Monday, January 27, 2014

Martha's Place: Martha Hawkins and Her Lima Beans of Flavor and Faith

Christal Cooper    2,301 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Martha’s Lima Beans Of Flavor And Faith

“Why, a fella from up Mississippi ordered a bowl just the other day.  He was a big fella with a ruddy face and white suit, no stranger to eating I guessed and suspicious at first at the bowlful of beans I brought him, wrinkling his nose and wiping his brow like it was gonna take a lot of work to choke them down.  He forked up one, tasted it, then he got this particular smile on his face, “Martha,” he said, “these lima beans are downright luscious,” and he wolfed that bowl down and asked for another.  That’s the word he used:  luscious.  I’ve heard my lima beans described as a lot of good things before, but I ain’t never heard no one describe my lima beans as luscious.
Those lima beans are on my menu because I know how food can become more than just food.  It’s what a body uses for change.  Like crackers and grape juice passed around at church, food can become what centers things when everything has gone astray.  You take something as poor and lonely as a lima bean – on one hand it’s ugly and stupid and forlorn and forgotten.  Bu then you cook it just so, and a powerful change happens.  Lima beans become something luscious – the food of delight and flavor of faith.”

Excerpt from Finding Martha’s Place:  My Journey Through Sin, Salvation, and Lots of Soul Food by Martha Hawkins with Marcus Brotherton, and published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (

         Martha Ann Hawkins, proprietor of Martha’s Place located on 7798 Atlanta Highway in the Somerset Shopping Center in east Montgomery, Alabama was born on June 30, 1947 with her twin sister Mary Ann, to Sallie Bell and Willie Hawkins Senior, a devout Christian couple, who always seemed to be low on money but rich on love.
“I come from a good, wonderful, loving family.  I thank God for my mom and dad.”

The two girls were named after the famous sisters in the Bible – Mary and Martha – Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet relishing in every word He spoke; and Martha preparing the day’s meal, but unlike the biblical Martha, Martha Hawkins never complained.  Mary Ann died at the hospital, but has never been forgotten.  
“I’m both of them because now I got her spirit.  I’m a combination of Mary and Martha and I love to cook and I love my customers.” 

As a little girl her parents taught her and her ten siblings to love family, love their church home of St. James Baptist Church (“We had to go to church.  If you didn’t go to church you couldn’t go anywhere else.”), and to cook. 

“I always used to love watching my mom cook.  Back then they didn’t let you in their kitchen to mess with their stuff, but she   allowed me to help her make biscuits and put them into the pan.  One of my fondest memories was when my mom went on vacation to Wisconsin to see my brother and me and my other sister cooked.  I remember cutting up and cooking collard greens, making stuff for my dad and my family. 

Martha learned to cook from her mother, who was the matriarch of a household whose doors were open to anyone, where food was always available, conversation was never boring, and love was always in full supply. 

“There wouldn’t anybody who came to our house who couldn’t eat.  Everybody could eat.  They were a part of that community.  Our friends loved to be at our house.  We played games with each other.  It was a family environment.”
At the age of 16 she found herself pregnant and married, and within the next six years she had four boys, was working at a glass factory making $14 an hour, but something wasn’t right.

“I had this happy go lucky spirit but I was just a time bomb waiting to go off and nobody knew about it but me.  I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was because of the way I felt.  I think it’s something that at the time you don’t recognize it and you don’t realize it.  It’s the stuff you battle with and not know.  I was the type that I couldn’t tell them the problems and the situations and the circumstances I was in.”

She got so depressed that she couldn’t function, started hearing voices, seeing things that were not there, and there were times she couldn’t recognize her own sons.  She went to see a psychiatrist, who prescribed her a variety of pills.
“I had a bag of all these pills.  One doctor gave me one medicine and it was too strong so they gave me another medicine – and I had to take it before I took that pill.  How do you remember to take this pill before you take that pill?”

Her depression became even more severe when, in January 1975, while shopping in downtown Montgomery, she was kidnapped and brutally raped and beaten by a stranger.  After doctor visits and police visits, her psychiatrist recommended shock treatments.     

