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 GET READY FOR VIOLATED.  BEING LAUNCHED MARCH  24, 2018.      SO,  WAIT FOR IT!

                              Okay here are chapters 1 and 3 and the cover for VIOLATED.

CHAPTER 0NE

Us Spiveys
Riding on this airplane has me a nervous wreck. I hate flying, especially when there are air pockets and this flight from Philly to New York seems to be nothing but air pockets. I have two flights and this first one is only fifty minutes but because of the air pockets, this flight is very stressful for me. There goes another pocket! Oh my goodness, where is that Flight Attendant, I need another drink.
Umm, that feels so good going down. Let me close my eyes and relax…
I wonder if Cousin Annabelle will be at the Homegoing. She hasn’t attended any family functions since her mother’s funeral six years ago. When I think of how close we were growing up, not seeing her at any family functions really causes a sting in my heart. I am always hopeful she’ll be at the next family function only to be disappointed when she doesn’t show.
I’m on my way to Jamestown New York, for Ma’dears’ Homegoing Services. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. For as long as I can remember my loving grandmother has always been an anchor in our family and, personally in my life. Now I’m faced with what to do without her.
I would call Ma’dear anytime in the night and she always took time to pray and give me some good ole sound grandmotherly advice. She was always right but of course most times I didn’t do what she said. Ma’dear had a way of soothing me. I think it was her love for me that was so evident in her sweet voice. I don’t know, but I do know I was always making mistakes, and she loved me unconditionally.
Ma’dear would comfort me then pray the perfect will of the Lord concerning the situation. She’d tell me to be in agreement with what the Lord has for me. That way I’d be able to sleep and not worry. I’m sitting on this airplane smiling as I hear in my head the love in her voice. What’s so amazing to me is, Ma’dear was always right. I would pray and ask the Lord to help me trust Him and teach me how to be in agreement with His will for whatever the situation, and it always worked. I would calm down then fall right off to sleep. Now that she’s gone, who will I call on to pray for me? Where in the world is that Flight Attendant, I need another drink!
Oh lord, please let Cousin Annabelle show up at Ma’dears’ Homegoing. It just won’t be right if she doesn’t show up. Ma’dear loved us both so much. We were her last two granddaughters and everyone knows we are her favorites.
My Grandfather, Arnold Maddox Spivey; aka Paps, met my Grandmother, Paulette Shears back in 1948. Paps has a very beautiful tenor voice and was part of a singing group back in the mid forties. Ma’dear was a senior in high school and Paps had just celebrated becoming twenty-two and was working construction while singing in a group called, “The Silk Gents.” The Gents were getting ready to perform at one of Ellicott, New York’s nicest Supper Clubs at that time and this was a big break for the group. The drummer, Phillip Baker, had an Aunt, Ms. Evelyn Baker. She was a great seamstress and volunteered to sew the Gents outfits if she could get to see them perform for free. Ms. Baker lived two doors down from Ma’dear’s family. Ma’dear happened to go over Ms. Baker’s delivering freshly picked greens from the Shears family garden. Just so happen the Gents were being fitted that day.
When Paps observed Ma’dear as she walked through the living room into the kitchen baring bags of vibrant green Mustard Greens, he said his attention went directly to her oval shaped eyes. When she reappeared into the living room less the bags in her arms, she spoke a general, “Hello” to everyone and smiled. Paps said he had never in his life beheld such beauty and believed his heart actually skipped a beat. When she left, he asked Ms. Baker a hundred questions about Ma’dear and it was then he decided to meet Mr. and Mrs. Shears and court their daughter. They married in July because Ma’dear was on her way to Howard University. Big Mama Louella Shears was so mad at Paps for terminating Ma’dears college career. Ma’dear was going to be the first in the family to attend. As soon as Uncle Randall arrived, Big Mama Louella forgot about Ma’dear not attending college. She spoiled every baby Ma’dear brought into this world.
My Uncle Randall was born ten months after they married and a year later Uncle Marshall arrived. They both have birthdays in May. Nine months after Uncle Marshall arrived here comes my Daddy, Hershel. When Daddy turned ten months old, the very next day Aunt Nola arrived. Uncle Marshall and Daddy are the same age for three months and, Daddy and Aunt Nola are the same age for two months, that’s how close they are. Because the last three of them were so close in age people thought they were triplets. I think that’s why Daddy and Aunt Nola were so close. Our family is close anyways, in-laws included.
Uncle Randall married Aunt Jacquelyn Russell and they have three children. My cousins Michal, Daniel and James. Uncle Randall and Aunt Jackie moved to Hatboro, Pa. while she was pregnant with Michal and still lives in the same house they raised my cousins in.
Michal married Cara Hudson and they have two grown kids; Janice, thirty-two and Carin, thirty and both work for the State of Pennsylvania. Janice is an investigator and Carin works with forensics. Janice is divorced with a son, Adrian. Carin is married to Justin Barnes and has three children; Justin the 2nd, Jerome and Jessica.
Daniel married April Hunt and they have Danielle, thirty, Desiree’, twenty-eight and Destiny, twenty-five. Danielle is an engineer and not married but has been dating a young man, Nathan Rollings for about six years. He’s also an engineer. They work together for a well known engineering firm in Philadelphia. Desiree’ is a Veterinarian and has a miniature zoo in her back yard. The girl loves her some animals. She’s married to Ronald Watts and he has a daughter; Shantel. They raised her and the girl is so smart. Shantel owns her own business, a real nice flower shop in Morgantown. She is very creative and makes custom unique arrangements for Aunt Jackie on holidays. I have also bought arrangements from her. Her work is excellent.
Now James lives with Audrie, I believe she is a Fuller. She is very pretty but for some strange reason refuses to get married although they both wear rings. As long as they’ve been together she refuses to get a marriage license. Anyway, they have James Junior, who we call J.J. He’s twenty-one, and two months older than Malory. J.J. is in his second year of trade school taking mechanical engineering. And Collins just turned nineteen last month, Wilson is a month older than him. Now Collins is my favorite cousin, and I know I shouldn’t be that way but the boy smiles all the time and is so kind. When he was little he was so considerate and you know that’s not natural for a little one. He is in his first year college. He wants to become a Pharmacist and believe me he’s smart enough to become one.
Well, Uncle Marshall married Aunt Carol Hastings and she had Marshall Jr. a few years after they were married and during his one-year old birthday party, Aunt Carol went into labor and that evening cousin Preston arrived. MJ and Preston are exactly one year apart and share the same birthdate. People thought they were twins when they were toddlers but Mj is so much bigger than Preston now.
Mj signed up for the Air Force right out of high school and is making a career of it. He met and married Sedonia Shorter who is also in the Air Force and they only had Edwin who is also in the Air Force intending to make a career of it like his father. Edwin is twenty-four and calls himself a player so you know it’ll be a while before he settles down.
Preston, well, where do I start with him? He graduated High School with a 4.0 GPA and a baby on the way. Preston Jr. was born on the fourth of July and he’s an independent soul for sure. Preston worked part time at one of the local fast food restaurants to make some money because Uncle Marshall refused to take care of any babies he didn’t make. Nobody knows how Preston managed to do it but he has to be pretty smart, holding down a part time job, keeping a 4.0 GPA while finding time to make a baby too!
So, Preston landed a job at PGW (Philadelphia Gas Works) as a janitor and one of the Concepts Commissioners took a liking to the boy and gave him heads up about an upcoming position in the Concepts Department. Preston collected all the information he could get his hands on and studied. He passed the test with a high score and started work in his new position just in time for his second son’s arrival; Trent. He worked in that position for almost a year and the company moved him and his family to Houston, Texas to work in the research department.
He married La Shonda Black before moving to Texas because PGW wouldn’t move her if she wasn’t his spouse and let me tell you the news of them not being married shocked us all! Preston moved his family to Houston and a few months after they arrived so did Oscar, then Renee’, Deena and last but certainly not least; Clinton. Whew, thinking about all of his kids makes me tired!
Anyway, they’re doing very well down in Houston and his kids are all grown. I think Clinton is eighteen and La Shonda says he’s so much like Preston. They thought he had a baby on the way before he graduated high school until the DNA proved otherwise. The last time I spoke to Aunt Carol, she mentioned she and Uncle Marshall are tossing around the idea of possibly moving south to Houston Texas where Preston and La Shonda are. They visit there twice a year and absolutely love it.
Now my Daddy and Mama; what a pair of love birds they are! They met at Philadelphia Community College, her first year and his third. Let Daddy tell it Mama was struck by the Spivey lightning when she saw him walking towards her but the truth is Mama thought Daddy was way over confident with his, “Game,” as she called it. What the other girls went gaga over, she simply saw as player moves.
After one conversation with her he completely changed his “Game,” into a plan. My Mama is very beautiful with her dark brown sugar skin tone. Her big wide perfectly round light brown eyes and keen nose that perfectly emphasizes her long thin shaped face and Mama has always kept her thick hair cut real short. At that time, she had blonde streaks in her hair. She’s five feet six, and still has curves in all the right places. My Mama is one beautiful black woman that’s noticed when she enters a room, let me tell you.
Daddy’s college group of guys were at lunch in the cafeteria when Mama walked in by herself. Our play Uncle, Uncle Bradley told us Daddy took a walk over to Mama and had a brief conversation with her. When Daddy came back to the group Uncle Bradley noticed how daddy kept looking back at Mama. Uncle Bradley said he knew Mama had left an impression on Daddy he just didn’t know it was a loving lasting one. Daddy and Uncle Bradley have grown up together since seventh grade. That was the year Paps moved his family from Jamestown, NY, to Horsham, PA. Uncle Braley lived four doors down the street from Daddy.
Now Uncle Randall and Uncle Marshall look like Paps photo copied his face and glued it onto his two older sons. All of Ma’dear and Paps children has her skin coloring, reddish brown. Daddy is a physical combination of Paps and Ma’dear. He’s red, tall, slim and has head shape and nose like Paps. His eyes, mouth and chin is Ma’dear.
Aunt Nola, well, well, where do I began with her? Maybe her name will give you a clue. Nola Marie Spivey-Ward-Hurn-Andrews-Allen, was my fathers’ only sister. Because she was the baby and Daddy was the youngest of her three older brothers, Aunt Nola was extremely close to Daddy and became very close to my mother, Edna.
My Aunt Nola was five feet, four, reddish brown skin tone and she is the only one of Ma’dear and Paps children that took Paps copper eye color and wavy hair. With her skin tone, her eyes really stood out. Aunt Nola and daddy have the same shaped nose, perfect for their face, not too wide, not too narrow, just perfect. Aunt Nola kept her hair in a blunt cut and at shoulder length. My Aunt Nola was a very beautiful petite woman. She and Daddy look like they could be twins with the exception of her eye color. My Cousin Annabelle looks just like her mother with the exception of her height and skin tone. My Cousin Annabelle is five feet nine inches, and she took her fathers coloring, the color of wheat. Talk about beautiful!
I believe Aunt Nola was spoiled, being the only girl and the baby. When I was a little girl, every year around Aunt Nola’s birthday, Ma’dear would tell the story of the day she arrived home from the hospital with her only daughter. She told us how she sat her sons down on her bed and made sure they understood they had a sister and, because she was a girl, girls were not strong like boys are so they had to be gentle with her. And so, the handling her with kid gloves began the day Aunt Nola arrived home from the hospital.
Everyone talked about how Ma’dear spoiled Aunt Nola and right after my Aunt’s seventeenth birthday, she had to have everything her way. When she couldn’t have her way, she’d go off and I mean way off! Paps and my daddy were the only two people that could calm Aunt Nola. All Paps had to do was look at her and say, “Nola Marie!” And Aunt Nola would shut down.
I used to listen to Mama and her sister, La Donna talk on the phone all the while I grew up. Mama would do my hair and talked like I wasn’t even in the room and the phone conversations they had could get real juicy concerning Aunt Nola. Back in the day we had a twelve foot phone cord and Mama lugged the phone all over the downstairs.
Having all of us Spiveys in one place, you can imagine how loud a room full of us can be, but hollering and fussing at one another never happens. When one of us need to, “Stack something straight,” as Ma’dear would say, we talk to the person we have the issue with, alone, not in front of the family. It doesn’t take long before the family finds out what went down anyways. I did mention we were close didn’t I?

