A friend of Joy’s says she is desperately sad and terrified of commenting publicly again for fear of driving Netty further away. Carl, meanwhile, is enraged. “She says she’s got to live her life? Okay,” he tells me. “But you’re not spending any time with your family. None at all. You say you don’t know us? Fine. We don’t know you. But how are you going to get to know us? I’m frustrated. I’m tired of my kids asking when they’re going to see their sister, can they call her? I tell them I don’t have the number, and they say, ‘What do you mean?’ I know one thing. If I were her, from January to now I would have at least seen us once.”
Netty isn’t blind to the fact that she has caused Carl and Joy pain. I ask her what she’d say if Joy called her now. “She can’t call me,” Netty says. But a moment later, she corrects herself. “I did what I did because I felt like when I’m ready to dip back in, it’s going to be on a different note. The approach has to be better than it was the first time. It was just too much commotion.”
A few weeks later, Netty tells me that she called both her parents. Her conversation with Carl was brief. But the call with Joy lasted three hours. “It’s been on my conscience,” she says, explaining that she needed “just to have the right words and be able to have the understanding. And I got what I wanted, from my mom at least.” The trust-fund issue, she now says, was “just a misunderstanding.” What really put her and Joy at odds was Ann Pettway. “I know they both want justice,” Netty says of Joy and Carl. “I would feel the same way if someone did that to my child. But at the same time, I have unconditional feelings for her.” She means Ann, though she still won’t mention her by name. “I’m willing to forgive her. And I still have love for her.”
Netty says she is happy she knows the truth now. “There was a part of me that wasn’t even there, and now I feel whole. Even in the beginning of the year, with all the drama and stuff, I was kind of cloudy. But now I know who I am. That’s the main thing—just to find out where you come from and who you are.”
So, who is she? Is she going to remain Nejdra Nance?
“No, she says. “I’ve been trying to get my paperwork together. When I get my I.D. and everything, it will say Carlina White.”
But there’s a caveat. “When someone asks me what my name is,” she says, “I say Netty. I don’t tell them my name is Nejdra, and I don’t tell them Carlina. Netty’s not what the Pettway family gave me or what the White family gave me. It’s what I gave myself.”