“They didn’t work.  You don’t forget.  The thoughts are still there.  I think the only thing it helped me with was to make me remember better.   It didn’t help me to forget the past.  I had to keep a wet towel to moisten my tongue because it was out and I couldn’t put it back in.”
Soon she developed physical illnesses:  burst appendix, blown kidney, hysterectomy, severe chronic migraines and other ailments.
“I really believe that me being mentally sick played a role in me being physically sick because I believe that if you have a sick mind you have a sick body.”

She fell into a deeper depression and, at the age of 31, tried to kill herself with tranquilizers.  Her father and uncle found her and she was committed to Greil Memorial Psychiatric Hospital, where she would stay for three months.  The first few weeks of her stay she was withdrawn from everyone.

That all began to change when she reached for a Kleenex and instead grasped the Gideons New Testament Bible and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.   

         While in the activity room at Greil she found the full Bible with the Old and the New Testaments, and the pages fell to
Isaiah 61:1:  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prisons to them that are bound.

She would open up another Bible and always turn to the same reference of Isaiah 61:1. Soon she was devouring the Bible, and in the process ended up falling in love with Jesus and accepting Him into her life as Savior and Personal Lord.

         “I got saved when I was in Greil Hospital, and that’s when my life changed and it hadn’t been the same since.  That’s when I really found Martha.  That’s when I really found God in Greil Hospital.  I started to write love letters to God, to Jesus.  I started to write how I feel, and that way I get out my emotions, my fears, and my doubts.  I got so many letters.”

         Martha no longer kept to herself, and ventured out, making friends with her fellow patients, combing their hair, talking with them, and doing little tasks to help them.  She also opened up more with her doctors, and, after three months, the doctors gave her a clean bill of mental health and she was set to go home.  The only problem was she didn’t want to go home.

         “I felt so good and comfortable there.  I felt safe and secure.  I didn’t have to worry about nothing.  I didn’t have to do nothing.”
         But she did return home to the Cedar Park Housing Project, to be greeted by her neighbor who had asked her where she had been.  Martha responded she had been at the mental hospital.  The neighbor advised her to not tell anybody. 

         “I told her, “No, I’m not ashamed of where I’ve been.  I needed help and thank God they had a place for me to get help.”  And that was the first time I was confronted with it.  I was able to talk about it and I wasn’t ashamed.”
         When she walked into her home, she picked up the family Bible and it fell to the floor, opened to Isaiah 61:1.  God revealed more verses to her, including Psalm 34:8:  Oh Taste and See that the Lord is good.  She started taking her Bible with her everywhere she went, and reading it every chance she got.

         “I’ve torn up so many Bibles.  I ruined them out.   I couldn’t just put it down.  I’d read it two, to three, to four hours at a time.  I feel like I’m there in that particular time, in that particular period.  It was so overwhelming just to read it.”
         Through God’s word, and her passion for cooking, and her childhood dream of one day owning her own restaurant, Martha knew God had a plan and purpose for her, with Isaiah 61:1 becoming her life’s verse.

         “It was God telling me that He had put His spirit upon me and that I needed to realize how much He was gong to use my life and use me in the process.  I knew God had given me the gift to cook.  It revolutionized my life and that is when I started looking for a place to have a restaurant.”     
         By this time Martha had experienced burnout from her job at Brockway Glass Company, and was now on welfare with her four sons, living in the Cedar Park Housing Projects.  At the same time, she earned a G.E. D. from Alabama State University, and would continue visiting her friends in Greil, combing their hair.

She supplemented her welfare income by cleaning houses and selling cakes.  One of her customers was Montgomery Attorney Calvin Pryor, whom she confided in that she would eventually want to own her own restaurant in an old house.  In October of 1986, while delivering pound cakes to his office, he told her he had the right place for her but it was still being occupied and he would call her when it was available.  Martha immediately drove to the house and knew this was the house for her.   

         Two years later, in October 1987, Martha received a call from Calvin Pryor.  The house was now available and he would give it to her for three months free rent but that she had to be the one to fix it up.   Martha moved out of the Cedar Park House Projects and into what would become Martha’s Place. 