CHAPTER THREE

Last Daughter Curse
That’s what really happened that night in October but when I get drunk, the scene changes. Oh yeah it goes down like this…
I grab his hand from under my tee shirt and kick him while screaming, “KEEP YOUR NASTY HANDS TO YOURSELF!” Cousin Annabelle wakes up and jumps on his back while yelling, “Take this you jive turkey!” She digs her fingernails in his face and scratches his face bloody. I’m still kicking the crap out of him when suddenly the lights come on in my room. Daddy yells, “What in the world…” Before he finishes his sentence, he sees Mr. Clyde Allen in my room and says, “I knew you couldn’t be trusted!” My Daddy leaps on Clyde Allen and commence to beating him until Clyde Allen is laid out on the floor, knocked out cold.
Every time my version of that night plays in my head, I always get so pissed at myself for not saying anything. Where is that Flight Attendant? I need another drink!
Truth is, I am not a fighter. I get mad as fire, however, I smolder. See, my problem is I think and think about a situation until it blows up in my head. When someone asks me about what it is I’m smoldering over, well, that person gets it, every bit of what’s on my mind. Kinda like a volcano! I spew my feelings out, everything I’ve thought over. By then I don’t care what the other person thinks. I’m mad so here, you brought it up, now take my opinion! After I cool off, I realize the way I handled the situation was wrong and end up apologizing. I really wish I could just calmly tell people what I think before I get to my erupting state of mess making. That’s something I’ve been praying about; I need The Lord to work on me in that area.
Our Pastor, Pastor Ingraham did a series a few months ago on the works of the flesh from the Book of Galatians. My eyes were enlightened. I learned I need to become, “Temperate.” Pastor Ingraham broke down the word temperance. In the Greek language the word means to master self restraint. He talked about going off on people. If you are the type personality people must walk around you as if they are walking on egg shells, well you need to be baptized in a dose of temperance. He taught us walking in the spirit is the ability to walk everyday applying the fruit of the spirit in our life. Producing the fruit of the spirit should be our way of life for us born again believers.
Pastor Ingraham took us to Galatians 5:16-21, The New Living Translation reads: “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17) The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18) But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. 19) When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20) idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21) envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
I had no idea that outbursts of anger was even in the Bible. But what really made me sit straight up with my mouth open was when Pastor Ingraham read, drunkenness! He broke down that word also. In the Greek it means an intoxicant. Ingesting a substance that affects a person temporarily causing diminished physical and mental control. The fact one takes the intoxicant voluntarily, allowing the substance to gain control became evident to me. When I realized most alcohol bottles have the word, “spirit” on the label, I realized the participant was allowing the spirit to overtake them. WOW! Was that an eyeopener!
I could plainly see how I thought I was being comforted with liquor. The alcohol spirit was telling me I was being consoled. I drank the alcohol to be told that, wow. The revelation came to me I drink to numb myself of whatever problem I face. All that day, during every idle moment, I thought about alcohol and took a real good look as to if it really comforts me or just diminishes what I’m facing. Later that evening I asked Kendra to look up the word diminish and text it to me. I grabbed my Tanqueray and grapefruit juice along with my phone and went to my room. After I read the definition, “To make or seem smaller, less, or less important; lessen; reduce.” As if a bright light bulb came on in my head; I realized I started drinking to make what Uncle Clyde Allen did to me seem unimportant so I could have sex. And, I also drink to make being alone in my bed unimportant.
I sat in the middle of my bed and for the first time in my life; I took a deep look into the real Le Nita Marie Spivey. I realized when I get tipsy, I laugh at any and everything. I like happy times, no sadness, just like my childhood was. As my drunk comes on, I calm down and begin seeing myself as a victim. Well, that picture in my head kinda makes me quiet. I keep thinking, ‘why did I take that crap. Why didn’t I just say something…’ I wish I were the type that can tell a person off in a sensible manner. Instead I hold onto my feelings and let them smolder inside me. This causes me to drink more.
Where is that woman with my drink! I turn around and there she is, staring at me. It’s so obvious she has it in for me. This is insane Nita get a grip girl, don’t say anything to her; she can have it where you’ll never be able to fly again! As I turn back around in my seat, I feel like I want to cry, why am I feeling so sad. Lady, just bring me my drink!
When the flight Attendant finally came to me she brought along an attitude. It’s not like I’m stealing my drinks, so what’s with her. This no lipped hefa had the nerve to tell me this is my last drink, the FAA has rules in the air and she must abide by them. Her half smile was a dead giveaway she enjoyed telling me the rules, ole raggedy lookin hefa!
I need to sip on this drink for a minute. I know I need to deal with Uncle Clyde Allen once and for all. He’s the reason I started drinking. Since I heard the sermon on the works of the flesh, I’ve been praying for Holy Spirit to search my heart and reveal to me what it is that’s stopping me from being used by Him. I really studied the series. Through the week I made time to go over my notes. I feel something inside me, deep inside me, pulling at me to stop drinking and start living right. I find myself thinking about what I was created to do for the building of the Kingdom of the Most High God. I feel as though I’m wasting my life away because of my drinking.
Alright, I’ll admit it. I have a drinking problem. I get lonely and drink until I pass out and I’m getting tired of going to sleep that way. When Pastor Ingraham taught on the works of the flesh series, man oh man. He broke down verse twenty-one and said, “Drunkenness is a spirit that attaches itself to people… people who invite it!” I sat straight up and listened to him. He told us at the beginning of the series that most of the works of the flesh start with a principality.
A principality plants its roots at the very beginning of whatever it takes principal of. For instance insecurity in a relationship. The principality takes residence from day one. It takes rule at the foundation. Pastor Ingraham told us to have an ear to hear what the Spirit was saying to us and for each one of us to find where we are and face whatever we need too with the Word.
Once we accept Christ as our Savior, we have the ability to overcome within us. We just need to get in the Word and feed our spiritual selves. I know I need to stop drinking, but I can’t without Gods help and, well … He’s not too keen on me these days. I’m on His naughty list.
I remember that Sunday night after I heard the drunkenness part of the works of the flesh. Before I dosed off, I prayed the desire for drinking would dry up in me. That’s what Ma’dear always prayed over me, that the desire I had for what was NOT Holy, would dry completely up in me. In the Name of Jesus!
Man oh man, I’m really missing her already. I have picked up the phone twice to call Ma’dear before I realized she was gone. I am sitting on this airplane with tears streaming down my face. What am I going to do without Ma’dear?
I believe the fact Cousin Annabelle and I never talked about being molested or told anyone else what happened to us that night is really why I drink way too much and she does drugs. If only it were possible to turn back the clock on some times in our lives. Redo some wrongs you know…
This I do know, I cannot deal with this now, not on this plane. Ms. No Lipped already has me on her, “Watch List.” I can’t give her a reason to have me banded from flying so I had better get a grip!
Ahh, that feels so good going down, my last drink for a while. Oh good we’re getting ready to land at LaGuardia. Hopefully I can get another drink while we fly to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. I wonder who will pick me up from the Airport.
Being Uncle Randall is the oldest of my father’s siblings he’ll probably be the one to take charge of things for Paps. Mama told me Paps took Ma’dear’s transitioning pretty hard. It was after ten a.m. when he went to wake her. Paps said he shook her and when he realized she was gone, he sat on the bed, lifted her in his arms and while rocking her he sang, “I Only Have Eyes For You Girl” by the Impalas. It was his song for his Sugar.
Ma’dear wasn’t sick, just complained of a headache the night before. Paps didn’t call Uncle Randall until after eleven-thirty a.m.. He said, “Randy, your mother has gone on to be with the Lord. Son, I’m gonna need your help.” Then Paps broke down. Man oh man, it’s going to be very difficult for us Spiveys without our anchor. Paps loves him some “Sugar” as he calls her. I’m sitting here now smiling at the picture I have in my head of Paps smiling at her so affectionately like he always did. One thing that’s constant in the Spivey family, no, wait, make that two things. Loving the Lord is number one. Loving each other is number two. It all started with Paps, my grandfather, my father’s father. He taught his sons to only marry for love. His sons taught their sons the same.
My Daddy is a good looking man. I have heard a lot of women refer to him as, “Um, um that man is fine!” In fact all of Daddy’s brothers are good looking. They are all six feet and taller. I believe Uncle Randall and Paps are both six- two and all of my male cousins on Daddy’s side of the family are all over six feet tall. None of the Spivey men are dark but they’re all handsome. They took their skin color from Ma’dear; reddish brown, but one thing they all inherited from Paps is his head shape and height.
You see my Paps is tall, caramel skinned with a good grade of hair, copper colored eyes and a beautifully round shaped head, almost perfect. When all of the Spivey men reach that age when baldness starts sayin, “Hello!” They cut off all of their hair and go completely bald. And let me tell you, they can sho nuff sport bald, it looks good on them!
Daddy finished college with a degree in Computer Ethics as his major and Business being his minor. He started with a full academic scholarship and his basketball scholarship helped pay for everything else. Paps had all of his sons work with him in his construction business, “Quality Construction, Inc.” And, they made good money but Paps made his sons responsible for their own education and they had no choice, college was an absolute must.
Daddy’s last year in college he was injured at a basketball game. He fell on his knee and busted his knee cap up pretty bad. He graduated and as soon as they handed him his diploma, he went to work for a Mr. Hollingston as a construction worker. After my brother Markus arrived, Daddy was promoted with his own crew, building new track homes in Buck County PA and he just retired a few years ago because of his knee.
Now my Mama, she was taking courses in Graphic Design. Back in her day it was called Computer Graphics and she was focused on her books until she and Daddy became romantic then she found an apartment close to the campus and her and Daddy played house until he received his diploma that’s when they went to the Justice of the Peace and married. Mama went to work for a local Law Office as an Office Clerk, but when she became pregnant with my oldest brother, Hershel Jr., she was too sick in the mornings to go to work so she had to quit.
Mama went to work for a typing pool after June Bug arrived and when the internet came along she was able to work from home. I think Mama type over ninety words per minute, talk about nimble fingers! She retired when Daddy did so they can travel together and they both spend a lot of time out in the yard. You know when I think of my parent’s relationship and my aunts and uncles, I can’t figure out why I couldn’t get a life like theirs. I must be under the “Last Daughter Curse.” Both sides of my family has it going on.
Mamas’ parents, Lester and Janet Hall-Boyd are very religious and after courting a year, were married and Grannie had Mama; Edna Dornice. A year and a half later comes La Donna Elise, and when she turned two, here comes Danita Latrice. The Boyd’s lived in Levittown, PA all of their lives and my Grandparents still live there in the same house they raised their daughters in. The Boyd girls were all the color of dark brown sugar with thick long hair and shaped like coke bottles with perfectly round shaped light brown eyes, like Grannies.
They were all beautiful and when they reached their teens they were the finest girls on their block. Granddad Boyd told all the neighborhood boys he had several guns and knew how to use every last one of them. Because the Boyd’s were known to be church goers, the last rows in the church were always filled with young boys wanting to get a chance to date one of the Boyd Sisters. Grannie said whenever Granddad would look back and see the pews full of young men, he would tell the preacher to pay them young boys no mind, just preach till they get saved.
Granddad had a fit when Mama and Daddy moved in together before they were married. He wouldn’t visit them and would get mad at Grannie whenever she did. He said to Grannie, “They are living in sin and I will not support that lifestyle. Edna wasn’t raised to live in sin and how they are living is wrong!” When Mama and Daddy married, that was the day Granddad accepted Daddy as Mamas’ husband by marriage he was not into that “Common Law nonsense.” Yep, my Granddad is something else! These days he is in his seventies and still drives, walks to the nearby park and hugs and hold hands with Grannie and they do everything for themselves, yes indeed, they are very blessed.
My Aunt La Donna went to Dental school to become a dentist but instead she married one; Uncle Joseph Young. They had Joe Junior, as he’s called, and two years later she had Quincy and before he turned two my Aunt Danita died and had just given birth to Ivan so Aunt La Donna and Uncle Joe took little Ivan in as their son to raise. They live in Richboro, PA and Uncle Joe has a dental partner; Andrew Gordon, and together they own a real nice fancy Dental Clinic in Warminster Heights, PA.
Joe Junior played football for college and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals and he did real good until his shoulder injury, now he’s coaching in Montgomeryville, PA for a middle school. He married Alice Hunt, a real nice girl and pretty. She did some modeling when they met, but now she teaches handicapped children. They have two sons, Jo’Lonie, and JoVahn who are both in college.
Lonnie is a Medical Biller and supervises a large department in Harrisburg. He is engaged to a young girl named Iris Hamilton. She acts a little up-a-de for me. We seldom talk. In fact she hardly talks to any of us. She’s always on her cell phone talking to someone else, just not any of us.
Vahn, he was living with a lady that everyone thought was too old for him. She left him and he went through women like socks. Now he’s dating a lady that refuses to live with him, Alyse. She has a son, Derrick, sixteen and smart, smart, smart. The boy has every award in academics there is. He takes college courses and reads everything he can get his hands on.
Cousin Quincy is a boxer. He boxes in the Jr. Welterweight Division locally and has won all of his fights so far, now he’s trying to get into the Regionals. I went to one of his matches. Can’t take watching him get hit nor can I tolerate him hitting someone else. I’m just not a fighter and to watch someone I love get hurt, well my eyes were closed more than they were open that night. He’s dating a young lady that has been with him for a while but for the most part, Quincy is never with the same lady for long.
Joe Junior and Quincy are real good looking young men. They are caramel skin toned like Granddad, tall and muscular and both of their smiles will warm any heart. Ivan is fine also in his own way. He’s darker than Joe Junior and Quincy but he favors Aunt Danita and since Aunt Danita, Mama and Aunt La Donna look alike, he looks like he’s Joe Jr. and Quincy’s darker brother. The boy is tall and what a smile he has with those deep dimples and pearly white teeth. He works for a cell phone company while attending college; he wants to be a psychologist. Considering what he has to live with, he’s pretty balanced having to accept his father killed his mother. I guess him being brought up in church and taught to forgive has a lot to do with him handling that. I know I would be conflicted, the father I love killing my mother; that’s some heavy luggage to carry around.
Aunt Danita was the baby and Grannie always tells us she was very vocal, even as a small child. Aunt Danita was always voicing her opinion. As an adult, she made all of the men she dated furious running their faults down to them. Aunt Donita was killed when she was only twenty-three years old, and I was named after my aunts. Mamas’ sisters La Donna, and Danita hence; Le’ Nita, and they gave me Daddy’s only sisters middle name; Marie, so I get named Le’ Nita Marie Spivey and I really believe I’m cursed by my two dead aunts having their names, but what can I do about it; it is what it is.
Anyways, Aunt Danita had just given birth to my cousin Ivan. His father; Zachary Downs and Aunt Danita had been living together but were separated by the time Ivan was born. When Ivan was only a week old his father came to visit Aunt Danita to see his son. A male neighbor was there with her and Zachary Downs thought she was going with him and said something insinuating maybe this man was the baby’s father and one word led to another and an argument ensued between Aunt Danita and Zachary. The male neighbor asked him to leave and he and Zachary began to argue. Aunt Danita phoned the police and Zachary left. While the police were leaving the apartment building, Zachary returned with a gun and shot Aunt Danita and a few of the neighbors who were in the hallway. The police returned, shot and killed Zachary in front of the apartment building and when the commotion was over, they discovered Aunt Danita didn’t survive her wounds. Aunt La Donna and Uncle Joe decided to take Ivan, changed his last name to Young and raised him as their own.
Before she had Ivan, Aunt Danita was married for almost three years to Uncle Keaton Leeks and together they had Keaton Jr. and Howard. When Uncle Keaton left Aunt Danita, he took Keys and Howie with him and they were brought up in Reading, PA by their Dad. We keep up with them and they turned out to be pretty responsible young men.
Keys has been working for the State of Pennsylvania at the DMV since he graduated high school and Howie works for the City of Reading; in the Planning Department. Howie attends night school to get a degree while working because he really wants to get into politics. They come to all of our family holiday dinners and we attend all of their milestone events. They both have girlfriends that are very pretty but Howie’s girl is a little ghetto.
Thinking of this now, I see everyone in my family is pretty stable but me. I must have Aunt Nola’s spirit; Never Go To Bed Alone! And Aunt Danita’s spirit; Anger me and like it or not, You Will Get My Opinion! I don’t know what my problem is. I really believe I’m a “Wrong Man Magnet.” I have been praying for almost a month now for answers to why I am the way I am. I need to make a serious change… Ma’dear would tell me to pray; “Lord change me according to Your will.” That’s exactly what I’ve been praying these days.
I am five feet, six and weigh one hundred and thirty- two pounds but I feel light as a feather. I think it’s because I gained my weight slowly, I’ve adjusted to it well. I’m thirty-eight years old and have four children and four of the most beautiful, brilliant grandchildren ever born. I have never been married and my Daddy hates me for having children without a husband, but I can’t help it if I’m Fertile Myrtle now can I?
My problem is I kinda amble into the path of wrong men. You know it’s like when you’re walking with your mind on something not paying attention to where you’re going and when you arrive at your destination, you ask yourself, “How in the world did I end up here?”

 

 

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                               AND NOW, CHAPTERS ONE & THREE OF: WHO ME 4GIVE?

                                                                 Chapter One

                                                                  The Invitation

                                                      Remembering how it all began

“Zinora”

As we rush to be seated in the sanctuary before the eleven o’clock service begins; Sister Hamilton was just wrapping up the Sunday school announcements.  Today is Youth Sunday and because the youth choir is singing, we can hardly find a seat due to the choir members sitting in the pews instead of in the choir stand.

Finally we get seated and settled right at the moment Sister Hamilton announces that our church; Bethel Missionary Baptist, has been invited to render two selections at Praise Tabernacle Church’s third Annual Musical Concert being held Saturday, May 19th. I felt my face flush as I thought, ‘Oh great that’s Nye’s church; I’ll have to play another game of hide & seek. This really needs to stop; I can’t keep going out of my way to avoid him.’ Nye is my twin brother, Zinye Benjamin Rustin is his full name, and I am Zinora Ruth Rustin-Patterson, but all my life I have been called “Z.” Today is March 25th and next month on the 28th Nye and I will be twenty four. That sounds like a blessing; right? Well, it would be if only we were speaking to each other. This birthday will denote our 7th year of “rifting.” The truth being told, the last time we said “hi” directly to one another was the day Wardell and I married; four years ago this coming June 22nd. I don’t want to think about Nye right now, I need to concentrate on the Word this morning and not get worked up and leave church mad!

The youth did a great job today, and the music was outstanding. They rendered three songs and one of them was written by two of the Youth Choir members and it had a rap in the chorus. Young 17 year old Jonathan Moore did an excellent job bringing the Word. He taught from I Samuel 17:33; “And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” Jonathan went into detail explaining to us that as young as David was, God used him and caused His Super to come upon David’s natural and Goliath was defeated. He encouraged all of us actually, not just the youth to seek after the Lord’s will for our lives and for us to be obedient to the Word and the Lord will cause His Super to come upon our natural and we will do great exploits for God. He also encouraged us older members to pray and support the youth as they endeavor to do Gods work. We gave him a standing ovation; he was very inspiring.

After being dismissed, I briefly spoke with my Mother-in-love (law) Ma Patterson, and she mentioned to me how much she would love to hear me sing, “Endow Me,” one of her favorite church songs. She reminded me that the very first time she saw me, I was singing that song and she has told me several times well over; how much she loves that song and the way I sing it. She hoped I would sing it at the Praise Tabernacle Musical in May and she was planning on being there in hopes Nye and I would do another duet. I informed her that the choir director chose all of the music selections. She gave me her famous grin while saying she would be praying I would sing a lead; the grin that makes you nervous because when Ma Patterson prays, well, let’s just say things happen. Standing here right now looking at her reminds me of Mama, she smiles at me like that when she talks about my singing.

This reminds me we are having lunch at Mama and Daddy’s today, always on fourth Sunday, so I had better get Nicki; our 2 year old so we can get going. The Sundays I sing in the choir and my husband Wardell works with the videography ministry, Vedette, one of his sisters keeps Nicki with her during service and today even though I didn’t sing, Nicki wanted to sit with Auntie Dette; as she puts it. I hug Ma bye and head towards the pew to wake Nicki up so we can head home and change clothes.

Wardell works with the church videography ministry one Sunday a month and today he’s working, actually chaperoning the equipment while in the hands of our youth. He sees us and puts up his index finger, indicating to give him a minute; I nod back at him and smile. While waiting for him to finish up, Nicki indicates she wants to get down from my arms and join her cousins as they play “IT.” Phoebe, another sister of Wardell, and I started talking and she also brought up the subject of the Musical and how she hoped I would sing a solo, however she didn’t bring Nye into the conversation like Ma did.

I have the second and fourth Sunday lunch at Mama and Daddy’s and Nye gets the first and third Sundays and we all do 5th Sunday’s at our own homes. On the Sundays we have lunch with my parents, we go home after church to change clothes then head over Mama’s with a dessert; usually something I made the night before. Today, during the drive home from church Wardell asked if I planned to attend the Musical at Praise Tabernacle and as I answered “yes” I looked him in the eyes. He gave me a long look while driving. I asked what the look was for and he replies, “Baby don’t you think this conflict has gone on long enough between you and Nye? I think you should seriously consider calling him and make amends.” I just sat there refusing to remove my stare from him while he turned to watch traffic. He knew I was staring but he ignored me. I don’t want to get worked up in front of Nicki so I slowly turned my head towards the passenger window.

We don’t argue because Wardell goes silent but; when it comes to the subject of Nye and I, well, I rant on and on about how nobody tells Nye to apologize; just me! I am known to slam cabinets when I get mad but for the most part; I am very mild mannered. Wardell and I talk about everything and the only time I even raise my voice is to laugh out loud or when the subject about ME apologizing to Nye comes up. Wardell never raises his voice, he just changes his tone to stern and believe me that works! I turned my whole body and faced my window, away from Wardell and even though my eyes were fixed on the people outside my window; my mind was prevailing over my eyes because I couldn’t tell you what was going on. I was so deep in thought; ‘dear, dear man, you’ve got it so twisted; I didn’t do anything to Nye, he started this mess and he’s the one that should break out the vacuum cleaner, broom and soft scrub to clean it up!’ The rest of the ride home I thought about when all of this nonsense started, when we turned 17.

Mama and Daddy always prayed for us on our birthday and, because this was our 17th, Daddy had all four of us gather in the living room before we went to bed the night before our birthday and told us we needed the Lords direction for our futures so he anointed both Nye and me with oil and him and Mama prayed over us. We all felt the presence of the Lord and Daddy decreed the Holy Spirit to guide us into the lighted pathway we were predestined to take and he took authority over any spirit that would try to hinder the perfect will of the Most High God for our futures. I went to bed that night so full of peace. I just knew the Lord was going to direct me in my future and I smiled until I fell asleep.

About three weeks later I had confirmation; I wanted to become a cosmetologist! I remember being so excited that evening while we had dinner, I kept talking about how I have always loved to do hair and makeup for as long as I could remember. I explained to Mama, Daddy and Nye about how earlier that day, I heard a television preacher say most times our gifts and talents are known to us when we are children however, the devil has ways of making us belittle our thoughts and more than often we let the air out of our own dream balloon believing our negative thoughts instead of the Word of the Lord.

