The Year It Snowed in April

Paperback | March 30, 2010

byEva Bottier

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Avery Benjamin Clarke is a shy and demure boy, raised in the upper middle classed home of his maternal grandparents from the day he was born. He's a straight "A" student and a model child who has never given his family an ounce of trouble. Then one Easter Sunday, his wayward mother, Carla, returns to his grandparents' brownstone. When an unexpected tragedy strikes, Avery is forced to live with Carla permanently. Soon after, his life begins a swift downward spiral as she introduces him to a world of dysfunction and darkness.

As Avery grows into a young man, he is determined to hide the secrets he's accumulated from the world. He struggles to suppress his psychosis and obtain some sense of normalcy in his life. But when the tables are turned yet again, Avery is given crosses no young person should ever have to bear. Will he ultimately delve within himself for the strength and sanity that was stolen from him or will he awaken the monster that has been lurking beneath the surface created by years of suffering and abuse?

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Avery Benjamin Clarke is a shy and demure boy, raised in the upper middle classed home of his maternal grandparents from the day he was born. He's a straight "A" student and a model child who has never given his family an ounce of trouble. Then one Easter Sunday, his wayward mother, Carla, returns to his grandparents' brownstone. Whe...

Eva Bottíer is the pen name for Michelle Valentine, the author of A GIRL'S GOTTA EAT and the co-author of Essence bestselling INSATIABLE with Heather Hunter. A cum laude graduate of Marymount College, she has been in the entertainment industry for many years and lives with her family in New York.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:309 pages, 8.2 × 5.74 × 0.86 inPublished:March 30, 2010Publisher:St. Martin's PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0312360606