For one full year she slept on the downstairs floor, and during the winter months, would turn the oven on and the oven door open to keep warm. When not sleeping, she painted, cleaned, went to yard sales to buy plates, cups, silverware, and cookware. 
         “I had my nieces and they helped me make some draperies and some tablecloths.  People came in and bought me trays and what nots.  It was a labor of love.” 
         Martha’s Place opened his doors for the first time on October 17, 1988, located on 458 Sayre Street, in historical downtown Montgomery, Alabama.

         In February 29, 2012 she felt God leading her to move to a different location on 7798 Atlanta Highway.

         Martha’s Place serves 10,000 people a month; about 3000 people a week.    It is now a restaurant known all over the world, not only for its southern cuisine, but also for Martha Hawkins’ story of lost and being found.

         “Since I left Greil Hospital, I never had to have any more shock treatments.  I never had to take another pill, even for headaches. I‘m proud of myself and God.”

Famous customers come to Montgomery to taste her
Southern Cooking and to meet the Martha of Martha’s Place:  Angela Bassett; Nell Carter; Macaulay Culkin; Clifton Davis; Phil Donahue; Kirk Franklin; Whoopi Goldberg; Evander Holyfield; Freddie Jackson; T.D. Jakes; Ted Koppel (the host of Nightline did a show at her restaurant); Walter Mathhau; Rosa Parks; Ty Pennington; Sissy Spacek; and Mary Steenburgen.  

         She gets to Martha’s Place by 6 a.m. when she cooks, prays with her staff, and finally at 11 a.m. opens the doors.   She talks with her customers whom she refers to as her friends, moving from one table to the next, seeing how their day is going, asking them if they need anything, and always giving hugs.

“I love to get up early and I get up here and cook and I get out here and mingle and talk to the customers.  And love on them and talk to them.”  
         When not at Martha’s Place, Martha attends her local church, spends time with family: (she now has six grandchildren ages 7 to 22), does charity work, and daily thanks God for all that He has done in her life, but especially for what God has done for her sons:  Shawn is an FBI agent; Quint is a Montgomery lobbyist; Reginald is a loan officer; and Nyrone is an ordained minister.  The most important thing of all is that all of her sons are Christians.

“What God has done for my sons means more to me than anythng in the world.” 


Photo 1
Martha Hawkins.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 2
Jacket cover of Finding Martha’s Place:  My Journey Through Sin, Salvation, and Lots of Soul Food.

Photo 3
Martha Hawkins in 2010.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins

Photo 4
Willie and Sallie Bell Hawkins 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1976.  Sitting from left to right:  Georgia Jackson, Alice Peterson, Alberta Woodson, Sallie Bell Hawkins, Martha Hawkins, Willela Dawson, Rosalee Williams.
Standing left to right:  Uncle Henry Harvest, Henry Hawkins, Willie Jr, Willie Hawkins Senior, Tommy Hawkins, Howard Hawkins, Scott Hawkins, and Uncle Willie C Hawkins.   Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 5
Johannes Vermeer’s largest painting:  oil on canvas of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha.  Painting made between 1654 to 1656.  Public Domain.

Photo 6
Market of St James Baptist Church.  Public Domain

Photo 7
Southern Food at Martha’s Place.  Copyright by Christal Cooper. 

Photo 8
Sallie Bell Hawkins, Martha Hawkins, and Willie Hawkins Senior.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 9
Martha, Shawn, and Quinton.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 10
Martha’s four sons:  Sean, Quinton, Reginald, and Nyrone.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins

Photo 11
Pills for depression.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 12
NaNa and Martha.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 13.
Martha Hawkins with Quint, Reginald, and Nyrone in 1983.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 14
Willie Hawkins Senior.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 15
Green cover of Gideons New Testament and Psalms.  Public Domain.

Photo 16
Gideon Bible of the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Public Domain.

Photo 17
Jesus Christ according to the traditional iconography of the 17 to the 18th Ethiopian Church.  Public Domain.

Photo 18
Phillis Wheatley, as illustrated by Scipio Moorhead in the frontispiece to her book Poems on Various Subjects.  Public Domain.

Photo 19
Martha Hawkins and son Sean in 1987.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 20
Isaiah 61:1 highlighted in yellow.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 21
Inscription of Psalm 34:8 at Martha’s Place at 7798 Atlanta Highway.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 22.
Martha Hawkins.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 23
16th century oil on canvas of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha by Jacopo Tintoretto. Public Domain.

