. He has taught college and graduate students and served as the Chief Psychologist and Director of Behavioral Health for the City of Philadelphia Prison System. His areas of expertise include Forensic Psychology, Psychological Testing/Assessment, Learning Abilities/Disabilities, Mediation/Dispute Resolution, Suicide Prevention/Grief Counseling, Diversity/Multicultural Education, Anger Management, and Curriculum Design.

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