ISBN - 13:9780312360603


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ONEHarlem, 1983Avery squirmed in his seat. As much as he wanted to remain still, he could not ignore the fact that his suit pants were giving him an incredible wedgy. On top of that, his grandmother must have tied his tie too tightly, because he felt like the life was being choked out of him. Or maybe it was just the fact that Pastor McCain was going on and on about nothing—which was probably something, if only Avery could focus on what was happening at the front of the church on the altar. But he couldn’t. All Avery could think about were the tigers and clowns that awaited him down at Madison Square Garden. He was so excited, he could almost smell the aroma of greasy hot dogs rotating on the metal grill.Since the time he was three years old, Avery had sat with his grandfather front and center at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus every Easter Sunday. As soon as Pastor McCain put the period on the final sentence of his sermon, Avery and Opa would jump on the number 10 bus and hustle down to Thirty-seventh Street for an afternoon filled with laughs, fun, and high-priced junk food. Grandmother, on the other hand, would head back to the house to put the finishing touches on her famous Easter feast.The entire experience was incredible for Avery, though at thirteen years old, he never really wanted to admit that he still wholeheartedly enjoyed attending the circus, for fear of sounding like a baby. But it was more than just the silly clowns and flying trapeze that thoroughly entertained and thrilled Avery. It was also the fact that he and his grandfather always had the best seats in the house, and he always walked away with at least three good souvenirs. And the overpriced hot dogs were definitely a bonus.Of course, they had a standing pact not to tell Grandmother about their feeding frenzy, since she would have scolded them relentlessly for ruining their appetites before Easter dinner. But Avery and Opa didn’t care the least bit. It was their one day out of the year to throw caution to the wind and do a little male bonding. In the Clarke family, where women outnumbered men three to one, this was their special time to rebel and be men—if only for a few hours.Avery had grown to look forward to his annual outing with Opa. As the day neared, the circus would take over his every waking thought. He’d even dream about it. But this year, moments after Pastor McCain announced “The doors of the church are open!” Grandmother and Opa made a little announcement of their own.“We’re doing something different this year.” Grandmother smiled.“No circus?” Avery exclaimed, unable to conceal his disappointment.“We have a special surprise for you!” Grandmother explained. “One that’s better than the circus! One that you’ll remember for the rest of your life!”But now as he sat upstairs gazing out his bedroom window still dressed in uncomfortable church clothes, Avery couldn’t help feeling sad.What can possibly be better than going to the circus? he wondered.As he waited for his surprise, snow flurries fell like airy feathers from the sky. Avery watched in amazement. In all his life, it had never snowed on Easter Sunday before. And except for when a few scattered clouds passed in front of it, the sun was still shining. It was like a surreal scene Avery would have expected to see if he traveled somewhere over the rainbow. He imagined following the wondrous colors to their cusp, looking for the pot of gold rumored to be at the end. Avery closed his eyes, lost in his own fantasy as he tasted the sweetness of the cold flakes landing on his tongue. When he finally returned to reality, Avery told himself that the strange and unusual weather was a sign that something new and unusual was on the horizon.How right he was!Avery Benjamin Clarke, a shy, handsome, and astute thirteen-year-old boy, was wise beyond his years. Raised by his maternal grandparents from the moment he entered the world, Avery was a model child. Obedient, respectful, and a good student, he never brought home any trouble or disappointment. This, of course, made his guardians extremely proud and happy they had stepped in when their only daughter was unable to responsibly fulfill her role as a mother. Despite his mother’s issues, Avery was a very loved and wanted child. When he’d been brought home from the hospital, there was an elaborately decorated nursery waiting for him in the Clarkes’ Harlem brownstone, filled with everything an infant could ever need and want.Neighborhood socialites in their own right, Carolyn and Benjamin Clarke gladly took on the role of being parents to their grandson, affording him all the privileges they had given their own child, who unfortunately had been unable to appreciate the blessings her parents worked so hard to give her. Unusually strong and rebellious, Carla Clarke defied her parents from the moment she could walk. And as the years progressed, so did her challenging ways. Thus, it was no surprise when Carla fell in with the wrong crowd and began doing things that sent her mother to bed in tears nearly every night. A liberated feminist rebel with great pride in her black history, Carla considered her homemaker mother and pharmacist father “house niggas brainwashed by the white man” and was determined to revolt against every rule and regulation her parents set for her.Though her mind-set could have and should have given her the fuel she needed for success, carelessness and selfishness dominated Carla’s personality, tossing her into a world of alcohol consumption, illegal drugs, and premature sexuality. In addition to breaking her mother’s heart into a million pieces, her wild ways resulted in a pregnancy at the tender age of fifteen. Devout Christians, the Clarkes pressured her out of an abortion, opting to adopt the infant in an effort to keep him in the family. Immature, inexperienced, and having no desire to be a