Photo 24
Martha’s Place on 458 Sayre Street.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 25
Sign for Martha’s Place on 458 Sayre Street.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 26
Martha Hawkins in front of Martha’s Place on 458 Sayre Street.  June 1997.  Copyright by Christal Cooper

Photo 27
Martha’s Place located at 7798 Atlanta Highway in Montgomery.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 28
Decorative Bible from Martha’s Place on 7798 Atlanta Highway.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 29
Martha Hawkins.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 30
Martha Hawkins with Clifton Davis and Nell Carter.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 31
Martha Hawkins with Ted Koppel and Ty Pennington.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 32.
Martha and her customers.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 33
Early Martha Hawkins family photo of her four sons, their wives, and children.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins

Photo 34.
Martha and her four sons:  Sean, Quint, Reginald, and Nyrone.  Copyright by Martha Hawkins.

Photo 35.
Sean, Quint, Reginald, and Nyrone.   Copyright by Martha Hawkins. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Christal Cooper – 1404 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper

I've come to really appreciate Joo-Eun's story
Joo-Eun is Korean for Pearl. She was such a
tiny and beautiful woman, a porcelain doll, but
she had strength and resilience and she brought
out such compassion in someone we all considered arrogant and dangerous.  In Joo-Eun's case, that lady ended up walking side by side with the tigress.”
JM Cornwell

Author of Among Women

It took J.M. Cornwell over 30 years to write and edit Among Women, a novel about women in prison and the circumstances and choices that led them there.   The book has elements of the biography and fiction, but is mostly autobiographical.

Among Women at the heart, this is my story, a part of my life that has remained strong and fresh in my mind. Yes, it is about the rights of the imprisoned, but the main theme is perception. How we react when we see people and what happens when we interact with them.  To be able to see others as people with their own stories, we have to get past that first impression and the social conventions we grew up with. Very few people are all bad or even evil and fewer people are perfect and good. We are all at heart people, and women, who want the best for our families and to be seen, not as faceless members of some social clan but as individuals with hopes and dreams. We are the sum of our experiences and want to be known, fully known as only one person can know another be opening up and sharing ourselves.”
The writing process was long, arduous, and sporadic.  She wrote the first lines of the book while in jail. 

“When I began writing in jail, I just kept writing.  It was a promise I made to myself to let people know that the women who end up in jail were not as they believed them to be and that injustice was rampant in the system.”
Majority of the book was written from her home, at night, with pen and paper.  She’d write whenever the inspiration came and then place the handwritten manuscript away until the muse came again – sometimes a month later, two years later, even ten years later, before she’d take it out again and add more writing entries. 

 Cornwell’s main purpose in writing Among Women was to record moment by moment things in her own personal life and the personal lives of people she knew.  Since most of those memories were very clear there was no need to prepare an outline or a synopsis. At first, she wrote at night, but soon she was writing day and night.
       “I was in the zone.  When I’m in the zone of writing, I lose track of time.  I was immersed in the time and place, just as I had been when it all happened.  I listened to the stories again and imagined them happening to each of the women.  The more I put myself in their stories, the more things became clearer and took on a life of their own.”

The most difficult task of writing Among Women was the beginning and the ending, which Cornwell rewrote so many times she lost count.  

“I originally ended the book where Pearl goes to the cafe on Bienville in the French Quarter and is at last back among her friends not knowing that there were two men trying to find her. That left too many questions, so I decided, after more rewriting, that there had to be a sequel, and changed the ending one last time.”

Unlike most writers who find the beginning to be the hardest part of a novel, to Cornwell, it is the ending that is the most problematic.
“Yes, beginnings are when you hook the reader but it is at the end when the book either comes together or falls apart (and) will end with the reader disliking the book and feeling cheated.”
       Among Women centers on Pearl, a young woman living in the strange city of New Orleans, who finds herself robbed and abandoned, trying to survive only to end up arrested for someone else’s crime and thrown into jail for six weeks.  During those six weeks she lives with fifty other women, whom she feels superior to and not worthy of her friendship.  Pearl writes her own experiences and the experiences of her fellow inmate, which causes a change to occur. 

