As a woman, I should not assume to be able to tell the story of men—not even Black men. However, as a writer, I inevitable have Black men in my stories, and I want them to be more than stage props for the women. Below is an excerpt from The Crossroads of Time. I'd like you, especially the fathers, to read it and tell me if I did the man any justice or did I miss it horribly. Some background: Robert Jenkins is raising his teenage daughter, Tonyeesha, alone after his wife's transition. Truant officers pick Tonyeesha up when she plays hookie from school. When the principal calls Mr. Jenkins, he vows to whip Tonyeesha. The principal, a White woman, insists that this is child abuse and arranges for the police to escort her home. When Tonyeesha shows up at his door with the cops, Jenkins is so outraged that he disowns her and tells the cops they can take her and feed her and buy her clothes and stay up with her all night when she's sick and they have to go to work in the morning to keep a roof over her fool head. Then he slams the door. Now here is Jenkins inside his house alone. ********** Robert Jenkins stood in the doorway of his daughter’s bedroom, seething with anger. His eye fell on her iPad and her iPod, her blackberry and her closet full of clothes. What made these things hers? She always referred to them as hers when her friends came to the house. They sat on her couch and watched her television. When the little boy from next door came over, he was told not to track dirt on her floor. That was the teenage philosophy: what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine. He could forgive that. He’d been the same way some twenty-five years ago. But bringing the cops to his house. There was a point where it becomes his house, and when she challenged his authority, that was the point. He fumed, sucked his teeth, fell to his knees and sobbed. She was a little girl, so sweet, his daughter. Going off to Sunday school in her frilly yellow dress—so cute. Was the change gradual or did it start the day she refused to wear patent leather shoes? That’s when he should’ve seen it, even if it hadn’t actually started then. He should’ve known she wasn’t the same little girl. The day she was born, he knew she’d one day grow up; but he’d envisioned a dutiful daughter who adored her papa, especially after her mother died. He was the only one she had to cling to—the only one who took care of her and made sure she had what she needed and some of what she just wanted. What had come to his door with the police at her side, daring him to discipline her, was the deepest betrayal. Suppose he hadn’t been home? Suppose she’d had to go over her aunt’s house, as the girl usually did on days he had to work? There would’ve been no whipping, no cops and he probably would never have even found out what she’d done. “Oh she’s just an angel. Just a little angel. Never any trouble.” Then Big Mae would pat Tonyeesha on her seventeen-year-old cheek and Tonyeesha would roll her seventeen-year-old eyes, which Big Mae never noticed because she was so sure what she beheld was the angelic remnant of her deceased sister. No discipline and no wonder Tonyeesha was getting in trouble he didn’t even know about. He sighed. She was his daughter, but things couldn’t go on this way. Would she come back? He’d been very harsh. No, she’d come back when she got hungry—when she started missing her iPad or iPod or whatever you called them things. And would he take her back? Jenkins sat, staring at the blank television—slippers on, thick brows knit, full lips pursed, thinking. He just didn’t know. The room was so empty. Why? It was the same room in which he’d always sat. On his days off, there was never anyone here but he. But the events of today made it seem empty because it was four o’clock and at this time of day, Tonyeesha would be in her room, blasting music, while she pretended to do her homework. She was a smart student who made good grades. So he let her play the music as long as she remembered some of the trash the kids were listening to now days wasn’t to enter his house. His house. So empty. No, he couldn’t let himself get sentimental. If she came back, it had to be on his terms, and there had to be conditions. He knew he couldn’t stick to terms and conditions if he got sentimental. So he brushed feelings aside and waited. What was he waiting for? The phone to ring? A knock on the door? Speak of the Devil. There was a knock at the door. Jenkins sighed and braced himself—for what, he didn’t know. Through the frosted glass window beside the door, he could see a shape that could only be Tonyeesha. But there was someone with her. Who? Not more cops? No, she wouldn’t dare do that again. Whoever it was, this was his house and he had a right to tell whoever it was to leave if he didn’t want them there. It couldn’t be the cops. They had a way of erasing whatever rights he thought he had. But it couldn’t be the cops again. He opened the door and looked into the face of a beautiful young woman. “May I help you?” He wasn’t going to show the ire he felt in front of her. “Mr. Jenkins, my name is Chloe Marshall. My younger sister, Lisa, is Tonyeesha’s best friend. That’s why she came to me. I’ve come to bring your daughter home.” Beautiful or not, she had to understand whose house this was. “Did you now? Well, there are rules in this house. If Tonyeesha doesn’t want to abide by them then she can’t stay here.” “I will abide by your rules, Pop.” “Last time I saw you, you had different ideas.” “That wasn’t my idea, Pop. The principal at my school called the police cuz you were going to whip me. I tried to stop her, but how can I stop the principal. She was trying to protect me.” “Protect you from your father?” “That’s what she thought she was doing.” Jenkins looked at his daughter. At least she’d changed back into her school clothes and was looking decent. He figured he could thank Miss Marshall for that. Tonyeesha was a little too big for a frilly yellow dress, but he could still envision her in one. No, he shook his head. No sentiment, or they’d both suffer. “Come inside. It’s too cold to stand in the door. I don’t know what fool said it never gets cold in Los Angeles.” He stood back while Chloe and Tonyeesha walked into the livingroom. Tonyeesha stood in the middle of the floor, unsure if she should make herself at home just yet. Jenkins ushered Chloe to the sofa, but Tonyeesha remained standing and father and daughter eyed each other, not sure what to expect next. “Pop, I’m sorry. If you still want to whip me, I guess I deserve it, but please be my Pop again.” He was astonished. He certainly hadn’t expected this. Or maybe he should have. Tonyeesha wasn’t a bad kid, compared to some. “I’ll always be your Pop, Sugar. What’re you talking about? I just want you to do what you’re supposed to do.” Chloe sat in silence, watching the drama unfold. She knew it wasn’t over. There was a lot this father and daughter had to work out, and they probably wouldn’t start in her presence. “See? I told you things would be okay.” “Thanks, Chloe.” “If nothing else, I’ll be on my way.” They walked her to the door. “Thanks, Miss Marshall, for bringing my daughter home.” “Tell Lisa I’ll call her.” Tonyeesha seemed so keen on being good—saying the right things, but Chloe knew it was more than just an act. Yet, she knew this wouldn’t last unless Tonyeesha found something to look forward to—a reason to do what she was supposed to do.