The scripture he used was John 10:10, where Jesus was teaching, and it states, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” I leaped up off the sofa! I felt as though he was speaking directly to me; I was so happy I had confirmation on my future! After I shared that information at the dinner table, Mama said she was so proud of me because so many people spend years attending college and never use their credentials. Daddy smiled so big and told me he believed assisting others in looking better was conducive to assisting others in feeling better and, that could be a ministry in itself, not just a job.

Later, as Nye and I were drying the dishes, I noticed how quiet he was but I thought he was still thinking about what he wanted to do. When I asked him if he was okay, he sharply snapped back at me, “Shut up Z, just shut up!” And he threw the towel down on the counter and went to his room and slammed the door. I finished drying the dishes and before I went to my room, I softly tapped on his bedroom door and called his name. He abruptly opened his door and coldly said, “What do you want; I’m trying to finish my homework.” “Nye, what’s wrong, you wanna talk?” He gave me a blank stare and slammed the door in my face. I stood there trying to think of what I could have said to him that would have him so upset. I began rewinding tonight’s events and conversations trying to make sense out of his reaction to me as I stood in front of his closed door. Walking across the hall to my room, I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and the more I thought about it the more confused I became, what just happened…..

For the next week or so I tried to make conversation with him, but he would either stare at me, or roll his eyes and walk away. About two weeks after he became distant, one evening Mama and Daddy attended a church meeting and we were home alone so I had made my mind up that I was going to get to the bottom of this distance Nye had caused between us; I was missing him something fierce. We were sitting at the kitchen table doing homework, I watched him real close to see if I could pick up something, anything that would give me a clue as to what was bothering him. I watched him looking for something and when he jumped up from the table headed to his room; I waited until he walked pass me and I quietly laid my book aside and tipped toed behind him. He felt my presence and abruptly stopped. I walked around him, and got right in his face and he looked at me as if in disbelief I had the nerve to ambush him.

I extended my neck and fixed a real serious look on my face; he slowly backed up as his eyes grew larger and larger. As I looked up smack dab in his eyes I could see his emotion turn from a question into fear and I stepped right along with him until he was pinned into a corner in the dining room then I sternly said, “Look Nye, tell me what’s wrong with you right NOW!” His expression of fear slowly drained from his face, and he conjured up a smirk and said very calmly, “I’m the oldest even if it’s only by three minutes; get out of my face before I hurt you!” I stood there gazing into his eyes and in them was a look that gave me a chill. He was so cold and for the first time in our lives, I felt this disconnection I had never ever experienced before from Nye. I had never seen such coldness in his eyes before.

As I stood there in front of him I realized my heart was racing and for the first time ever; I was scared of my brother, really scared of him, so I backed away, slowly, in silence and, in disbelief. Nye had totally disconnected us, I mean…. I went straight to my room, closed the door, laid across my bed and cried; I literally whaled aloud as my heart ached from being severed from my best friend…….

After the intense pain subsided somewhat I had visions in my head of when we were very little and how I would follow him everywhere he went. I remembered how I could look into his eyes and know what he was thinking. Sometimes I would casually gaze into his eyes and ask without saying a word if he was alright and he would nod his head yes in reply to my question. I thought about how I would rest my head on his shoulder and he would say to me, “Thanks Z, I needed that.” I lay across my bed crying as my heart ached for a conversation with him like we used to have. Or just share a deep gut felt laugh.

I recalled how sometimes just the two of us would sit in the kitchen in silence reading and the only noise that could be heard was the turning of our pages. All of the things we did before had come to a screeching halt and at that time, I had no clue as to why, and that alone was a stab to my heart. There really were no words to describe the depth of pain I was experiencing, not one word………

Well, we have arrived home from church, now to get changed and head over to Mamas; I am so hungry, man! I feel a little queasy. While walking up to Mamas front door Wardell puts his arm around my waist and asks if I’m alright, I tell him yeah because I don’t want him to know I’m thinking about Nye. He knows how thinking of Nye affects me and his response is always the same; I should be the one to end this madness and I really don’t want to hear it, especially today. It seems since I heard that announcement about our church being invited to Nye’s church; I’ve been kinda out of sorts as Mama would say.

Daddy greets us at the front door and grabs Nicki out of Wardells arms. She loves her grandparents and both grandfathers have this tickle game going on with her. She has the most infectious laugh, a gut felt laughter that makes any one hearing it laugh, and we all love to hear her bellow it out. Wardell was with me in the delivery room and as soon as she could be seen by us, he took one look at her and said, “Look at how hairy she is, and beautiful, she looks like a little kitten.” So when Mama and Daddy arrived at the hospital, I told them what Wardell said and from that day to this, Daddy and Wardell call her Lil Kitten. As she leaps into Daddy’s arms he says, “Hey there Lil Kitten, what you know good?” Then the tickling begins.

After I put my jacket on the sofa I head into the kitchen to help Mama get the foods on the table. We hug and for some strange reason it seems to me her hug is a little tighter than usual today. We end our embrace; I look deep into her eyes to see if I can read what’s going on with her. Because Matthew 6 verse 22, states, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.” Nye and I were taught that scripture means the eyes are the mirror to your soul; we both have a lifelong habit of looking each other and other people directly into their eyes when we want to get an idea of where their heart is, so, because Mama gave me a tight and long hug; I wanted to leer deep into her eyes and see if I can figure out what was going on with her. I held her hand and looked her in the eyes and said, “Mama, what’s going on with you today?” “Oh baby I miss having you around is all, mauh!” She hauls off and pecks me on the cheek.

I love my Mama and looking into her big light brown eyes reminds me of how much she loves me. I gave her a big mauh right back and we both chuckled while headed to the sink to wash our hands and commence to putting the hot foods on the table. As we ate our scrumptious lunch; homemade Turkey Pot Pie and fresh garden salad with our choice of dressings along with piping hot croissants plus iced tea with a hint of mint, we listened to Daddy as he tells us word for word, about the sermon today he and Mama heard. I found myself half listening and half reminiscing. I sit in what was Nye’s seat while we were growing up, on Daddy’s right. Nicki sits in my seat; on Mama’s left, and Wardell sits on the opposite side of the table in front of me; on Daddy’s left. Before we married, Wardell would come over on Sundays and always sat to Mama’s right; across from me. So sitting here now reminds me of the dinners we had and how Nye would sit here silent most of the time after our 17th birthday.

I am reminded about a dinner we had a few days after Nye had quit talking to me. We were all sitting around this very table when Daddy asked Nye if he was alright; did he want to share anything. I think by now it was obvious to Daddy that Nye was not himself. My eyes were glued to Nye as I watched him politely rest his fork on his plate then turn his head and look directly at Daddy while saying, “I’m doing quite well Daddy; everything is going pretty good for me right now.” He smiled and when Daddy smiled back and said, “Good son, just what I want to hear, that’s real good.” I noticed Nye turn from Daddy to Mama and give her a smile and nod and then he glanced my way and gave me a short cold stare. He calmly picked his fork up again and finished eating. I was sitting there looking at him, trying to see if there was something, anything I could sense from him that would give me a clue as to what was it that had him so upset with me! Nothing was what I got, nothing; it was as if he purposefully went void so I couldn’t pick up on his emotions.

At that moment I became furious with Nye for blocking me out, what has gotten into him? Then it occurred to me ‘maybe he’s going through something he doesn’t want me to worry about and he’s protecting me in his own way.’ It was then sitting at this very table, I decided to leave Nye alone, whatever was bothering him; when he was ready to talk to me I would be here to listen, so I decided to just watch him and pray for him to get over whatever it was bothering him. Later that same night while I was getting ready for bed, Mama came into my room and asked me what was going on between me and Nye; something was off and she could sense it. I told her I had no clue and when I tried to talk to him about why he was so distant towards me, he shut me completely out. As I told her I thought he was going through something and didn’t want me to be affected by it; I began to cry and she walked over to my bed, sat down and extended her arms out to me.

I scooted to her and allowed my mothers arms to console me while I cried. While holding and comforting me she rubbed my arm and after my flow of tears ceased, she told me she’d have Daddy talk to Nye and get to the bottom of this. She couldn’t stand to see this space between us because for 17 years we have always shared everything and her heart was aching knowing we were detached. I think a week or so had gone by when Daddy came into my room and asked what did I think was bothering Nye, and when exactly did I notice him becoming distant with me. I thought about it for a minute and told him it was the night I announced I wanted to become a cosmetologist. Daddy was standing in front of my dresser with his back up against it and with both hands in his pockets jingling his change. He stared deeply into my eyes absorbing my every word nodding every so often.

I told him about the night I cornered Nye in the dining room and when I told Daddy that Nye said he was the oldest by 3 minutes, his eyes became distant, as though he had just walked out of the room, and the pocket change jingling abruptly stopped. I sat there on my bed holding onto my history book staring into his eyes, realizing he was not in the room with me mentally; I went silent, waiting for him to return to our conversation. A few moments later; as if he had woke from a sleep; he was back looking at me and calmly said he would talk to Nye. Then he smiled his warm Daddy smile at me and told me not to worry, everything would be as it was soon. He walked over to me and I got up on my knees in the bed, and my Daddy hugged me so tight.

When he told me that he would talk to Nye and everything would be as it should and for me not to worry, water began to fill my eyes. His voice almost cracked while telling me he loved me and was so proud I was his daughter, and he quickly turned and left my room. As I watched the door close, I felt as if everything would be back to usual soon because if Daddy says he will talk to Nye, and everything would be back as it was; I knew it would happen just as my Daddy says it would and I smiled so big, Daddy is taking care of the situation, ah, I can rest assured now!

Sitting here now as we finish eating the homemade Turkey Pot Pie Mama made, I realize I have always felt safe having my Daddy around, we all felt safe with him being our covering. You must understand; my Daddy is a strong, yet very sensitive man. He will fight any man to protect his family and pray in the spirit to fight the devil and every power and principality, however, he will get watery eyed when one of us is hurting. He is a Rustin force to reckon with when it comes to protecting his family though, I mean!

In church he cries almost as much as Mama does; but don’t get it twisted! He’s no softie; he’s just sensitive and compassionate, but my Daddy is every bit a man’s man, believe you me. I tune back in on the conversation and Daddy is really into the recap of this morning’s sermon. As I look at him and hear his deep voice I’m reminded of an incident that happened when we were about 6 or 7 years old. Daddy’s baby sister, Aunt Ruthie May came to spend a night with us on her way to Des Moines, Iowa. It was her first time visiting us here in Kansas City, Mo. and Mama was so glad.

We must have cleaned every wall in the house and Mama cleaned mirrors and light bulbs in every room. Daddy’s baby sister was coming and she wanted everything to look nice for her sister-in –law. We all went to the train station on a Saturday afternoon to pick her up and I remember witnessing Daddy grab a shoe shine man by the throat and I heard my Daddy say some real bad words I didn’t think he knew. All because the man cursed in front of us. Daddy turned towards the man and said, “Hey man, there are women and children present, watch your language.”

The shoe shine man chuckled as he told Daddy, “Come on man I’m sure they have heard those words before.” Daddy put a lot of base in his voice and said; “Maybe, but you’re gonna respect my wife and kids, so apologize to my wife right now.” The man laughed as he threw the rag he had in his hand over his shoulder. The next thing I knew, Daddy grabbed him by the throat and lifted him up and off the ground. Mama pulled us close to herself and stepped back while shouting in a quivering voice, “DAVID, DAVID, honey stop before you kill the man!” Just like that; he let the man go and while the base was still in his voice he yelled, “Apologize before I make her leave!” The man held his throat while stretching his neck and chokingly said, “Ma’am; please accept my apology, I’m very sorry to have disrespected you and your kids.” Then he looked at daddy and said, “Sorry man, I’m sorry.” The shoe shine man collected his box and left, still rubbing and stretching his neck. That was the first time I witnessed my Daddy in confrontation with another man.

The last time was in church. We were about 13 or 14 and by now Mama wasn’t the pianist for the choir, she only assisted the choir by playing the organ on most songs but when the older songs or the hymnals were being sang, she would have to switch places at the piano with Sister Cheryl. Sister Cheryl Hall was young, like in her mid-twenties and she knew all of the latest fast singing choir songs and could play her heart out, I mean! Daddy always sat on the Deacons row which is to the right of the choir stand right behind the piano player. Well, one Sunday while we were getting our robes on, as soon as Mama left the room headed for the Sanctuary, Daddy entered the doorway and stood there looking around the room. I thought he was looking for me or Nye because I knew he had to have seen Mama because she had just left so, as I zipped up my robe I watched him. He stopped searching the room and walked in and went straight to Brother Levi and said something to him.

I know my Daddy and the way he was acting, his eyes were pierced as he eyed Brother Levi; I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt something wasn’t right with the way my Daddy looked at Brother Levi so I looked around the room for Nye and made eye contact and directed my eyes to Daddy then back to Nye and Nye gave me a nod. We both eased out of the room and followed Daddy and Brother Levi. We were careful not to let Daddy know he was being followed. Daddy walked slowly and took a peek into a few of the classrooms whose doors were opened and the third door he peeked into he stopped and walked in and Brother Levi followed his lead. We stood completely still hoping and praying silently that he wouldn’t turn around because we had no explanation as to why we were following them. Brother Levi didn’t quite close the door all the way so we tip toed up to the door and listened.

Did we both get an ear full! Daddy said, “Take this as a warning, keep your eyes on my wife and I swear fo god I’ll get up in front of the church and beat you till you can’t see.” We heard Brother Levi say, “You must be insecure having a wife that fine thinking every man looking at her is a threat.” The next thing we heard was a thump on the wall and Daddy yelling, “I wasn’t born a deacon, I’m a man. I see the way you look at my wife watching her every move.” Thump! Bam! Nye pushed the door all the way back and walked into the room, I’m right behind him and by now some of the choir members are behind us and we are all stretching our necks trying to see into the room. When we step completely into the room we see Daddy bent over with some of Brother Levis’ robe in his left hand and his right hand is bald up in a fist and up in the air. Brother Levi has one leg hanging over a stack of chairs lined up against the wall and his fist is up in the air aimed for Daddy’s face. As Daddy turned to face us, his eyes go directly to Nye’s and immediately he says, “I was just helping Brother Levi get up, he tripped.” Brother Levi co-signs the lie, “Yeah, uh, thanks, uh, I really appreciate it man.”

He gives us a fake smile as he stands straight up adjusting his choir robe. Daddy walks up to Nye and whispers, “Keep this from your mother, you hear me.” Daddy has his head tilted a little and his eyes are roaming the room taking in who all is observing what just happened as he pushes himself through the crowd that has appeared in the classroom. I listen to the murmurings; “What you suppose that was about?” “Yeah right, tripped my foot.” “Deacon Rustin? They say you gotta watch the quiet ones.” “Umm, something ain’t right chile.” Nye walked to the door way of the Sanctuary and stood still. I had hold of his robe at the elbow and when he stopped, he turned, looked at me and said, “You heard him; don’t say a word to Mama. Z, you heard him right.” He put his index finger over his mouth and turned from me and walked into the sanctuary, right up into the choir stand.

The whole time we were in the choir stand my eyes were glued to Daddy and his eyes were glued to Brother Levi. The few times I glanced over at Brother Levi, he was staring straight ahead, not at anything or anyone in particular, just straight ahead like into space. He dared not look at Mama. Yep, my Daddy may cry in the presence of the Lord, but he is definitely a man’s man, let me tell you! That’s why the night Daddy left my room I just knew he would straighten Nye out. In fact after Daddy left my room was the night I realized Nye was mad at me for making my decision about my future before he did!

He’s the oldest by 3 minutes, and is always bringing it up every chance he gets, I couldn’t believe it; Nye jealous! He doesn’t have a jealous bone in his body, I just couldn’t see him jealous of me, it just didn’t add up but the facts are the facts. I have always followed his lead and now I am on my own track and he can’t deal with it. It’s almost insulting to me; as if he thinks I can’t do anything without him suggesting what and when I do something, ugh! The nerve of him! I feel Ms. Pissed waking up in me. Okay calm down….alright she’s sleep, where was I?

Oh yeah, Daddy never did come tell me what he and Nye talked about, but after that night he would make Nye talk to me while at the dinner table. Daddy would say something like, “Nye, ask your sister to pass you the potatoes.” Or, “Nye, tell ‘Z’ who won the game.” That was the extent of Nye’s conversation with me; necessary conversation only. No small talk or sharing his corny jokes, not even the heart to hearts we used to have.

See, Nye would tell me everything and I felt like I had a sister most times because we were so close. He would be the first to say, “Did you see what she had on?” Or most times he would come to me and say, “Hey Z; let’s split a banana split, or let’s do this or what do you think about doing such and such.” We really had the twin thing going on, yeah, we had it…. and now…. I was missing “US” so badly. Ooh I feel queasy.

CHAPTER THREE

 Neither One Of Us

It’s on and crackin now!

“Zinora”

It’s Monday morning and even though I don’t take appointments until Wednesdays, through the week I get up at 7am with Wardell, fix him breakfast then study my daily Word and pray until Nicki gets up, which is usually by 8 am., this is my daily weekday routine. But today I overslept; I didn’t even hear the alarm go off for Wardell and I only have ten minutes before Nicki gets up. I go to the bathroom and climb back in bed and as I lay here I get that queasiness again and my mind goes back to Nye and how he was the one to keep this conflict with us fueled.

After High School graduation, I decided to work while attending Cosmetology School, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone; I would check out the shop life and get some first-hand information about the hair business. Reading about a subject is one thing, but hands on, now that’s the real deal. I became the Salon Assistant at every Salon I worked. I was responsible for shampooing, wrapping, mixing colors with supervision and general housekeeping.