       “When Pearl begins to listen to each person's story is when she puts aside her prejudices and that is a major turning point. Putting pen to paper is an extension of that moment because (Pearl) makes a definite choice to do something, for herself and for the women she comes to know. She becomes less the victim and more the author of her own life.”
       Among Women is a lesson to all of humanity – before you judge someone, get to know that individual, and then base your judgment and opinion on your own personal experience with that person.  We are all Pearls, and reading this book, we, along with Pearl, can finally see.

“It is not until we actually SEE someone, look into their eyes, that we begin to know each other and cast off our prejudices and preconceptions.”
Perhaps the strangest thing about this novel is that one character Cornwell identified the most with, Pearl, was the character that surprised her the most.
“I don't think I knew everything that was buried inside Pearl until I wrote the other women's stories and began to see the whole thing from the outside as a writer.”

Cornwell sent the manuscript Among Women to the publishers of her first book Past Imperfect, which they rejected. 
       “They didn't like the violence of Betty's rape or the tone of the book. Their rejection came with a note that nothing happens in the book and readers wouldn't like that.”

       After three publishers and one agent rejected Among Women, Cornwell decided to self publish the book. She contacted an artist and began the process.
       “This was at the time when indie publishing was getting a real foothold in the industry and Kindle Direct became available.  I took a deep breath and jumped off the cliff.”
       Cornwell resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado, her home resting at the feet of Pikes Peak.  It is in her home where she works as a medical transcriptionist during the day and writes every chance she gets.

 “I usually write at night after I finish work and sometimes early in the morning when I can't sleep.   The evenings and early mornings, when I usually sleep, are split between writing letters and books, keeping up a considerable correspondence, cross stitch, and designing cross-stitch. To keep the writing muscles limber, I write every day, often on more than one project.”

Cornwell believes a dedicated writer must have determination and grit, never give up on his or her dreams, and be willing to make sacrifices if they want to get published.  

       “Many people say they would like to write, but when I tell them that giving up 1 or 2 TV programs to write is necessary to finding the time, they balk.  The important thing is to write and keep writing every day and find the time and the space even if you have to install a lock on the inside of the door to keep distractions to a minimum.”

Cornwell, like most writers, insists that one must read in order to be an effective writer.

“I couldn't live without reading and wouldn't be much of a writer if I didn't read, and I read voraciously in a myriad of subjects. Homer and Edgar Rice Burroughs were my first influences, but I think fairy tales have been my greatest influence. There is something magical about telling a story that makes people want to sit and listen -- or read and I believe in magic. Books are magical doorways to the deepest desires and the imagination. Each new book is another doorway and another step into a new adventure. In that way, every good book has influenced me and spurred me to be a better writer.”

Contact JM Cornwell via snail mail at 1907 W Pikes Peak Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80904.
 Email at, visit facebook at, or visit her blog at

*Excerpt of Among Women by JM Cornwell.  Copyright by JM Cornwell.