mother, Carla quickly and willingly gave her parents all legal rights to her son, and they began raising him as their own.For the first three years of Avery’s life, Carla stuck around, halfway caring for the baby. But after dropping out of high school and passing her GED with flying colors, Carla hit the road in a destructive search for herself and found a heap of trouble. While the Clarkes had hoped their daughter would eventually grow out of her toxic phase, Carla’s behavior was the source of many vicious arguments in the family home.Then finally one day she simply disappeared, leaving behind her innocent baby. Not knowing whether their only daughter was dead or alive, the Clarkes found it difficult to sleep at night but were determined to get through their difficult time. Their attempts to find her were unsuccessful.Nearly two years later, Carla called to say that she had started a new life in California. While they were relieved to know that she was okay, the Clarkes were fully committed to raising Avery as if he were their own. Though they were angered by their daughter’s lack of concern for both them, and her child, with broken hearts they kept the lines of communication open and let her know that no matter what, she could always come home—secretly hoping deep down inside she wouldn’t.As the years went by, the Clarkes were the best parents Avery could ever have, raising him in a stable and loving home. They sacrificed to give him the very best education they could and talked about his mother openly, hoping that one day she might reenter his life in a positive way. Gone but not forgotten, Carla graced plenty of photos displayed in the family room. They told their grandson that his mother was simply away building her life so that one day she could be the mother he deserved. Unable to miss what he’d never really had, Avery accepted their explanation, though there was still a part of him that longed to meet the woman who had given birth to him, the woman he knew only by the pictures on the family room mantel, the woman who sometimes called on Christmas morning, the woman who had ultimately abandoned him.The clock struck three, and guests began to flock to the Clarke home for a grand Easter supper. Aunt Bernice and Uncle Joe came first, bringing sweet potato pie in a large red-and-white cardboard box. Grandmother’s best friend, Aunt Ursula, arrived next, with a perfectly cooked pot roast and a banana pudding that was so fresh out of the oven, it was still warm. An honorary sister, Ursula was just as much a part of the Clarke family as those who carried the name. Beautiful and statuesque, with big hair, broad shoulders, and a tiny waist, she looked like a caramel-colored Wonder Woman. All she needed was a cape. Living just three houses down, she was always around and very dear to Avery’s heart.As the house filled with friends and relatives the Clarkes seemed to see only during holidays, Avery remained upstairs in his room, hiding from the pushy and loud kin, who always hugged and kissed him far too hard for his liking. Shy and introverted, Avery didn’t like being around a lot of people nor did he enjoy being asked a million questions. How’s school? How’re your grades? How’re the girls treating you? What did the Easter bunny bring you? were the most common. Didn’t they know that other than Tootie from The Facts of Life, girls got on his nerves? Or that he was far too mature to still be excited about the Easter Bunny?And then there was the physical affection.All five of Grandmother’s sisters would squeeze his cheeks raw, run their manicured claws though his jet-black curls, and adorn him with crimson-colored wet kisses that always left a funny smell on his face. And this year would be worse than ever. Without the circus in the back of his mind, Avery would have nothing else to think about as they aggressively bombarded him with a whole bunch of “love.”Man, I wish Opa and I had gone to the circus. He dragged his limp body down the winding staircase.As he entered the crowded family room, he was immediately swooped up by Uncle Earl, Opa’s only brother. Like a lion play-fighting with his favorite cub, Uncle Earl tousled Avery’s hair and gave him a shaking that created a strong case of bubble guts. Then like a swarm of killer bees, the others zeroed in on him and began the process Avery hated most—the hugs and kisses. While he knew they meant well, he still couldn’t help feeling suffocated as he tried his best to smile and endure the subtle physical abuse that was disguised as affection. His frail body was passed from aunt to aunt, uncle to uncle, and cousin to cousin.With the exception of Cousin Saundra’s daughter, Paige, Avery was one of the youngest children there. Paige was the same age as Avery but unlike his peers from the neighborhood and at school, she thought he was the coolest boy she’d ever met. Because she lived in Connecticut, she only saw him a few times a year, but was incredibly impressed by the fact that he lived in Harlem, which to her meant that he was cooler than cool. Although Avery knew the truth—he really wasn’t very cool at all, he was, in fact, the target of much taunting and bullying—he always enjoyed feeling like he was somebody around her. Paige was also an only child, and her eyes would never fail to light up when she saw him, allowing Avery to pretend he was “the man,” if only for a brief moment. However, this particular year, something seemed different about Paige. It was like the tables had turned and Avery felt shier than usual around her. Out of nowhere, she had become a regular girl—a regular girl with beautiful eyes, perfectly styled hair, and a contagious smile. He hadn’t seen her since summer, but no longer did she look at him like he was some concrete-loving, street-smart, worldly city slicker. As he spotted her from across the room where she was chatting with their other cousins, now she seemed like the celebrity. This, of course, made Avery quite nervous. Maybe it was her hazel eyes and the extra-long dark lashes that fluttered softly as she blinked. The uncomfortable feeling he suddenly got in his stomach as she headed in his direction made the palms of his hands moist with perspiration, though it quickly passed after she administered her greeting—a firm but loving punch to his chest.