The first shop I worked was for Jackie Cole. She was owner/operator of, “The Hair Specialist,” over on Broadway and East 18th Street and believe me, I learned a lot. When I started Cosmetology School in July, Nye went to work for one of the exclusive hotels downtown as a dishwasher and we hardly saw him. He would get home most nights a quarter to eleven, however, he was always home for Sunday dinner. Sunday nights when we were settled in our rooms, he would get on the piano and softly play.

I stopped counting the times I pulled my covers back and placed my feet on the floor, prompted to run tearfully to him and hug my only brother, but instead I would sit on the edge of my bed and weep. My heart craving to go sit next to him and lay my head on his shoulder as he emptied his heart on those piano keys. But he started this mess! Oh, I’m crying now thinking about how pierced my heart would be hearing him play from his. Some mornings Nye didn’t leave for work until after 8 am and I would hear him in the kitchen talking and laughing with Mama. A few times I hurried into the kitchen just to find out what was going on in his life but several minutes after my presence was known by him, he would go completely silent.

It took me a minute, but I figured out exactly what Nye was doing. He was shutting me completely out of his life, as if I had done something to hurt him or purposefully said something hurtful to or about him. The thought of him putting the blame on me for severing our relationship made me furious! I mean! So, I decided to wait until after he left the house before going into the kitchen. Just to let him know I could care less about what HE was doing. He can’t shut me out because I could care less! Ump, that’s me, care less Zinora Ruth AND; if Zinye Benjamin wants me to know what’s going on in his life, he’d better walk up to me and tell me like he has some sense! He’s the one who started this mess!….. Oh lay back down Ms. Pissed!

The week before our 18th birthday, April 21st, I finished my Cosmetology courses, and on our birthday Mama bought us an ice cream cake and we all toasted with bubbly Apple Cider to my finishing Cosmetology school. Nye only hit Mama’s glass, I guess he didn’t want to make it obvious not hitting my glass so he avoided Daddy’s glass also. He didn’t fool me one bit! After Cosmetology school, I went to work at, “Dontes’ Kutz Above,” a barber shop in Sugar Creek owned by Donte’ Klugh. While waiting to take my test I worked at, “Hair that Moves,” for Cherie Sanders, her salon is in North Blue Ridge. I left there and went to Lykins, MO and worked with Bianca and her husband Roberto, at, “Hair Dimensions.” Then I went to North India Mound and worked for Miss Mabel Mayweather at, “Good Hair Days.”

When I passed my test I prayed for direction and decided to keep working and learning while saving my money until I felt it was the right time to go on my own. I prayed for confirmation as to when it would be the right timing for me, I need to move in the right season. I kept my mouth closed and ears open and believe me, I learned a lot. The last Sunday in May, Memorial Day weekend, was when Wardell surprised me and officially asked me to marry him at dinner in front of my family.

It had been a little over a year that we had known each other and he had a year left in college so he thought a year was enough time for us to prepare for our wedding. After that Sunday, all of our conversations consisted mostly about us getting married the following year, it was so much to do. That was the day I met the whole Patterson family for the first time. After Wardell proposed he told Mama and Daddy he wanted his family to meet me, until then I was known as the girl that sang lead from Rose of Sharon COGIC church. He had informed his mother and father he was going to pop the question today and they insisted he bring me by and before he knew anything his Mother had all of his brothers and sisters and their kids coming over to meet me and congratulate us.

Wardell invited Mama and Daddy to follow us to his parents and of course Nye was welcome to ride with us; we would probably be there for a few hours at the least. I immediately looked at Daddy and he looked at Mama and after reading her face, he told us to go on, him and Mama would have his parents over one Sunday and break bread since it was official now I would become a Patterson. Daddy directed his eyes towards Nye and said, “Of course I can’t speak for Nye.” We all directed our attention to Nye and he squirmed a little in his seat and managed to look Wardell in the face and say, “Today is a special day for the both of you, I’ll wait with Mama and Daddy to meet your parents, but thanks for the invite Wardell, I appreciate it.” When he said the word appreciate; he almost choked from sentiment. I almost said something to him but I was choking from trying not to cry, the moment was so tender. Instead I looked at Nye and to my surprise he stood up as he told us he had to run. When he pushed his chair in, he looked at Wardell and sincerely said, “Wardell, Z could not have done better by my standards, congrats man.” And he walked over to Wardell and gave him a good heartfelt hug. Mama and I sat there sniffing and wiping our noses, we were so full of gratitude because we both knew Nye meant what he was saying. It was so moving I was rendered speechless as I watched him hug our parents and walk over to me and place his hand on my shoulder.

I know Nye; he was fighting giving me a hug, I could just feel it! Oh why didn’t I just grab and hug my brother while I had the chance. I couldn’t move I was so full of emotion, the man I love wants me to spend the rest of my life with him and my brother actually physically touched me after not speaking a word directly to me in almost 2 years, I was speechless and motionless, I mean! We all sat there silent, and after the door closed from Nye’s leaving, Daddy suggested Wardell and I get going; his family was probably waiting for us. I didn’t get nervous about meeting his family until we were walking up to the door.

He took me inside the house through the side door after parking his 1994 Ford Focus under the carport. He grabbed my hand and told me to just be myself and they will love me just as he does, then he gave my hand a slight squeeze. I was so scared, the room was filled with Patterson’s, wall to wall and the noise, my goodness! Kids were running chasing one another, laughter and music in the background, I had a flashback of when Nye and I were little and we visited Mama’s side of the family and with Wardell holding my hand, it was like Nye holding my hand and so; I relaxed and fell in love with the whole Patterson clan. I mean!

Later that evening Wardell dropped me off at home and as soon as I walked in the kitchen door, I was startled because Mama was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me and she asked, “Well, tell me all about your future in-laws.” Then she pointed at the chair next to herself for me to have a seat. She was so excited and wanting me to describe Ma Patterson so she could remember what she looked like; it had been a while since the musical. At first I thought Mama was trying to see if I had really met Wardells’ family and had stayed at his parents the whole time we were gone, but when she began asking me questions about Ma Patterson, I realized she really wanted to know what kind of woman Ma was.

I pulled my chair in close to Mama and described everything; giving her a visual as if she were there. We laughed and talked so, it was like having Nye to talk to and before I went to bed she told me that she was so glad to have me for a daughter and Wardell has shown he was properly raised by Christian parents and she was actually looking forward to meeting all of the Patterson’s. Mama had water in her eyes as she said that to me.

She realized she had watery eyes and told me that if she had ten daughters, she would still experience sorrow watching me walk away from her and into my own home. “Don’t mind me Chile, you will have to have a daughter to understand this mixed feeling a mother gets knowing she has raised her daughter for someone else’s son. Oh my lord, what am I going to do when Nye gets a wife and moves out, Oh for heaven’s sake!” As she patted her eyes and waved her hand around, we laughed not knowing Mama was soon to find out what it was going to feel like to have Nye move out….

The 4th of July is when my parents met the Patterson’s. Ma and Pops had a big bar-b-queue at their home and we were told to bring a dish that could feed at least twenty people so Mama decided to make her baked beans. I think she was nervous because she changed clothes three times before we left the house and she checked the beans twice in the car to make sure they weren’t dried out. We all had a great time eating, playing games and eating some more and the karaoke was hilarious!

When they started dancing, Mama and Daddy headed home, but not before telling Ma and Pops they had a ball; and they meant it because Daddy hasn’t been that tickled in a long while. He doubled over at one point during the karaoke, laughing so hard; I mean! Sunday, July 8th, while we were all sitting around having dinner and commenting on how tender and delicious the roast pork was; all of a sudden Nye loudly clears his throat, smiles real big and announced to us he had found an apartment in Coleman Highlands and would be moving out on the 31st. I gasped out loud and when everyone looked at me, I covered my mouth and stared at Nye as he held his stare back at me.

It was so quiet you could hear the electricity humming from the refrigerator all the way in the kitchen and I kid you not, my heart sank; to think I would never see Nye again hurt me deeply; I felt as if the doctor had just told me I was going to die on July 31st. Wardell broke the silence when he said, “Nye, do you need a roommate, that’s high rent district isn’t it?” Nye smiled and said, “Thanks for being concerned Wardell, but I make good money and can afford it.” Mama began stuttering as she looked over at Daddy while trying to get her words out, “Nye, honey, um, now, um, you must come to dinner on Sundays so we can know all of the great things happening in your life, yeah, we want to know what great things are happening.” Her voice began to crack and she looked at Nye as if she was never going to see him again. Her eyes quickly glanced back over at Daddy and she composed herself and continued speaking in a low tone that was apologetic, “Now I don’t want you to think I’m babying you, being my only son and all, but, I, I mean, we love you so much and you’ve got to come to dinner; Okay?”

Daddy interjects, “Son you can come home any time, not just Sunday’s for dinner and I know we’ll see you at church, right?” I’m looking at Nye the whole time Daddy is speaking to him, and he has a genuine smile on his face; he is really happy! He responds, “Ok, ok, I’ll stop by just because, and definitely be here for Sunday dinners and believe me when I say I have no intensions of not attending church; the Lord has been too good to me. Besides, I’m just moving out of the house, not to another state, come on you guys!” Nye is laughing, I mean sincere heartfelt laughter, I haven’t seen him do that in over 2 years and my heart is deeply warmed. Why did he have to start this mess! He glances at me and gets this sneer on his face like, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah,” But only towards me. Oh now I feel Ms. Pissed Completely Off waking up in me!

What is this vendetta really about, and why does he insist on keeping it going with me? I looked at Wardell and opened my mouth to say something, anything and he kicked me under the table while shaking his head ‘NO’. Later when Wardell leaves, as we hug bye, he softly says in my ear, “Don’t let him move out with this grudge, Zinora, just apologize.” “I’ll think about it.” Was what I snapped back at him. I was definitely going to think about it alright! Nye started this mess, why should I be the one to apologize? Didn’t I try to talk to him? Didn’t I? Ugh!

Well, sure enough on Tuesday, July the 31st Nye had two movers come and put his bedroom furniture in a short moving truck. After I heard the doorbell ring I came out of my room and went into the kitchen where Mama was on the phone whispering to Daddy that the truck was really here. When she heard me enter the kitchen she told Daddy she would call him back later. She was wiping her face off with her apron and she was, as she would say; “Jittery as a runaway slave!”

I stand here watching her as she pulls out some of her odd dishes and pots and pans and as she places each piece on the counter, she wipes her eyes, looks at me and says, “Nye might need these.” I began to blink back tears, feeling Mama’s heart hurting. She would jump every time one of the men walked through the living room as she turned to see if they were done. She says, “Nye might need some cooking utensils and giving him some of these odd pieces would help him save a….” She stopped talking because her voice started trembling and she turned away from me and pulled out a Kleenex from her apron pocket and held it over her nose.

I just stood there unable to move. Nye was walking back and forth showing them what to take as he put his clothes from his closet into his 89 Chevy Short Bed Pick-up. When I was able to move, I positioned myself in the kitchen by the back door so I could watch everything and noticed Nye glancing into the kitchen each time he re-entered the house. I could tell he was worried how Mama was taking his moving out. She smiled whenever she noticed Nye looking at her but she was wiping tears off her face when he wasn’t looking. It only took the movers less than forty-five minutes to load up his things; and they were gone.

It seemed like only a few minutes had passed when Nye slowly walked into the kitchen. He stood in the doorway looking at Mamas’ back, waiting for her to turn around and face him. He glanced up at me and I could see the pain so obviously written on his face; pain he knew he had caused our dear sweet humorous mother because he has chosen to grow up and move out of the house we grew up in. She wiped her face and looked up into my eyes and smiled as if to say, ‘Okay, now it’s time for me to be a big girl; watch and see how it’s to be done.’

As she slowly turned she made every effort to stand as straight as she possibly could and she placed a smile on her face as her arms automatically extended out to Nye. He slowly walked into our mothers loving embrace. As I stood there witnessing this historic event, I felt tears hit my blouse as Nye embraced her and closed his eyes. When he started speaking, I moved to stand in the kitchen doorway purposely just to see if as he left, he would apologize to me for the 2 years of torture he put me through by not speaking to me, but as he hugged Mama and said, “I love you so much, mere words can’t express how much.”

His voice was beginning to crack and he quickly let go of Mama and spun around and when he saw me standing there I jumped because I was standing and crying. I gazed real deep into his eyes hoping, praying he’d ask for forgiveness because I wanted so terribly to hug him and say, “I love you too!” But he quickly turned to leave…out of the back door instead of walking pass me. As I lay here I am crying uncontrollably. Remembering the disappointment I felt watching him avoid me and thinking, ‘that stubborn Nye, he started this mess! This is so ridiculous!’

I hear the pitter patter of Nicki’s little feet coming my way so I rise up and look towards the door knob for her to appear. Sure enough she appears in the doorway peeking around the doorpost at me. We both break out with our smiles as she runs to me and jumps up on my bed I extend my arms out to her. As we hug she says, “lub you Mommy.”

Her words cause me to lose it and I hug her so tight. “Gotta potty.” Is what she utters as she squirms to get lose from my embrace. I get up with her and we go into my bathroom for her to use. As she sits there with feet dangling back and forth she asks, “What’s matter mommy?” I stand there looking at my beautiful little baby and realize she senses my pain and I wonder if love is equivalent to twin intuition. I get her hands washed and we get teeth brushed and faces washed and off to the kitchen we go for some Monday morning breakfast.

While Nicki climbs up into her high chair, I phone Mama to get my Monday morning update while I fix breakfast for the two of us. Um, Mama’s not answering. The voice mail recording comes on so I leave a message. “I’m calling a little later than usual because I overslept. Call me when you get this message, love you bye.” Wonder where she went this morning, probably to the supermarket.

After Nye and Von married; Mama and Mrs. Gibson became close while planning a wedding reception for them since they didn’t have a wedding the family could attend. I was still living at home and every time Mama would come home from wherever she and Mrs. Gibson had gone shopping for the reception; I would sit at the kitchen table and listen as she gave me every detail as to what had happened. The reception was at the Gibson’s and I dropped by their house and stayed for about thirty minutes then left.

I was so emotional and people would pause or double take when they looked me in the face and they’d stand in front of me staring. I knew they were thinking, ‘She looks just like Nye but with acne.’ And the thought of my twin and only brother and I weren’t speaking was constant the whole while I was there so, I quietly left. After Nye and Von changed their membership from Rose of Sharon, Von would update Mrs. Gibson on everything happening with them, then Mama and Mrs. Gibson would talk every Monday morning and after they talked, Mama would call me with the update.

Von had the twins three days after we left for our honeymoon so a week after Wardell and I returned from our honeymoon, I received a Monday morning call giving me the full blown details on all that had transpired while I was away. After Nicki arrived Mama waited for me to phone her on Monday mornings when it’s convenient for me so I can keep in the loop of things going on with Nye and his family. I kinda know what Nye is doing through Mama….

This nonsense needs to end, I miss him so much lately and don’t know why….sniff, I have become a crying mess since Sister Hamilton made her announcement, where are the tissues….

While Nicki and I eat our Malt-o-meal and toast; I take another trip down memory lane remembering the Sunday Wardell and I told my family we had set our wedding date. It was the last Sunday in August after Nye had moved out. I was working in the local salons and Nye was still washing dishes downtown.

Nye and Wardell came over every Sunday for dinner and just before we finished eating I said, “Ok, you know we have been making plans to get married so… we’ve put our deposit down to reserve our wedding date. It will be held at the Intercontinental Kansas City Plaza and our wedding is set for next year, the last Saturday in June, the 24th.”

As Mama stood up to come hug me, she smiled and said, “I knew something was up with you two, I’m so happy for you!” Daddy smiled and nodded his head as he looked at Wardell, he feels like the Lord put us together besides; we met like him and Mama; at a church musical. Nye pushed his seat out abruptly and slammed his napkin down on the table as if he were going to storm out of the house, but Daddy used his base voice and said, “Nye! Sit your butt back down. Your sister and soon to be brother-in-law just announced they’re getting married and you are going to be polite AND HAPPY for her; do I make myself clear?”

By now Daddy has both hands on the table and is half sitting and half standing as if he were in position to grab Nye if need be. I could see the veins popping out on the side of Nye’s neck and he closed his eyes for a few seconds to compose himself as he meekly says, “Yes sir.” While his eyes moves from Daddy he plasters a fake smile on his face, and directs his eyes to me and politely nods as he says, “I wish you the best Z, and you too Wardell.”

After he turns to face Wardell, then he directs his attention right back towards Daddy as if for approval. I knew the smile was fake he can’t fool me, but I play it off and reach across the table and grab Wardell’s hand and look at Nye and give him a fake smile right back, while saying sarcastically, “Thank you Nye.” Mama started asking all kinds of questions about what we had planned while Daddy, Nye and Wardell just sat there listening; well Daddy and Wardell anyway. I glimpsed over at Nye a few times and he still had that fake smile but his eyes never left the table cloth.

As Wardell was leaving, I walked him to the kitchen door and he asked, “Baby don’t you think you need to talk to Nye; he’s your twin, maybe he needs to feel included in our wedding; AND…. You need to be the one to make him feel that way, huh, what you think?” He takes his hand and slightly lifts my chin and looks me in the eyes then add, “Give it some thought ok?” After I let out a sigh, I tell him ok, but I’m thinking, ‘Nye started this mess!’ But I smile, kiss him on the cheek and tell him bye. Oh yeah, it was on and crackin now! Nye made it clear to me he wanted nothing else to do with me and my life; he can fool everybody BUT ME! I know him because I’m part of him. So, whenever he’d show up at the house, I would close the door to my room.