Thirteen:  JOO-EUN

Kwan Joo-Eun grasped the hem of her tailored linen jacket to still the trembling in her hands. Her brother, Kwan Tomeo, held out a ballpoint. “Sign.”
His sister stood ramrod straight, teeth clenched, straining against the monsoon of hot emotion speeding through her veins.
Joo-Eun took the pen and laid it carefully on the counter between them. She turned and walked over to a box of video tapes, picked up the pricing gun and attached labels to the videos before placing them carefully on the rack. Kwan Tomeo picked up his briefcase, pocketed the platinum Cross pen he always carried as a symbol of his wealth and power, and walked out the door. The bell jangled wildly. Joo-Eun continued pricing and placing videos until the box was empty, and took a box cutter from her trouser pocket. She slashed the tape, deftly broke down the box and laid it on top of a stack near the end of the rack, her precise movements a cover for the wild throbbing of her anger. She would not give up her share of the business or marry the man her brother chose. They were no longer in Korea and she was not a child.
Working quickly, she emptied the remaining two boxes, broke them down and laid them on the stack before locking the door and counting out the register. She checked her watch. It was past 2 a.m. Joo-Eun put on her coat and dragged the pile of cardboard out the alley door, locked it and leaned the pile against the dumpster. Shivering in her sable coat, Joo-Eun quickly unlocked her car and got in. The drive home in the teeth of an icy wind threatened to force her off the road. She fought the wheel, grateful for the few stoplights still working at that hour. Her hands trembled when she pulled into the driveway forty minutes later, fighting icy roads and howling head winds all the way. The commute usually took fifteen minutes. She was glad to be home as she thumbed the garage door opener and drove inside.
Once the door was down and she was inside, she let go the iron grasp on the steering wheel, unlocked the door to the laundry room and crumpled bonelessly to the floor. Wrapping her trembling arms around her knees, she rocked to and fro. She swung between anger at her brother’s demands and fear of what he would do if she continued to defy him.
This was not Korea. She had rights. Tomeo had not built up the store. She had done it alone, turning the least of the family’s holdings into a profitable business. She had earned the right to choose her own path and was not about to relinquish control of her life to Tomeo or whomever he chose to foist on her. It did not matter that the man Tomeo selected was wealthy and the alliance would satisfy her brother’s lust for control and power. She would not give in, especially not to marry a man thirty-five years her senior. Even had the man been ten years older she would not have agreed, not if it meant giving up control of her life or what she had earned the hard way. The family would gain much prestige. “Life is not just prestige,” she said to the walls. There had to be some pleasure, some happiness and, yes, some choice to be worth the sacrifice. “I do not do sacrifice.” She got off the floor and kicked off her high heels, slipping her feet into house shoes.
Some traditions were worth keeping. Arranged marriages and the life of a silent, biddable wife were traditions not worth perpetuating, not when those traditions demeaned her. And not if she must give up her freedom. A man so much older would not countenance an independent wife. He was too much a slave of tradition. When he died—and he would die long before her—she would be left with very little. All his money would go to his family because she was unable to bear children. A woman without sons had no status in Korea and there would be no sons. Had Tomeo even told him she was barren?
He must have. Such a delicate matter left out of the negotiations, if it came to light later, would end in her being sent back to her family in shame and without her dowry. “I will not submit. Not this time.
“Cut me out if you dare, Tomeo. You cannot take away my pride or my life.” As long as he did not cut her out of the business she had built, Tomeo could follow all the traditions he liked. She would make her own traditions.
Joo-Eun knew she had been meant to fail. The bookstore had been meant to drag her down by throwing her into the deep end. She had been rebellious and Tomeo and her mother were determined to make things as difficult as possible. “You are too American,” her mother said. “You must be more feminine. An older husband will quiet the demons and remind you of your place. Do not get too comfortable in your business. You only mind it for the family.”
She had not failed, but prospered, bringing more money into the family than her three elder brothers. Her success had nearly cost Tomeo his standing, especially since one of the businesses he backed was now bankrupt. He still earned more than Joo-Eun, but only by a mere forty thousand a quarter. That was, as the Americans said—“as I would say”—small potatoes.
She straightened her blouse and trousers. She needed a hot bath and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow she would talk to her lawyer and see what options remained. Tomeo would have to bow to the American legal system. On paper, she owned the store. That was another one of Tomeo’s mistakes. In order to protect the family’s holdings and spread the risk, her name alone was on the deed, giving her complete power and control. He could not afford to take her to court and risk exposing the extent of the family’s holdings or some of their marginally legitimate businesses. It was just the leverage she needed to break away and become fully independent at last.
A hot bath, a glass of wine and her favorite Chopin piano concerto eased away some of the strain and cold lingering from the confrontation with Tomeo and the drive home. As she toweled off and applied the silky blue lotus and lavender lotion to her skin, jangled nerves and the pounding pulse at her temples eased. She slipped into silk pajamas and released the carved bone pins from her hair to brush it out before getting into bed.
Warm and comfortable beneath her embroidered satin comforter, Joo-Eun listened to the wind howl and shake the windows. Succumbing to the heavy weight of her eyelids, she opened wide the doors of her mind and embraced sleep, drifting on a warm, placid sea. On the nightstand, an antique baroque French clock gently ticked away the minutes.