“Hi, Ave.” Paige smiled coyly.“Hey, how’s it going?” Avery shyly replied.“Pretty good. I’m on the honor roll,” she boasted, proud of her accomplishment.“Yeah, me, too.” He shrugged, refusing to make eye contact with her.“You’re always on the honor roll, Ave.”“Not always.”“Whatever.” Paige smirked, rolling her doe-shaped eyes.The chime of the doorbell resonated in the distance, and they were momentarily distracted.“Avery, get the door!” Grandmother called from the dining room. Leaving Paige standing where she was, without excusing himself, Avery deliberately scuffed his brand-new Ballys across the hardwood as he strolled to the front door. Before he could open it, the bell chimed again. Feeling rushed by whoever was standing on the other side, Avery quickly pulled open the heavy French door without looking through the peephole.“Damn, what the hell took you so long? This snow is messing up my hair! And since when in the hell does it snow in April? That’s the rotten apple for you!” a cloaked individual ranted, stepping inside the foyer. As the figure emerged from beneath a multicolored scarf, Avery could see that it was a small-framed woman. Her loosely flowing dark-colored hair was windblown, and her flawless auburn complexion was slightly dampened by the outside precipitation. She wore a brown overcoat and was a tad bit out of breath, but her beauty was undeniably stunning. Avery could not take his eyes off her as she gathered her bearings and realized who had opened the door.“Oh my God!” she whispered in awe, placing a gloved hand over her mouth. “Avery?” she asked, already knowing the answer.Remaining fixated on her, he slowly shook his head up and down as if to say yes.She lowered her body slightly, making it easier to look him in the eye, although he was nearly her size. She then hugged him tightly while speaking softly into his left ear. “I’m Carla.”Recognizing her face from the pictures in the family room and remembering that Grandmother and Opa said they had a surprise for him, Avery realized that the woman holding him close was his mother.After what felt like an eternity, Grandmother appeared in the foyer still clad in her apron. “I see you two have met.” Grandmother smiled.“Hello, Mother,” Carla stated dryly. As she released Avery from her embrace, she hugged her mother somewhat unaffectionately. It had been one month shy often years since the two of them had seen each other, but for reasons only they knew, their emotions were clearly mixed by the reunion.“Let me look at you,” Grandmother said. Carla opened her overcoat and let her mother get a good look. “You’re as pretty as always,” she continued, admiring the striking beauty of her only child.“And Mother—you haven’t aged a bit. It’s good to know that I have good genes. Now I know what I have to look forward to,” Carla complimented. Remembering that Avery was standing there, she hugged him once again. “And you and Father have done such a wonderful job with Avery! Look at how handsome he is! He’s like a grown man now!” she continued.“Not quite,” Grandmother assured her. “But we are very proud of him. Come, come. Your father is extremely eager to see you.”“Really? Do I owe him money? I thought the cash he sent me was a gift,” Carla snapped with a chuckle.When Grandmother and Avery entered the family room, everyone was shocked to see Carla by their side. Never a family to banish its lost sheep, the entire clan was elated to see Carolyn’s daughter looking happy and well. Even Benjamin, who had once vowed never to speak to his wayward daughter again, shed tears of joy at the sight of his only child. Needless to say, happiness was felt by all that Easter Sunday.“Well, it looks like I’m gonna be hanging out here for a while,” Carla announced as she and Grandmother cleared away the dishes and began tidying the kitchen. Easter dinner had gone well and the night was nearing its end. The guests had vacated, and all that was left were the scrapings from the bottom of the macaroni-and-cheese pan and a naked turkey carcass. As they worked together to bring the house back to normal, Opa dozed peacefully in his recliner. The television glared the image of the nightly news, though it seemed that it was watching Benjamin more than he was watching it. His wife’s cooking had a way of doing that to folks.“What does that mean?” Carolyn questioned with a raised brow. Sure, she’d missed her daughter but was almost ashamed to admit that she wasn’t too sure she wanted Carla around on a permanent basis. She didn’t think it would be too good for Avery, for her husband, or for herself. Carla had a way of bringing out the worst in people, and some of the banter over dinner had indicated that she hadn’t changed too much. Her raunchy jokes and uncouth comments kept the family with raised eyebrows, though no one dared to respond. Not to mention the fact that Grandmother and Opa had worked too hard over the years to just let Carla come in and undo everything they had done over the past decade.“Oh, don’t worry, Mother. I wouldn’t dream of staying here with you and Daddy. I plan on getting my own place,” Carla sarcastically assured Carolyn, sensing her mother’s reservations.“Well, what about your life back in California? You can’t just abandon that, can you? I had no idea you were planning to stay in New York permanently. Don’t you have a job there? A home?” Carolyn questioned, not sure she really wanted to hear the answers.Excerpted from The Year It Snowed In April by .Copyright © 2010 by Michelle Valdes.Published in April 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin.All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.