Sometimes he would sit at the piano and play, and I kid you not; my heart would ache so, it was hard for me not to run to him and hug him so tight neither one of us could hardly breathe, but I didn’t do anything to him, so he should be the one to come running to me! In front of other people he was polite, he avoided eye contact with me altogether but when we were alone and our eyes would meet; I saw the anger in his and it infuriated me because all I did was make a decision; huh, not my fault he’s a dishwasher because he doesn’t know what he wants to be!

“Mommy’s trying?” Nicki has finished her breakfast and now, as I look up into her little brown eyes, I feel as if her eyes are reading the hurt in my heart, I’m sitting here at the breakfast table crying as I think about how much I miss my brother, what’s wrong with me? I push my seat back and reach my arms out to my precious baby and hug her so tight. Her little tiny hands are patting me on my back so lovingly to console me. I was finally able to collect my emotions.

I seem to be out of sorts ever since Sister Hamilton made the announcement about our choir being invited to sing at Nye’s church. Looking at my precious little joy, I’m reminded she’ll be turning 3 on May 1st, and, even though she looks like me; she has Wardell’s ways. The whole Patterson clan is kind hearted, loving and tender spirited people. That’s why I love them so and my two personal Patterson’s, oh how my heart throbs at the sight of either one of them. I take her little hand and open it then bring it up to my face and tenderly kiss it. I close my eyes for a second and when I open them I notice how long her fingers are. I truly believe Nicki will be tall like Wardell’s side of the family even though she was only 18 inches long at birth, and 8 pounds, she came into this world looking like a little hairy butterball to me.

I am 5’ 6”; caramel color skin with light brown colored eyes; real thick sandy brown hair and my eyebrows are so thick I have them threaded every 2 weeks. My only physical flaw is I have very serious acne. Both Nye and I had it when we turned twelve, his cleared up but I couldn’t get rid of mine no matter what I used and trust me when I tell you Mama and Daddy spent a lot of money on my face. I mean! The only time it cleared was when I was pregnant with Nicki. After she was born, most of the acne reappeared and I kept five pounds from the pregnancy weight, but being 110 pounds instead of 105 isn’t too bad. Besides, Wardell loves the extra hips on me.

He’s number six of nine children and they are all by the same mother and father, which is rare these days. The Patterson’s are a very close family and they are the first family I witnessed being balanced in their lives as Christians. Me being raised Pentecostal or a Holy Roller, all of my childhood; when I became a Patterson and spent a lot of time with them, I realized not every Baptist smoked on the church grounds, drink liquor and cussed. They dance a lot when they get together, but when you think about it; so do us Pentecostals, we just dance in church! Wardell has five brothers; Linell Jr., Ronald, Clarence, Earl and Sheldon. His three sisters are; Aretha, Phoebe and Vedette. Earl, Sheldon and Vedette are younger than Wardell, as a matter of fact, Sheldon is the baby in his family and he’s 3 months older than I am and we all get along well.

They all treat me like a sister and my mother-in-law, Denise; introduces me as her daughter-in love. When she makes her 3 and 4 way calls on the phone, I answer, “Yes Ma,” right along with my sister in-laws. Yes indeed, my Patterson family is very loving and supportive of me and Wardell. All of the Patterson children are tall like Mrs. Patterson. She’s tall and heavyset now and Mr. Patterson is about 2 feet shorter than her, but neither one of them is bothered by it. His face still lights up when she enters the room, even after 33 years of marriage: I think that’s wonderful! Ronald, Wardell and Sheldon are dark skinned like Mr. Patterson. Phoebe is light skinned like Mrs. Patterson and the rest of his siblings are mocha brown, and they all have dark almost black colored deep set eyes with thick eyebrows.

Nicki’s eyebrows are a combination of mine and her Uncle Sheldon. They almost run together, there is very little space between their brows without hair. And, it’s amazing how strong Mr. Patterson’s genes are, all of the males are muscular and bowlegged like their father. All of the females are tall and thin like Ma Patterson was when she was young. All of my sister-in-loves have Ma Patterson’s beautiful thick hair and pretty smooth skin. Hopefully Nicki will take after the Paterson females and won’t have to live with this acne. She already has their loving, compassionate disposition. And I thank the Lord for that!

On Monday and Tuesdays after breakfast, I walk Nicki around the corner to our neighborhood park. So I clear the table and take the pork chops out of the freezer to thaw and Nicki and I head to my room. She jumps up on my bed and watches the Christian learning channel while I get showered and dressed. After I’m ready, we go to get Nicki bathed and dressed, I grab our jackets and off we go.

While sitting on the bench waiting for my baby to enjoy her play time, this car drives by with music blasting and it makes me think about growing up with Nye. There were so many times Nye and I would be in our bedrooms doing homework and out of the blue he would go into the living room and start playing the intro to Tramaine Hawkins, ‘Changed,’ to get me to come out of my room. That was MY song! I believe I memorized the words in fifteen minutes when I first heard it, and for the next few months that song was all I sang.

Every time I would sing it with the choir, the whole church would be moved. Nye knew that song touched my soul when I sang it and every so often he’d be playing a medley of songs and when he wanted me to come and sit with him, all he had to do was start playing the intro to ‘Changed’ and I would appear by his side. I miss him so much and for some strange reason, today seem to have me melancholy about my big brother….oh my goodness!

I can’t seem to stop the tears, what’s wrong with me; man I feel queasy! I reach into my purse to get a tissue and when I look up, I notice this van with Pet Grooming advertisement on it. That reminds me of the last Sunday in September, a month after we set the date for our wedding. It was the day before I put my deposit down on my shop; the same day the whole Gibson family joined Rose of Sharon Holiness Church. Mr. Walter Gibson, his wife Shelia and their four children; Yvonne, Richard, Kirk and Brian, had just moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. Gibson had just moved his family here from St. Louis. He briefly testified after joining, about having just accepted the position on Thursday, becoming Assistant to the KC Insurance Commissioner. His daughter, 18, had just graduated High School and wanted to pursue a career in Radiology.

Before service started, I was in the back choir room; by then I was singing in both choirs and Mama said she hadn’t long sat down on her pew and gotten herself situated when she saw the reaction on Nye’s face; as though he had been struck by lightning the moment he laid eyes on Yvonne. He had been playing piano for the 8 am service at Praise Tabernacle Church for several months to fill in until they found a Minister of Music to replace their last one, and he would leave from there and rush to our church and play the organ for the 11 am services. At that time Nye was Minister of Music for our Junior Choir at Rose of Sharon and when they weren’t singing he would let Mama take a break from playing the organ, so of course he rushed into the sanctuary after coming from Praise Tabernacle.

She said when he walked onto the platform, she watched him as he walked to the organ. He hurriedly entered the sanctuary scanning the crowd and when he saw Yvonne, he did a double take and the look on his face made her say aloud, “uh oh!” Nye couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Two months later, they eloped and, 8 months later their twins arrived, Rachel and Rebecca who are 3 years old and will be turning 4 on June 27.

I’ve never seen them in person, nor have I had the privilege of holding and kissing them, I have only seen their beautiful pictures. In fact, I had some pictures of my own made from Mama’s and they are displayed in our family room on the fireplace mantle. Don’t you know Mr. Gibson was furious with Nye for turning his only daughter’s head from Radiology Technician courses to a wedding chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada? I believe Mama’s exact words were, “Chile; he was HOT under his collar!”

By thanksgiving, Nye and Yvonne had changed their membership to Praise Tabernacle. Yvonne told her parents they decided to change membership because Nye plays piano there. But Mama said the real reason they changed membership is because Nye was growing tired of Mr. Gibson’s snide remarks every time they all spent time together. Nye told Daddy he didn’t want to disrespect Yvonne’s father but Yvonne has asked her father to stop disrespecting her husband but Mr. Gibson continues to bring up their elopement. Daddy told Nye he understood how he felt as a man, and changing membership was a wise move, he should never disrespect his wife’s parents, ever. He also told Nye to run his own house like the man he was; and show Mr. Gibson he loves his daughter by actions, not by exchanging empty words.

Here comes my baby, running and smiling to her “mommy, mommy.” I reach out and lift her up into my arms and she grabs my neck so tightly, I felt warm tears run down my face. Her hug reminds me of Nye, and how we used to hug one another so tight, we could hardly breathe.

“ZINYE”

As I slide out of bed trying not to disturb Von, I start praying in the spirit. She needs all the rest she can get being pregnant. The girls keep her busy from the time she opens her eyes in the morning, until she closes them at night. I’m blessed to have a wonderful wife and she’s such a great Mom.

Being an only daughter, I thought she may be a little spoiled. Turns out my wife is attentive to those she holds dear in her heart. Oh yes, I truly found my good thing when I found Yvonne, thank You Jesus! I start back praying in the spirit. I leave the bathroom and quietly head to the family room so I can meditate on scripture. I need guidance with this musical. The theme is from Psalm 34:3 “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.”

It’s important to me that the music line up with the theme so I’m seeking Holy Spirit as to what songs need to be sung so He can minister to every heart that will attend. I’m not just praying for our choirs music, but that each church choir represented will be lead also by the spirit as to what songs to sing. I take being minister of music very serious…. I wonder if Z will sing a solo, my sister can blow.

She has had a voice since we were very young. As a matter of fact, I remember her humming when we were very small. I have always loved to hear her hum, sing, whatever melody comes out of her mouth, I love hearing her. She has an anointing like none other I have witnessed. Lord, I miss my sister……. Who in the world is at the door this early in the morning?……….. Mama!

As she enters the front door, she says, “Von asked me to come over this morning at 7:45, am I too early?” In comes two giggling girls.. “Granma Rustin!” Is being yelled by them as they run up to Mama. While Mama hugs her grand daughters, Von enters the room and says how sorry she was for oversleeping, and for Mama to have a seat while she gets cleaned up.

As she leaves the room the girls follows their Mom and I invite Mama into the kitchen for some coffee. She says tea is her preference so, I get her the herbal teas and the honey and we converse while waiting for the Rustin ladies to get presentable. Von wants to tell Mama she’s pregnant in a one-on one setting. Her pregnancy with the twins was a little awkward being we had to hurry and get married. This pregnancy is different, we have no shame nor embarrassment attached with this baby and we are looking forward to its arrival.

If I had my way, my daughters would have an older brother to protect them, but I’ll take a healthy son and believe me, I will teach him how to protect his sisters. Wow, I feel myself smiling as I think of having a son. Mama is asking me, “Nye, have you considered calling Z?” She gently cups my chin while gazing into my eyes. Her warm, soothing smile appears on her beautiful face.

My Mama, what can I say about her? She has beauty that exudes from her heart and filters through her soul. I can’t say a word, I’m so captivated by the love I feel from her. After I soak up her love, I’m able to talk. “Mama, Z does not want anything to do with me. If she did, she would have called me a long time ago. She has made it clear to me she has her own life and there’s no room for me in it.” “Nye, baby, do you hear yourself?” As she gives me a bear hug, in comes my three gals.

Von says, “Mama Rustin, I am so sorry to keep you. I am usually awaken by your son, but today of all days he decides to let me sleep.” She reaches towards Mama and gives her a hug. Now the girls go stand on Mama’s side, after her and Von hugs. Rebecca is first to hug and kiss her grandma.

Wow, I really am blessed. No hateful in-laws in our family. Mama and Daddy both love Von as if she were their daughter. I wonder how she and Z would get along. Yesterday, while Von and I were getting dressed, she told me she was going to tell Mama she was pregnant. She told her mother the day before and knowing her mother can not hold water long, well, she wants to be the one to tell my mother she’s going to be a grandmother again.

Von and Mama are pulling out pots and pans so I Kiss Von and ease into my office. I’ll let them do their thang. I have not been able to get Z out of mind these last few days. I keep reminiscing times of our childhood. This twin thing is so strong. I’m reminded of how I protected my little sister like it was the most natural thing to do. Now I’m smiling again. Remembering an incidence of my being valiant.

We hadn’t started elementary school yet so I’m guessing we were about four years old and this particular day at church was like most services. Z and I were standing in the isle bouncing to the music while watching the grown ups dance in the spirit. All of a sudden this boy runs up between Z and myself, and pushes her as hard as he could. I stood there watching my little sister back stroking, trying to catch herself from hitting the hard floor and as I watched her, something in me rose up.

I clearly heard, “Hit him hard so he’ll know she has someone to protect her.” I walked up to him and pushed him as hard as I could. He barely moved and it was then I realized he was much bigger than I. I had to bring him down. So, I took my foot and kicked him in the knee. That brought him down. I grabbed him by his shirt and told him he had better not ever hurt my little sister again. One of the Church Mothers grabbed me by my shirt collar and told me fighting was not godly! I thought, ‘where were you when he pushed my little sister!’

I walked over to Z and as I hugged her, I asked if she were alright. She had such a worried look on her face as she told me, “I’m just glad he didn’t hurt you. Nye he is so big!” I told her, “Nobody, big or small pushes my sister, nobody!”

Oh how I miss my sister. I think I’m getting teary eyed, man oh man. Von is calling me to breakfast. After we eat, I am instructed by my lovely wife to take the girls into the family room so the woman to woman talk can began. I did as I was instructed.

“Zinora”

As Nicki and I walk back to the house, I start reminiscing again… I felt confident that Holy Spirit was leading me to put the deposit down on the building for my shop. I had looked all over and the best deal was an older stand-alone building that had lots of character and in a good location, what was wrong with the building was its age, it was very old.

I figured all it needed was a bright color trim on the outside to attract attention to it and, if I gave the inside a few coats of funky colored paint, some bright pictures and grandeur accessories, then Walla! I felt like I was ready to take, “Beauty by Zinora” off paper and make it tangible. I had worked with the best in KC and watched, listened and learned all I could, besides, people in this business tend to be tight lipped with giving you any information; I guess they’re worried of more competition, like me. The building had been vacant for several years and the rent was inexpensive.

Daddy helped me negotiate the lease to make sure all electrical, plumbing and major maintenance repairs for the duration of the lease would be paid by the owner and not me. Wardell offered to help me when I had business issues to tend too, and he told me where I could purchase used books to read up on that would help me know and understand the basics to running a business, so after studying up, I wasn’t too nervous about opening my own shop, just excited.

I filled the paperwork out for the lease and took my cashier’s check to the management company that Monday morning after the Gibson family joined church and was told someone would phone me in a few days with the date I could pick the keys up. Two days later I get a phone call and I’m so excited because it’s the management company.

The young lady goes through the formalities of introducing herself and commences to ask me which property was my deposit for; the building in Beacon Hill or Coleman Highlands. I was startled at first and asked why she thought I had applied for a building in Coleman Highlands and she replied, “We have two applications; one in Zinye Rustin and one in Zinora Rustin. One deposit for a salon in Beacon Hill and the other for a barber shop in Coleman Highlands. I only have copies of the deposits and need to know which cashier’s check goes with what property; are you Mrs. Rustin?” I felt like I had been stun gunned, Nye was opening a Barber Shop! The young lady had to ask me again before I could answer, I was just that befuddled. After my conversation with her, I went to the nearest store and purchased a newspaper and eagerly scanned the fictious name section and there was Nye’s ad; Kutz by Ziggy; with scissors used to draw the letter ‘K’.

I folded the paper so the address was visible, and drove over to check it out. Talk about upper scale! This strip mall was painted in purple, green and gold and you had to wait for a parking space. I noticed the, “for rent” sign in the window smack in between a sandwich shop and a pet store; um, Nye was smart to pick that spot. As I left headed back to the house, I was asking myself; when did he go to Barber College, and why has he kept what he’s doing such a secret?

I decided to talk to Mama later to pick her brain, my, my, my; Nye a barber. I wonder did he copy me or did he have the same confirmation and wanted us to go into business together? Maybe that’s what made him so upset, the fact no one asked him what the Lord had revealed for him to do or, maybe he got upset with me because I never asked him if he wanted to go into business together. Well, if he were speaking to me maybe, just maybe I could have asked!

You know what, it really doesn’t matter; all he had to do was say something! He started this mess… alright Ms. Pissed, calm all the way down….

Later that evening I started dinner for Mama; she had set out the ground turkey and tomato paste so I knew she planned on meatloaf tonight. I had just put it into the oven when she walked in the kitchen door. While we hugged I asked, how her day was and she told me she’d had better days. I asked, “Mama, did you know Nye went to Barbering School?” “No baby he’s never said anything about Barbering School, and what makes you think he’s attended?”

I sat at the kitchen table and told her everything I knew. I even handed her the newspaper so she could see for herself. We discussed how evasive Nye had become and it was then Mama told me the conversation Daddy had with him when we were 17. She said her and Daddy both thought Nye would see how childish he was handling this matter and that would be the end of it. “No one ever imagined he would make a full fledge vendetta out of it; especially when considering how close you two were.”

The night Daddy asked Nye what exactly was eating at him, Nye told Daddy that I had closed him out. He said that I started keeping things from him, like I didn’t want him to know what it was I was doing. He thought I was in competition with him, so after a considerable amount of assessment, he thought it best to let me do my own thing. Perhaps we were too close sharing our every thought with each other and it was time for us to grow up and have our own separate lives.

Daddy asked if he was angry with me and Nye told him no, on the contrary; he was happy for me. When daddy asked Nye had the Lord given him any direction about his future, he said Nye paused for a long while, and when he spoke he thought his voice trembled like he wanted to cry, but Nye looked him in the eyes and said, “No Daddy; I haven’t heard one word.”

I straight out told Mama that I thought Nye was upset at me because I had heard from the Lord first. He has always felt because he’s the oldest, he should be the first in everything and I was expected to follow him like I had all of our childhood. This time, little sis heard first, and it made him mad!

I couldn’t believe Nye would twist this thing on me, no wonder Daddy let him act like he did and never made him apologize to me like he did when were little. Once again, Ms. Furious took the wheel and I gladly let her!