Cold hands gripped her arms and dragged Joo-Eun from bed. Rough laughter raked her ears.

       “Get dressed.” In the harsh glare of the overhead light, Joo-Eun blinked, her eyes watering, as she struggled into an embroidered satin brocade robe. She bent down to grab her slippers and was yanked upright by her arm. Before she could get to her feet, she was dragged through the door and into the hall. “What are you doing? Let me go.” Both hands were pinned roughly behind her back until she cried out in pain. “You are hurting me.”
“Get moving.” A blue-clad officer grabbed her by the hair and dragged her toward the steps. She fought to break free and was stunned to silent immobility when she saw her brother standing at the foot of the stairs smiling up at her.
“Tomeo. You cannot do this.”
“It’s done, little sister.”
She numbly followed the officer down the stairs. Twice she tripped and twice she was dragged her feet.
“Why?” Joo-Eun’s strangled cry turned to a wail. As he stood there looking at her, one eyebrow arched, a self satisfied smile playing about his lips, she became angry. “Tomeo, why?”
"Do not presume to question me," he said and slapped her, rocking her head back. Rage glittered in her dark eyes and Tomeo slapped her again. Her head bounced off the wall as she staggered and fell. She tasted blood. With one hand at the corner of her mouth where blood trickled down her chin, she braced against the wall as she stood up. "Take her," he said.
"I will not go."
"You have no choice, little sister." The officers grabbed her arms and Tomeo tilted her head up with one finger. "After a little vacation, you will see things differently." He nodded to the officers.
Tomeo’s triumphant smile slipped sideways into a smirk as the officers handcuffed her and pushed her out the door and into the frigid night. She fell to her knees on the sidewalk only to be dragged to the squad car by her arms, a rag doll between two pit bulls. They tossed her inside as though she weighed nothing and was of no value. The door slammed, banging against the soles of her bare feet. Pain shot up both legs. She struggled to squirm to the other side of the seat and sit up, hampered by the burning pain in her shoulders. Cramps seized both arms. The handcuffs were so tight her hands were numb. Unable to right herself, she lay on the seat while hot tears seared scalding tracks down her cheeks.
A short while later she was hauled out of the car and frog-marched up the cement steps and into a bedlam of sights, sounds and foul smells. She tensed, muscles and sinews taut, ready to run. Her skin crawled, repulsed. She cringed away from the filthy tile floors and was shoved forward. She stumbled through icy puddles of melting snow and dirt, slipping in slimy puddles of warm yellow liquid too foul to contemplate. One of the officers spun her around and unlocked the handcuffs. He pushed her into a long room flanked by hard wooden benches. The heavy metal door banged shut and echoed in the sudden silence.
None of the four women doggedly devouring white bread sandwiches filled with pallid brown patties that might be meat—or something worse—looked up as she sidled to a corner and sat down. She covered both knees with the filthy, wet robe and wrapped her arms around them. Head lowered, her long black hair drifted down to cover her face while she silently wept.
The image of Tomeo’s triumphant smile while he toyed with his platinum Cross pen still burned in memory. She had been betrayed.


Photo 1
JM Cornwell.  Copyright by JM Cornwell.

Photo 2 and Photo 18
Front and back jacket covers of Among Women

Photo 3.
Early photo of JM Cornwell.  Copyright by JM Cornwell.

Photo 4
Another jacket cover of Among Women.

Photo 5
Jacket cover of Among Women.

Photo 6
French Quarter in New Orleans in September of 2001.  Attributed to Chris Litherlard.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licesne.

Photo 7
Front and back jacket cover of Among Men

Photo 8
Abandoned traditional day cell block.  Location unknown.  Attributed to Bob Jagerdorf.  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.    

Photo 9
Blue eye of female.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Photo 10
Jacket cover of Past Imperfect

Another jacket cover of Past Imperfect

Photo 12
Pikes Peak.  Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Photo 13
Jacket cover of First Kiss

Photo 14
Jacket cover of Legacy

Photo 15
Jacket cover of Whitechapel Hearts

Photo 16
Jacket cover of Theft of the Seventh Chakra

Photo 17
Jacket cover of Heart Strings