                                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SecretsAndTheirLiesfrontcover.jpg

AND NOW;

                                HERE IS CHAPTER ONE AND THREE OF SECRETS & THEIR LIES

                                                                              ENJOY!

                                                                    CHAPTER ONE

Summonsed By Aunt Flora

I do have a life you know!

I push the button to turn off my alarm clock and my phone rings. Immediately I think, ‘7 am, oh no who died, that’s the only reason someone would call this early in the morning.’ As I bring the receiver to my ear I hear Aunt Flora, “Oh good, I wanted to catch you before you left for work Angie, I need you to come by this evening. I have something very crucial to talk with you about.” I respond, “Aunt Flora is everything alright, because I have a Luncheon this afternoon.” She was her usual evasive self and replied, “You will get your answers when you arrive, see you promptly at 5:30 pm. bye Angie.” Click. I laid there staring at the dial tone coming from my phone for a few seconds, then shook my head as I placed the handset back onto the receiver. I have a luncheon to cater and she’s going to have me in a rush; and I hate to be rushed, ugh Aunt Flora!

As I throw back the cover and get out of bed, my mind immediately goes to how Aunt Flora has always been very peculiar and extremely rigid, now I’ve added demanding to the list. See, Aunt Flora is the youngest living out of the 6 children now that my mother has passed.

My Big Mama, Gertrude Bowen and Big Daddy, Roy Bowen had Uncle Lester and Aunt Shirley then, Big Daddy was drafted into the Army. As soon as he left for boot camp Big Mama found out she was pregnant with Aunt Brenda. Big Daddy lost his left leg up to his mid thigh and was sent back home. That’s when Uncle Howard and Aunt Flora were added to the family tree. Several years later, Big Daddy died and Big Mama found out she was pregnant with my mother; De Anne, and they all called her “the change baby,” because Big Mama was in her 40’s.

Aunt Flora is a recluse and has been one for as long as I can remember. She has never spent time with the family and we are very close knit. Sunday dinners are our specialty; we all contribute money for our aunts to cook, and while we eat, we talk about the sermon and some kind of way, Aunt Flora’s name always end up in conversation. Maybe it’s because she’s the only sibling not close and somehow we have to include her. Or, maybe that’s just the family’s way of including her. I don’t know why she’s so unsociable but Aunt Brenda says she thinks the reason Aunt Flora is cold and distant is because she was the baby for fifteen years and De Anne; my mother; confiscated her position and she couldn’t stand to see the attention shift from herself to my mother.

Now Aunt Shirley, our family “drama queen,” thinks Aunt Flora is just spoiled and when things don’t go the way she wants, she gets frosty and shuts people out.  Personally, I think she feels left out and because we are very close, and this is just me; I think she doesn’t know how to ask if she can be a part of us. Kinda like a game of 3 man jump rope, you have to know when to jump in without tripping on the rope, but that’s just my opinion.

I’m no therapist or anything, I’m just a caterer. I am 26 years old and own “Taste, And See, Catering, Inc.” A full menu catering business I started 7 years ago with my mother. For almost 20 years she was head cook at the “Bottoms Up Buffet,” the largest buffet restaurant here in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.  Mother taught me everything she was taught about cooking. By the time I was 7 years old, she would come into my room on any Saturday morning she didn’t work and wake me by tenderly whispering in my ear, “good morning baby, we need to bake a pound cake today ok, you gonna help mama?”  I would always open my eyes to her big warm, loving smile, and after washing my face and brushing my teeth; I would run into the kitchen and gather all of the ingredients she would need, placing each item on the kitchen counter for her. Mother would stand by the kitchen sink flashing her smile as she watched me gather each ingredient; I could feel the love she had for me radiating along with pride. So, for as long as I can remember, I have always loved to cook, it’s in my blood.

I’m told Big Mama was an excellent cook and taught all of her children to cook, even my uncles. Mother was a great cook however her specialty was baking.  She made cakes, pies, cookies and cobblers for all of our family’s Sunday dinners and special occasions. If you wanted to taste a prize winning fried pie; just taste Mothers’ and I kid you not; no one else can fry them like she did. I’ve tried to copy hers but they just don’t cut it. Everyone in the family raves about my fried pies but to me, Mother had the exclusive rights on them.

Her baking business as we called it really happened by chance. She would bake cakes for my aunts and uncles when they had to take a dessert to work and their co-workers began making requests for her to bake for them and before we knew it, word was out all over town that the lady who works for “The Bottoms,” bakes cakes. She took a cake decorating course at night and began baking specialty cakes for weddings, graduations, baby showers and every special occasion there was, thus launching her part time baking business.

Because cooking and baking was a constant in my surroundings, it was effortless for me so, I decided to do it for a living.  I thought, ‘why not get paid for doing what I love to do,’ hey; my mama didn’t have no fool!   Just before I graduated from high school I decided to attend Memphis National College of Business and Culinary School and I also took courses in Business Administration Management.  Actually it was while attending Culinary School I had this bright idea to provide free hors d’oeuvres for every event Mother baked a cake for, something simple yet tasteful and not too costly. Soon people were requesting the hors d’oeuvres when placing an order and in less than a year after giving away the hors d’ oeuvres, calls began coming in wanting to know if Mother offered main courses. By the time I had completed culinary school I had plenty of customers and when I completed my Restaurant and Catering Management and the Restaurant Ownership courses; I formed my corporation and business took off like a jet.

Catering keeps me very busy and I love every moment of it! I concocted special dry blends of seasonings for red meats and the blends differ according to the cut. I also have special blends for pork and lamb and for turkey and sea foods my blend is real simple; you would be surprised what makes seafood flavors pop! Each blend I make truly enhances the natural flavor of the meats and seafood’s. Instead of using seasoned salts and black pepper; I use sea salts, white pepper, fresh garlic and herbs, lemons, limes, dill and cilantro. For my baking I use real butter, fresh eggs, buttermilk, sour cream and cream cheese. Every pastry I make is from scratch and melts in your mouth! Because my mother was diabetic, I make sugar free desserts also. I believe the reason I have so much business is because my foods are the most flavorful in the catering business; but, I may be a tiny bit biased.

I’m ready for my devotion now and I don’t have any scripture in particular I want to study, so since today is the 16th I’ll go to Proverbs 16, and meditate on the whole chapter.

Verse 9 really stood out to me, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” I immediately thought about how my day was planned until Aunt Flora phoned to re-route it, then I figured the Lord is the one in control of my steps so I guess I’ll be in agreement to the interruption; after all the Lord knows better than I do; I just wonder what it is she wants to talk to me about.

After devotion I fix my breakfast; toast and tea and while sitting at my kitchen table I can’t help but think about Aunt Flora. Maybe because I’m sitting here alone as I imagine she is, anyway I can’t get over her being so demanding of me; she knows I have a catering business and for her to have me drop everything and chit chat with her is just downright inconsiderate, ugh that woman! What could she possibly want with me anyway; I haven’t done anything to make her mad.

When Aunt Flora’s name is mentioned at our Sunday dinners; Aunt Shirley and Aunt Brenda talk about her bad and sometimes Uncle Howard joins in and I mean they say some pretty mean stuff like, “One of the reasons she has never had a man is she is so cold blooded no man wants to shovel ten feet of snow just to get her name.” Or, “She is too mean to catch a cold, let alone a man.” And the one that makes everybody laugh is, “Yeah, a pound of ground beef could freeze in her arms if she so much as grab hold of it, she’s just that cold.” It takes Uncle Lester to stop them from talking bad about her. Usually when they get on a roll and the laughter fills the whole room, that’s when he stops them from the bashing, he raises his voice and says, “Alright now that’s enough, she is our sister!” Just like that, the laughter volume goes down to a hush and the subject gets changed. I think hearing about her being so cold hearted all of my life has me afraid of Aunt Flora because honestly, she has never acted cold towards me personally. I guess I’m afraid of her because of what I’ve heard about her all of my life. Whatever the reason, I’m scared of her and the thought of being alone with her for any length of time; makes me nervous!

I decided to call Dora; my cousin, to see if she knew anything about why Aunt Flora wants to see me; but she hadn’t heard anything and told me she would call her mother to find out what she knew and call me back later. Dora is Uncle Howard’s baby daughter, her name is Dorinda but she’s Dora to family. We are only 3 months apart, I was born June 6th and she was born September 7th and because we all live within a 3 mile radius of each other the two of us grew up together. We walked to and from school every day together and I spent my evenings and Saturday afternoons at her house until I turned 15; then I was allowed to stay home by myself if I wanted. Dora and I are more like sisters than cousins, she knows my thoughts and I know hers and sometimes that can be creepy.

She’s 5’9” and I’m 5’7” so most people thinks she’s older than me but trust me, I get that straight!  She is very beautiful with her copper brown skin tone, keen nose, perfect almond shaped brown eyes, and a full, wide smile. She and Aunt Shirley are thinner than most of us Bowen women; they are both a size 10 but just like the rest of us females; she’s got the “Bowen women hips.” Dora keeps her hair flawless and spends good money on her clothes and the girl loves her some jewelry. She has been saved for as long as I can remember and filled since we were 13 and yet she has a down to earth personality; she’s classy and reachable, yes indeed she is. I, on the other hand, have way more hips than she does and fill out every bit of my size 14’s and my hair will be in a ponytail until Sunday, then its French roll time.

I have my mother’s bronze colored eyes and I took all of my father’s facial features and complexion; russet brown or so they tell me because I have never seen the man. I wear jeans and tee shirts all the time except Sunday then I break out in my designer suits and accessories and as soon as I get home from church, I’m back in my jeans and the only makeup that will ever be found in my purse is lipstick. Dora and I are what you might call night and day but we are definitely the definition of sisters, I honestly don’t know what I would do without her in my life and really don’t want to ever find out!

After I talked to Dora, I went out to the garage and cooked until 10:30am. Then I went back into the kitchen and called to confirm next Friday and Saturday’s events.

I made a sandwich and some iced tea and sat at the kitchen table, gazing out of the window. I thought about how Mother bought this house when I was barely 2 years old. It’s small but for me, 1,200 square feet with two nice sized bedrooms and one large bath is plenty room. I remembered how Mother and I would eat here and every once in a while she would tell me some of the ways she saved her money for the down payment to purchase this house and even though it was almost 20 years old when she bought it; she jumped on it because it was within walking distance to her brothers and sisters homes and she said it had a very good price tag.

As I reminisce I realize, except for the usual maintenance and paint; I’ve kept the house pretty much the way she had it. The only major change I’ve made was converting the one car detached garage into a commercial kitchen and I added a storage room behind the garage to house my tables, chairs, umbrellas, fountains, trellises and other equipment; and I also added a carport for my truck. It was cheaper for me to convert the garage rather than lease or buy commercial property for the business. Also I had my home phone line added in the garage and added a business line in the house; only in the kitchen. This allows me to cook in the garage and talk on my speaker phone so whether it’s business or personal I can cook and talk.

After my confirmation calls and lunch, it was back to the garage to finish getting everything together for the luncheon, and when I was done, I phoned Bobby Ray, my transportation supervisor and notified him the foods were ready. He and Jimmy Lee always set up and break down the tables for the events and they transport the food, they even fill in and serve as waiters.

As I showered and dressed for the luncheon I wondered ‘what in the world could Aunt Flora want with me. I can’t believe her giving me one more thing to remember to do; like I don’t already have enough on my plate.’

I followed Bobby Ray and Jimmy Lee to the luncheon and while we were driving, we drove pass the main street that takes you to Aunt Flora’s and I found myself wondering ‘maybe she wants to start being included in on the family Sunday dinners. She has to miss being a part of the family; but why would she talk to me about it, why wouldn’t she talk to Aunt Brenda. Aunt Brenda is easy to talk to about anything; but Aunt Shirley on the other hand, whew! No getting through to her without a drama session.’

I always follow Bobby Ray in my truck to all of the new booking locations for two reasons. One; so I can make sure everything in the contract is carried out as stated. When I first started catering some clients tried to pull a fast one on me by changing the location or not providing the equipment’s stated in the contract. Two; it helps that Bobby Ray has lots of muscles, some people think because I’m female they can run over me. My experience has taught me to be on point at the very start of the event, that way if there are any changes to be made; before anything is unloaded, I get the contract amended.

Well everything on this contract checks out; time to hit it!

The luncheon went well; no snags and I had three requests for my business card. When I returned home Dora had left a message, no one knew or heard a thing as to why Aunt Flora would want to see me and for me to call her when I come home from the meeting and give her the 411. By the time I cleaned the kitchen it was 5:10, good; I am not changing out of my uniform, I have just enough time to get over to Aunt Flora’s.

CHAPTER THREE

Up Comes My Secrets!

Lord I need you now

As I sat in the driveway, my mind was going over what it had just heard and some things were starting to click about Aunt Flora’s behavior. As if someone had inserted a computer memory stick in my mind; pictures began flashing of Aunt Flora’s glances at me from the time I was a very little girl until now. She really did love me and now that I’m reflecting, she has never said an unkind word to me, everyone else but not me.

I remembered when I was little, every so often she would come over to the house and sit in the kitchen making Mother and me nervous because we couldn’t figure out why in the world she would come to visit us, out of all the family members, why us? Mother thought it was because she and Aunt Flora were the last two girls at home and Aunt Flora felt it was her duty to watch over her baby sister or maybe the fact that Aunt Flora had no friends was why she visited us and no other family member; but now; tonight, I know the real deal. She was visiting her daughter and granddaughter; on the sly.

Whenever she would stop by the house to visit, Mother would ask her if she was alright and Aunt Flora would always respond the same way every time, she’d raise her voice and look back and forth at both me and Mother while saying, “Can’t I visit my family without something being wrong?”  We would feel like two-year olds standing there waiting for her to say something. Mother would stutter trying to make small talk like; so and so is doing this or oh, uh, have you heard about such and such. Err, uh did you hear about…. This would go on until Aunt Flora would get up and say, “I best be going; love you,” and she’d leave never looking back to see us breathe a sigh of relief. Now that I think about it, it’s funny, she was scared of us and we were scared of her. Talk about comical!

I remember her attending my high school graduation and after the pictures were taken she pulled me off to the side and gave me a card. Later that evening when I read the card, I was a bit confused as to why she had hand written on the left side; how very proud of me she was and, she had enclosed a check for $1,000.00. I never told anyone about the money because I thought she would hold it over me, threaten to take it back if I didn’t do something she wanted me too. Oh man this is odd, now I’m remembering when I had a bad breakup with my first love, Elvin Jamison and I cried like a baby in church one Sunday and went up to the alter for prayer and right after service Aunt Flora walked up behind me and whispered in my ear, “No boy is worth all those tears. You wait on the one that’s right for you.” I thought it was her voice and when I turned around all I could see was the back of her as she walked away; I was so puzzled because I couldn’t figure out how she knew I was crying over a boy. Now that I know she’s my grandmother it all makes sense! I see the flash of headlights behind me and turn around to see Bobby Ray and Jimmy Lee. Bobby Ray has a key to my house and garage, this way I don’t have to let them in when him and Jimmy Lee pick up to set up for our repeat events. I guess they had something to do after the luncheon and didn’t drop off the tables and equipment earlier because I was still sitting in the driveway reflecting when they pulled up along side of me in the van. I still couldn’t move and as I watched them unload the van, I wondered if either one of them had family secrets that would render them motionless.

After they unloaded, Jimmy Lee waved at me as he passed by going to the car they left parked in front of my house, and right behind him came Bobby Ray. Bobby Ray walked over to my truck, motioned for me to roll the window down and as he slightly leaned into the truck to ask if everything was alright; his eyes scanned the inside, then he glanced up at me to read my facial expression, I mustered up a smile and told him, “Yes I’m ok and I’ll call you tomorrow.” He turned around to leave and looked inside the back of my truck and as his eyes scanned my driveway I watched him in my side mirror as he walked away; he kept looking over his shoulder at me. I grabbed the plate Aunt Flora had given me and decided I had better get out of the truck because if Bobby Ray was suspicious something was wrong with me, or someone was bothering me, he would go home get his over & under shotgun and come back and check on me. So I decided to get out of the truck and as I did I waved him off before they pulled away.

When I hired Bobby Ray I knew he had a record so we made an agreement that he would work 30 days as a probationary period with me and if he was a good fit; he had the job permanently. Dora’s Mom, Aunt Rose Marie taught Cosmetology and Barbering for year’s downtown Memphis and when I told her I was going to hire a staff she volunteered to help me interview them; she is a very good judge of character and she gave me a lot of insight as to what to look for in a person in regards to their abilities for the position being hired for. As it turned out I hired almost everyone interviewed except for 3 other people.

Jimmy Lee Mason was first hired for transportation, he’s built like a body builder but he has a very gentle spirit. Bobby Ray was the last interviewed and oddly he ended up being the most attentive to what was needed. Before leaving for a booking he would enlighten us on a few things such as; we might need extra extension cords and bricks to even out the legs on the tables when we serve outside, things like that he’s a natural for. During the interview we picked him not just because of his strong upper arms, but because Aunt Rose Marie pointed out to me how he was very observant. So after his probation; I ended up making him supervisor and it just so happens, he and Jimmy Lee get along like brothers and their wives and kids all interact like family with each other also.

When I hired waiters Maynard Green was my first choice and only because his wife, Victoria or Vicki as we call her, was my first pick as a waitress. I figured if they could work together I would have no problems with them showing up. Maynard is a hard worker like the rest of them but he has a high energy level and can’t keep still long so he’s always working. Gregory Collins was the second waiter hired; he wears glasses, has a baby face and looks very professional in uniform. He’s the one most people asks to get things for them because he looks the youngest of the group, sort of like a college student, but if the truth be known; he’s the oldest of all the waiters. Jamal Black was the third chosen because he has good arms and is articulate and professional, not too talkative. Last was Willie Wilson or “W” as he’s called, he has long strong arms also and has excellent manners. There’s warmth about his persona that makes you feel as though you can trust him.

My waitresses are all beautiful women and fast thinkers. Vicki was first hired and what sold us on her was her easy outgoing personality and she has a photographic memory. Mattie Hall was second and is so beautiful inside and out; she can stop traffic if she has to and talk about street wise, she can spot trouble before anyone knows it’s in the room. She has a tendency to be shy though if all eyes are on her. Miss Lula Mae Washington was third hired, she’s a little dark woman five feet tall, soft spoken and can defuse the meanest biggest man around; there’s a distinctive trait about her.

Once we were working a birthday party for drinkers and she talked this big strapping man with a knife in his hand down. He had too much to drink as did the other guy, and when we knew anything the big man was threatening to dissect the other man as he bent over, he put his hand inside his boot and came up with a stag horn handle switch blade. Lula Mae eased over to the table and stood beside the victim and talked to the big guy like he was a 2-year old. She softly said to him; “Now baby, let’s think about this, you know you don’t want to get in trouble; not tonight baby. Just put the knife down on the table like a good boy, come on baby.” He laid that knife down on the table like he was giving her some money. I mean, she just talked to him and he went from beast to lamb right before our eyes.  Everyone in that room saw first-hand how a soft answer turns away wrath. (Proverbs 15:1) The last hired was Wila Taylor, miss dark and lovely and she can be poster woman for hospitality, no one is a stranger when it comes to Wila; you feel as though she’s family.

I thank the Lord for my staff; they are all good people, church goers, and hard workers. They get along well with each other and with clients and the only two times I missed a booking they worked it just like I was there and I pay them well so I can keep them.

As soon as I walk in the back door I plopped myself down in a chair at the kitchen table still stunned from what Aunt Flora had told me. All I can hear in my head is her saying, “I’m your grandmother not your aunt.” I know in my heart it’s true the way she treated Mother and me. Now my thoughts are switching to sympathy for Aunt Flora. I can relate to why she felt the need to keep her secret. I know what it feels like to realize you’ve done something stupid and how your mind tells you real loud not to tell a soul what you’ve done. I can’t begin to imagine what it would feel like to have a baby and not know who the father is, but I do know that would make me lie, oh yeah now that I do know!

As a matter of fact, I’m not mad at Aunt Flora at all because I understand her shame and regret….. The more I think about it, I’m beginning to admire Aunt Flora’s strength and her endurance, because when I was young, every time I was faced with my “love dilemmas;” suicide was the only option I thought I had. Now that’s something! Tonight I find out why suicide had such a strong grip on me, my grandfather, no, I mean my great-grandfather’s trait was passed straight to me, the one person in the family that didn’t believe in family curses; huh!

Some of our Sunday dinners have good discussions about that morning’s sermon and when my uncles went back and forth about the topic of family curses; I resolved there was no such thing, you simply reap what you sow. See, all of my uncles take turns teaching Sunday school, in most of their spare time you’ll find them reading the Bible. Yep, if there’s no game on, the Bible is out on the coffee table and a few other study aid books. Most of us pretty much have morning and evening devotions and will occasionally phone one another if a scripture leaps out at us, but when it comes to any subject in the Bible that I have a question about; I simply ask my uncles starting with Uncle Lester.

The Sunday they discussed family curses, my aunts were all involved and it was almost 5pm when we all left Uncle Lester’s house. Uncle Odell would not change his opinion that Adam was the cause of being kicked out of the garden and having to work for what he needed to provide for his wife and family and; for the ground being cursed; because he was disobedient to God. In his opinion; Eve was deceived and therefore only disobeyed Adam. Uncle Lester and Uncle Howard said Eve was the downfall of Adam and that’s why her sorrow was multiplied and pain in childbirth was put upon her. Oh I understand that because of Adam and Eve everyone is born into sin and must die; we don’t have an option, but I feel once we are born again of the spirit; we are no longer under the sin influence, we are new creatures born of the spirit. I think Romans 5:18 & 19 explains that: 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”  I just believe we prefer not to walk in the spirit; but after our carnal nature; therefore we reap what we sow, that’s just my opinion….

Tonight I believe my opinion may have altered in regards to curses. I understand curses enter a person’s life through disobedience, however I didn’t even know Big Daddy had allowed a suicide spirit to take his life and yet; that same spirit had its influence on me just as Adam influenced death into the lives of every generation after him; geez, what an eye opener! Aunt Flora said Big Daddy was angry at God for allowing innocent people to die and he didn’t know how to get his healing from the devastation he had witnessed. Suicide was his way of being free of the devastation; and I also perceived suicide as the ultimate remedy for my devastation; it was simply passed onto me, I didn’t have to research it or question it, no, it just came to me so easily!

The first time I considered ending my life was after Elvin, ‘the schemer’ and I; maybe you could say, “Broke up.” I was in the 11th grade and I loved me some Elvin Jamison. He was fine with all capital letters!  My height, 5’7, built like a football player and was light skinned with a smile so sexy his top lip would slightly curl up on one side revealing his perfect teeth and he had big slanted dark brown eyes and thick corn rolls and talk about popular! He was a year ahead of me and had been the president of the senior student body.

We both had first period lunch and me and some other juniors sat in the lunch quad and watched the seniors so we would know what the buzz was on campus. I was sitting on the end of a lunch table talking to Jeanette and Valerie.  I noticed the top on my drink didn’t have a straw in it, I had forgotten to pick one up, so I removed the top, took a sip and hopped up real fast turning as I stepped away from the table; not knowing Elvin and a crowd of seniors were walking up behind me, and as I turned, I bumped right into Elvin.

Well you guessed it; no top on my soda, and bumping into Elvin caused the front of my sweater to get soaked. I looked up at him just as he jumped back to avoid me and he bumped into someone standing behind him and the drink he was holding at arm’s length spilled on the front of his pants. It was so quiet for a few seconds and then everyone began laughing at us so he quickly stepped up to me and said, “Let’s give them something to talk about, let me kiss you.” Before I could say anything, he pulled me to himself and kissed me right in my mouth and closed his eyes. I stood there looking at him as I heard the laughter change into a loud “Ooh” from the crowd. He opened his eyes and loosened his grip from around my waist, and this giant grin appeared on his face as he said, “How old are you 15?” I said 16. He says, “16 and never been kissed. I want to take you out does your daddy let you go out?”  “I don’t have a daddy,” I replied. His eyebrows slid up while he said, “Well, well, give me your phone number.” I moved so fast scrambling to get my folder and I jotted my phone number down real fancy on a piece of paper and handed it to him. I was standing there gawking at him, showing all my teeth with the front of my sweater wet like a teething toddler. I was so excited Elvin Jamison was going to call me!

Later, while Dora and I were walking home from school, a lot of the kids walking past us were giggling and said, “Hi” to me and because Dora has second lunch period, I filled her in on what happened at lunch with Elvin and me. She told me he was bad news and I should stay away from him, but I was so in love; her words went in one ear and out the other as my heart kept beating to; “Elvin, Elvin.”  That night he phoned the house and we talked for over an hour. He asked me all about myself and like the naive little girl I was, I told him everything and he was taking notes. After a week of talking on the phone every night, he asked if he could come over to my house when my mother was at work and of course I said yes, he, he, ha, ha.

Well he came over and that night he taught me how to kiss with my mouth open. The second time he came over he taught me how to play “strip to the music,” and the last time he came over he taught me how to play house, he was the daddy and I was the mama. The next day at school he acted like I was invisible and he never called me again. I thought when he told me he loved me; he loved me. My heart was not just broken; it was shattered into a thousand pieces. I couldn’t figure out how he could love me and not talk to me again, what could I have possibly done wrong, I did everything he told me to do and he wouldn’t even look at me; I was hurting really bad.

The following Monday when Dora and I were walking to school. She knew something was up with me and asked, “So you haven’t mentioned Elvin for a couple of days and you’re moping around what happened.” I told her I didn’t want to talk about it and she says, “Angie did you let him kiss you again?” I told her to drop it. She grabbed hold of my arm and asked, “You didn’t do something you shouldn’t have did you? I looked away from her, she stomped her foot and said, “Angie; I told you how he was, why didn’t you listen to me?” Even though she had been telling me the whole time she heard all kinds of stories from different girls about how he was, and that he went around bragging to the guys at school about the girls he had at the school; I wasn’t hearing a word and now she knows I wasn’t.

After a few moments of silence I yanked my arm from her and started walking away, as I raised my voice saying, “He told me he loved me and since you’ve never been in love you just don’t know how it feels.”  After a few more steps, I stopped, she walked up to me and we look at one another and I feel bad for not listening to her; I wouldn’t be hurt right now had I listened, so I reach my arm out to her, she reaches for me and as we hug I started crying then she started crying and says in a quivering voice, “Well I hope you learned your lesson. Angie you are so gullible.” I knew she was right but ooh I loved me some Elvin.

When Mother was at work and I would be home alone, I would think about Elvin and after almost three weeks of pining over him I thought I didn’t want to live if he wasn’t in my life. It was so difficult going to school knowing Elvin was shining me on and some of the guys at school were looking at me differently. I would catch them eyeing me up and down and when we made eye contact, they would give me a wink or smile and raise their eyebrows. After this happened to me several times I figured what Dora told me was true; Elvin had been bragging on himself about me and I loved him so.

That’s when I realized he deliberately lied to me when he told me he loved me, and I felt so betrayed, cheap and manipulated.  So, one Saturday evening I made my mind up to end my life tomorrow evening; that way I wouldn’t have to go to school on Monday and be humiliated by the looks from the other guys and by Elvin avoiding me.

When Sunday morning arrived I was so depressed. I went to church thinking: ‘this is the last day I will live; the last day of my life and I’m going to church to hear my last sermon.’ It was the Sunday sermon our Youth Pastor, Pastor Jenkins preached from Psalms 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” He said there was two ways to handle our wounds. One way was to gather the pieces up and give them to Jesus, that is; if the wounds were fresh. The other way to handle our wounds was if they were old and scattered by the many paths we had taken, and the bad decisions we had made, those wounds were to be spoken too, just as Ezekiel had spoken to the dead bones in Ezekiel 37: 7; “So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling: and the bones came together, bone to bone.” Pastor Jenkins told us the wounds would come together just as the dry bones had, and become healed. Either way, Pastor Jenkins said; the Lord would heal our heart. During the whole sermon I cried and sniffled so much; it was as if Pastor Jenkins was preaching directly to me. As I walked up for prayer I told myself I had learned a lesson about liars and after my heart was healed I wasn’t ever going to allow it to be broken again.

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table and can feel the pain, as it has once again emerged. I really don’t want to remember this but, finding out this suicide spirit originated from Big Daddy is helping me to properly look at this so the root will be totally plucked up and out of me, this way it will never, ever pop up again!

I slowly slide my body down in the kitchen chair and lean my head back. As I close my eyes; Elvin’s face appears, and tears are slowly dripping down mine. What makes some men purposefully set out to hurt women; to break their hearts, I wonder if their heart beats differently than other men, perhaps slightly slower. Lord I thought the part of my heart Elvin had destroyed was neatly tucked away forever by You. Now I feel as though there’s a hole in my heart again, I really don’t want to remember this right now. Oh why did Aunt Flora have to tell me this tonight?

As I lean forward in my chair, I cover my face with my hands, I can’t deal with the pain….this is the pain that caused me to consider suicide in the first place, now it has resurfaced……Holy Spirit I need you to shield me as I walk through the memory of Elvin scheming me. I need to place healing and understanding at the root of the spirit of suicide and allow the All Consuming Fire of the Holy Spirit to forever consume this pain and impart healing in its place, in Jesus Name I decree it to be so, Amen.

After sitting for a few minutes allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to me, Isaiah chapter 54 verse 4 comes to my mind, it states; “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” I remember memorizing that scripture and I’m surprised I can recall it tonight. I guess the Holy Spirit does bring all things to remembrance! Now I feel the warm, sweet presence of the Lord and finally, I’m able to get up from the kitchen table and with a smile on my face, I put the plate Aunt Flora gave me in the refrigerator and go take a long hot shower.

I crawled into bed and reached for my Bible on the nightstand but I know there will be no devotion tonight, I couldn’t think about anything but the suicide spirit I had acquired from Big Daddy. I’m wondering why I never questioned how he died and why didn’t I think it odd how none of my aunts or uncles has ever mentioned how he died.

As I lay my Bible down next to me in my bed, I realized every time love went sour in my life; I thought my only solution was to simply put an end to me. The second young man in my life was Derek Towns, ‘the teacher.’ I met Derek the second day I attended Memphis National College of Business. I had pulled up into the parking lot to park my Ford Escort. I was creeping, trying to find a space close to the building my class was being held in, when I noticed a space to my right in the next row over; I sped up to get it. Flying out of a parking space in front of me at about 40 miles an hour was this black Mustang with a wide, white stripe down the middle resembling a fast loud skunk and I almost hit it. I slammed on my brakes and laid on my horn to get the drivers attention. He looked my way, raised his index finger as if to indicate for me to give him a minute. Then he put his car in drive and drove back into the space and I thought ‘Oh good he’s coming out I’ll just take this spot.’ So I backed up to wait for the space. Why did this idiot back all the way out, completely straighten the car and pull right back into the space I’m sitting here waiting for! Geez!

I sat there while he gets out of his car and walks toward the building, totally oblivious to me sitting here. I slowly follow him just to see how long his head was in the cloud. He finally turned around and noticed there was a car behind him. I’m thinking ‘STUPID!’ Oh now he jumps as if he might get hit.  I turn down the next row of parked cars and find a spot directly in front of his and I pull in.

When I was going to my last class I spotted him in the hall; talking on his cell phone. He was real cute, clean cut, preppy looking with glasses and all. When my last class was over, I walked to my car and he was standing at his car door with his keys in his hand, unlocking it. His cell phone rang and he stood there and answered it. I got into my car and it didn’t want to start. I kept turning the key and giving it gas. He banged on the hood of my car and waved his hand at me. I rolled down my window and as he walked over to me, he told whoever he was speaking to; “I gotta go I’ll talk to you later;” as he closes his phone he says, “Hey lady you’re messing up your starter.” I say to him, “So you know about the starter in a car but you don’t know how to park one.”  He smiles and says, “Oh you’re the two seconds to late driver.” I’m looking at him as he’s slightly bent over having his head partially in my car window while holding onto his cell phone with his left hand; he rests his elbow on the top of my car, now he lifts his right arm and rests it on my window.

He has the upper body of a football player and he is brown skin with real light brown eyes and a thin mustache. His hair is cut close and he has these long precisely thin trimmed side burns that go down the side of his face and connects to his mustache that is also precisely trimmed and connects to his close cut beard. Umm and he smells so good!

He looks inside my car towards the starter then back into my eyes and asks if I mind letting him try to start the car as he opens the door for me to get out. I don’t reply I just get out and stand in the door holding it while he slides in. He bends over with his head in front of the starter and looks at my keys and says, “Ah, here’s our problem, too many keys on your ring. Girl how many houses do you have all these house keys.” I say sternly, “That’s it! Get out of my car.” He looks up at me and smiles. The words “No problem” slips out of his mouth with no sincerity whatsoever as he lifts both hands up as if I’m the police.

I roll my eyes at him as he gets out of the car. He stands there watching me get back behind the wheel and as I slam the door and look at him he says, “If you need to call someone you can use my phone.” I try to start the car but it’s not budging, not a click, clack, not a sound. Now I look back at him and soften my tone and say, “I would appreciate it. I need to call my uncle to come get me.” While speaking to him I’m thinking ‘Uncle Henry works for the City of Memphis as a mechanic and I know he is not home this early.’ I guess the sigh and my speech combined with the look of dismay probably written on my face, was indication to him how I felt because he says to me, “Look, I’m not a serial killer or anything, if you need a ride someplace I’ll drop you off.” I tell him; “I would appreciate just being able to use your phone, thanks for the offer.” He extends his hand out to me with the phone in it and asks if I know how to use it. Without attempting to take it from him, I ask if he would dial the number for me, he did and as soon as it rings he handed it to me.

My cousin A’letha, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Henry’s baby girl, answered the phone and informed me no one was home, she was just dropping some papers off and was on her way back to her house. I told her my car wouldn’t start and asked if she would call Dora and tell her that I’ll be in the parking lot waiting for her or someone to pick me up. I gave him back his cell phone and sighed while thinking about the hours I would have to sit here. He offered again to take me where I needed to go. I declined his offer. He turned around and started to walk away. I watched him walk around my car to the passenger’s side and he tapped on the window. I opened my car door and stood up looking over the top of my car at him and asked, “What in the world are you doing.” He said he would wait with me because he couldn’t leave me alone with no phone or anything and stranded. I unlocked the door. As he sat down he says, “Derek Towns.” I said, “Angela Bowen.” I was so disgusted with my car. He asked me what was I taking here at school and told me he was taking mechanics courses, he was 3rd generation mechanic. His dad had a shop and he was getting certified so he could help. By the time Uncle Henry arrived I knew Derek had a brother and two step sisters. And I knew everything about them except the numbers on their driver’s license. Geez he can talk!

Uncle Henry came to pick me up in the City’s tow truck and took me home. The next morning I drove Mother’s truck to school; she was dating Mr. Maynard Ziegler at the time and he said he would be happy to take her to and from work for a few weeks. Knowing him, he was going to get breakfast and dinner out of Mother. He was not the kind of man to do anything without it benefiting him.

As I walked up to the corridor to my class, I noticed Derek standing in front of the doorway that leads into the classrooms. He was talking on his cell and looking around as if he were looking for someone. I walked past him and heard him say, “Ok, I gotta go bye, Hey Angela Bowen.” I turned around and said, “Hello.”  He walks with me and asks, “What time do you take lunch?” I tell him 11:30 to 12:15 then he tells me to meet him here at 11:30. I kept walking thinking ‘hope he’s payin.’  11:30 I went to the corridor and he was there waiting for me. He tells me he wants to check this place out he’s heard so much about but he doesn’t like to eat alone and he would drive to save time. We go to this nice café a few blocks from the campus and after we finish eating, he looks at his watch and slides next to me and says, “Lunch is on me.” And quickly leans in and kisses me, I am caught totally off guard and my eyes are open as I watch him close his eyes and he grunts. I push him away and tell him I’m taking a taxi back to school and I slide out of the booth grab my purse and walk out the front door. A few minutes later he comes running out behind me and tells me he’s sorry and he’ll take me back to school. I’m looking inside my purse for my wallet; I’m so nervous and mad at the same time. I’m mad because I really liked the kiss. He grabs me and kisses me again and this time I don’t fight him, I close my eyes. We are both grunting now and when the kiss ends he grabs my hand and off we go to his car and he goes a block away to a motel.

It was 1:30 when I returned to my class. Derek had taught me a few things as he put it “about art.” And on the way back to the campus he kept telling me I was an excellent student. I couldn’t believe I had done something like that. I was feeling a rush and ashamed at the same time. When my classes were over I went to my car and noticed he was pulling away, and when he saw me, he honked. For the next 2 months we would meet at the corridor, go get something to eat and go to the motel.

Thanksgiving was approaching and that Monday before the break, while we were getting dressed to get back to school, he asked me what my plans were for the holiday. I was shocked because he never asks me any personal questions so I thought maybe he wanted me to spend Thanksgiving with him. I told him my family has a big dinner at my Uncle’s home. That was the end of anymore conversation.

Thanksgiving morning I thought it would be nice to hear from Derek and it dawned on me I didn’t have a phone number for him and he didn’t have mine. That sparked uneasiness in my stomach. The idea of getting a phone number had never entered my mind. Through the week I’m doing homework in the evenings and on Saturdays I work with Mother at her events so the thought of getting his phone number never came up; anyways we saw each other Monday through Friday.

Thanksgiving afternoon, when the family was all gathered at Uncle Lester’s; while we were holding hands awaiting the blessing to be pronounced, Dora asked me what was going on with me, why was I so jittery? I told her nothing was wrong she was imagining things. After we ate, Dora and I were the last two left washing dishes and she says to me, “It’s that guy isn’t it?” I had told Dora about him, not everything just about our meeting and seeing him at school and that we had a few lunches together. She says, “Why don’t you just call him.” I look away from her and she says, “Angie; don’t tell me you don’t have his number.” I tell her; “No I don’t.”  “Well maybe he’ll call you.” I look away again.  Now she puts the towel down on the counter and turns me around to face her and asks, “Is he married Angie?” No!  I shouted as I slap my towel down on the counter and walk back to the laundry room and she’s right behind me. I close the door and tell her everything. “Angie you need to be filled with the Holy Ghost your flesh is way out of control.”  “Dora I want to be with him I can’t explain it because I don’t understand it myself.”  “Well I hope you have enough sense to protect yourself.” “Oh yes Derek wouldn’t have it any other way.” I felt better telling Dora because I don’t like keeping secrets from her but I still felt uneasy about not having a way to contact him, for some reason I was really bothered by that.

Monday, while I drove to campus I was determined to get Derek’s cell number as soon as I saw him, yeah that’s what I’ll do, get his cell number. I drove to our area parking and didn’t see his car anywhere. I thought he may be running late. At 11:30 I stood at the corridor and waited until noon then I went and ate. After class I looked for him on my way to the parking lot. ‘I guess he didn’t come to school today,’ I thought as I walked to my car. Tuesday was a repeat of Monday and Wednesday was the same. By Friday I figured he had dropped out of school; I tried to think what could have happened to him but the only conversation we had was when he was giving me “art” instructions or when I asked him an “art” question, so I couldn’t figure out why and if he was gone.

Friday evening I was going through Mother’s desk to see what cakes she was making so I could make up some free hors d’oeuvres. I saw a card there for an estimate and I briefly looked at it and was replacing it back on the desk when I saw: “Mr. and Mrs. Towns” on the card where the names of the bride and groom to be were listed. I drew the card close again and sat down to read all of the information on the estimate card. Apparently Benita Williams had left a message about getting an estimate on a 3 tier wedding cake for Saturday, December 20th at the Hyatt Hotel and Suites downtown Memphis at 2pm, and Mother was going to phone her to get further details. I looked on the calendar to see if we had any other events; December is a busy month and already full so I dialed the number.

The phone rang 3 times then I heard a woman’s voice, “Hello you have reached Benita and Derek; sorry we are not able to take your call at this time. You know what to do after the beep.” Beep. I leave a message, “Hello this is Angela Bowen calling in regards to the estimate you requested for a 3 tier wedding cake on Saturday, December 20th. I am sorry to inform you we are booked however we do wish you the best in your new life together. Thank you for considering us, your business is very much appreciated.”  Click!

Derek was engaged all the time we were together! I was just the fling before the wedding. Now I’m feeling appalled, cheap and filthy. I began asking myself why was I so easy and what is it about me that men know it. I sat there and cried until I heard Mother pull up in the driveway then I went to my room and cried some more.  As I thought about Derek it became clear to me he never told me he loved me and never said anything to me to make me think he was serious about me. I really felt like a gull with all capital letters [GULL; a person who is easily deceived or cheated; hoodwinked]. I had totally submitted myself to him and for what; to demean myself; and to think I looked forward to it! How dense can I be? Geez Dora’s right; I need to get my flesh under subjection.

For the next couple weeks I was so weepy I felt so slighted, I was a fool to give myself to a man that was committed all the time we were together; to someone else. I felt so stupid and real cheap as a woman; my life seemed very empty and meaningless I felt so used. Every time I thought about how much I looked forward to being with him; I would flush at the face being full of shame and humiliated. I couldn’t concentrate on anything long I just wanted to cry all the time.

By the week before Christmas I was a crying mess. I was avoiding Dora all the time; I wouldn’t return her phone calls. Sunday dinners I would eat and tell everyone I had a migraine then I’d go home to cry some more. Friday, December 19th I made my mind up tomorrow, after the booking; I was going home, help Mother with the clean up and take a bottle of pills and go to sleep forever.

Saturday December 20th, I got up and started making the crust for the pigs in the blanket. Mother was working Monday through Fridays then and she would shop early Saturday mornings for fresh buttermilk and eggs. I heard a car pull up in the driveway and looked out of the window to see the hood of Dora’s car. My heart started racing; she can read me like her Bible and I was scared she would sense my late night plans. She walks in the door and stands there looking at me; I started crying and wiped the dough off my hands and ran over to her with my arms extended out. She closed the door behind her and extended her arms out to me. She grabbed me so tight, I began sobbing and she began praying in the spirit and rocking me.

The more she prayed the more I cried. I was picturing myself with Derek, as he was giving me instructions and I felt deep regret for putting myself in that position. I began to cry out loud, “Lord I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” I kept repeating those words over and over. The more I said them, the more remorseful I felt and the more remorse I felt, the louder I became. I don’t know if Dora had to get loud to hear herself pray in the spirit over me or if I had to get louder to repent over her. But we were both loud and in tears when Mother walked in the door and moved us out of her way. She put her bag down on the kitchen counter and joined in praying with understanding and in the spirit. After a while we all began leaping and praising God. We were all drenched with perspiration when we simmered down. I had repented of my sin and was forgiven; truly there is no greater love than a man who would lay down his life for a friend. That day was included among the days I will never forget!  Thank You Jesus!

It’s 2:20am and I am wide awake. I reset my alarm clock for 8am instead of 7 because I know I’ll be up for a while longer. I realize I have secrets of my own, I love me some men and try to keep myself busy so I won’t think about being with one. The last time I thought of suicide I decided to get filled with the Holy Ghost so I could have help like Dora tells me. She says when you get filled; you have an inner strength to rely on, sort of like having turbo inside of you. So I’ve been praying to be filled, some days more than others. As I lay here I realize Aunt Flora isn’t the only one with a secret, and I thank God the suicide spirit is cast off and out of the family line; and not just me, in the name of Jesus!   Now I’m reminded of the last partner I had that left me wanting to end my life; Wiley Hawkins; ‘MY student’.

Somehow even though I had repented; I never was healed…. I had become angry at myself; not for being an easy woman; no, I believed I was forgiven for that, but I was angry I had been “used.”….. However I didn’t know I was angry; not until Wiley came into my path.

I had turned 19 a month earlier when one hot Sunday morning we had the Hawkins family of 4 join United Faith East; the “Bowen family church.” Ester Hawkins joined and gave her testimony how she and her 17 year old son, 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter had just moved to Memphis from Arkansas. She had recently divorced and had family in Memphis but they were not church goers so she being a church going woman walked to the nearest church which happened to be United Faith East. Even though today was her first time visiting, she was certain she had found her church home. Her testimony was so moving; I really didn’t pay much attention to her children the day they joined. It was when I went over Aunt Brenda’s to take my cousin; her daughter, Kozette home from the DMV; that’s when I noticed Wiley.

Aunt Brenda was still working at the Shelby County Clinic as an RN and I had bought my Chevy Silverado truck a few months earlier, so Kozette wanted to learn to drive using my truck. She had an appointment to take her drivers test that day and as soon as school was out I took her.  After her appointment I pulled up in front of her house where my cousins Kenneth, Karl, Ernest and SeBone were all in Aunt Brenda’s long driveway playing basketball.  There was this tall muscled, milk chocolate dribbler maneuvering the ball. I intended to drop Kozette off in front of the house, but after a glimpse of milk chocolate, I pulled up and turned off the ignition and as we walked up the driveway I was checking out this new guy. When Kozette and I reached the back door, we all said, “hey” and I followed her into the house. I stopped in the kitchen so I could watch the muscles in motion out of the window. As soon as I stepped up to the window to check out the new guy, here they all are coming into the kitchen. I turn around and stand at the counter and watch them all get glasses for some ice water out of the refrigerator. I ask muscles what his name was and he says Wiley. Kenneth and Karl go into another room in the house and Ernest and Se Bone’ says they will check everybody later.

I stand there with my back slightly leaning on the counter and I began to grip onto the sink as my eyes become glued to the perspiration slowly running down Wiley’s arms. Suddenly I realize we are alone, so I ask him, “How old are you.” He tells me he’s 17 and I immediately inform him, “I just turned 19.” In my head I’m thinking he’s not that much younger than I am. So I ask him if he has a girl friend. He says to me, “Ma’am?”  I say, “Ma’am? I just made 2 years older than you, don’t be ma’am’n me! Do you have a girl friend?”  “No I don’t.”  “Well, have you ever had one?” He starts grinning and looks around the room and almost whispering says to me, “no.”  I look at those arms again and notice how that wife beater he has on is clinging to him, and the urge to be held in his arms consumes me. I tell him that I will give him a ride home and ask if he’s ready. He says yeah, then downs the remainder of the water in his glass, walks over to the sink and gently puts it down and he follows me out the back door.  I yell, “Bye, I’m out.”

I drove him straight to my house and he followed me into my room. This time I was the teacher and had a student. After an hour or so, I took him home and told him what time I would pick him up tomorrow. This went on for almost a month, then his mother found herself a job and he had to watch his brother and sister. The first day she worked I went over to his house; they lived with his mother’s sister and family a few blocks from Aunt Brenda. I went into the house and introduced myself to his brother and sister and told him to show me his room.  We went to his room and it had a twin bed and two sleeping bags on the floor so I asked where the bath room was and we went into the bathroom. His little sister started knocking on the door telling us she had to use the bathroom. Later, he walked me outside and I told him, “Tomorrow I’ll pick you all up and take you to my house.”

That Sunday right after service, I headed to my truck and had just stepped outside when his mother walked up to me and asked, “Are you Angela?” I said, “Yes ma’am.” She steps up close to me and says, “You are not the type of girl I want influencing my Wiley. I want a girl like Dora to be with my boy.” My neck jerked back, my forehead wrinkled as my left eyebrow went up and I opened my mouth to tell her Wiley was old enough to make that decision; but as soon as I opened my mouth, her hand flew up towards my face and she says to me, “keep it! I haven’t been in Memphis that long, but I do know people go to jail for rape; you gittin me.”

I felt like she socked me in the stomach, the wind left me as my jaw almost hit the concrete. She turned around and walked away. Just then I heard a car horn blow and when I looked toward the sound; there Dora was. In her car, at the corner street light and when our eyes met she rolled her window down and hollered, “Aunt Brenda made monkey bread, and you’d better hurry up.”  She drove off and I thought; ‘rape? Am I a rapist? What have I done?’ I drove to Aunt Shirley’s but as Uncle Howard says, “I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” I kept thinking there has got to be something wrong with me. What is wrong with me! I really like being intimate with men and now I’m choosing young boys, what is wrong, why am I like this?   When I sit down at the table, of course Dora asks me, “what’s wrong, why are you so fidgety?” I can’t believe I’m so horrible and I don’t even have a conscious, me a rapist! I can’t eat so I tell everyone I’m not feeling well and excuse myself. Before I get to the front door Mother walks up behind me and puts her hand on my shoulder, when I turn around to face her, she asks me what’s wrong. I feel as though tears are going to burst out of me and splatter every wall so all I say is; “My stomach.” And I dash out of the door. I cried on my way home and when I entered the house. I slammed the back door and ran straight to my room and lay across my bed.

I was thinking; for as long as I can remember I have always been inquisitive about sex and once becoming sexually active, most of the time that’s all I think about. I must be perverted and now I’ve become a rapist. I didn’t deserve to live. I thought about why I chose Wiley and realized it was because I wanted to control him like I had been controlled. I wanted to be the one to decide when and if it’s over. I was so intent on getting even; I never considered the idea of me hurting Wiley like I had been hurt. Not once did I consider his feelings. I wasn’t fit to live because if I did, the older I would get, the more perverted I would become. What if I get desperate and start picking guys younger and younger! Geez, there is no way I should live and get more and more perverted, nah, Angela, you need to put an end to this; and right now!  So I decided to get some of Mother’s pills and end my life today!

I began crying as I got up and walked to the bathroom. As I opened the medicine cabinet thoughts of me picking up another young boy entered my mind. I know I’m crying loud, but I don’t care because today is the last day I’ll breathe, a pervert like me should… hey, wait a minute, there are no pills in here of Mother’s just a few aspirin in a bottle and some liquid cold medicine. As I stood there in shock, I asked myself, ‘Where in the world are her pills? Is Mother healed and no longer has to take medication? Why hasn’t she said something? I’ll go look in her room.’ Oh what kind of mess is this; she gets healed and I turn into a pervert!’ Now I’m sobbing so much, I can barely see.  Why is her door closed she never closes her door. I turn the knob and open the door; my eyes are full of tears so I stand there in the doorway and wipe the tears away with the backs of my hands so I can focus, and when I do; I stop crying and gasp.

Mother has pills all over her room. There are pills on every wooded surface; both night stands and her dresser are covered with prescription bottles. I walk to the night stand closest to me and pick up a bottle and read the name. It’s Mothers; I pick another bottle to read and its Mothers. I go through each bottle in that room and each bottle has her name on it and none of them have expired. I flop down on her bed and start thinking; ‘she’s been on dialyses now for what; 12 years. She couldn’t possibly be taking this much medication.  Let me get a writing tablet and pen and write down the dates on these bottles and see how many different medications she’s actually taking.’ I go get a tablet and pen from the kitchen and return to her bedroom and begin writing down the dates she filled the medications. After I had gone through both night stands the phone rings. It’s Mother; she asks me how I feel and I say to her, “Mother, it’s not about how I feel; it’s about how you feel.” There was silence on the phone. I tell her to come home so we can talk and she says; “Ok” And hangs up.

I continued writing all of her prescriptions down with each date of issue next to it and notice the dates are much older on the bottles on top of her dresser.  I hear the back door close and turn around to watch as Mother enters the doorway.  When she walked into her room she sat on the bed and silently began shedding tears. I turn to place the tablet and pen on top of the bottles and watch her in the mirror. She is sobbing, I turn around to face her and say tenderly, “Mother, why didn’t you tell me you were this sick?” She just sat there with her head down, staring at her hands, as her upper body moves up and down, she’s crying so hard she’s unable to answer.

I walked over to the tissue box and pulled out some tissue, and then I headed towards the bed and sat real close to her. She kept her head down refusing to look at me and took the tissue from my hand, so I bent over real close to her face and nudged her to get her to look up at me, she grabbed me and hugged me so tight, I could barely breathe. She continued sobbing and I joined her.  Her grip loosened then I hugged her tight as I thought; ‘this is what I take for granted; LIFE! ’

When we both collected ourselves, she told me she takes certain medications on certain days. Having the medications visible helps her keep focused on what really is important. She thanks God every morning and every evening that she no longer has to take the medications on the dresser. Mother kissed me on my cheek and told me she loved me so much and how proud of me she was. Then she asked me, when was I going to meet a nice young man and get married and give her some grand babies to spoil. We laughed and started talking and reminiscing about when I was younger and the times we spent together. She said she and Flora were the only siblings without grandkids, and she wanted to hold one of her grand babies before she left this earth. That night when I went to bed I thanked the Lord for allowing me to see what was really important; living!  Then I repented of my control issue and I thought about how sick she is; and I made my mind up to dedicate the time she had left on this earth to making lasting memories with her; memories that would last me my lifetime; happy memories of Mother and me. I swore off men altogether, I’ll keep my mind on other things like being happy with Mother. My devotion that night was from Psalm 26:7 “That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, And tell of all Your wondrous works.” I memorized that scripture and every time something good happens to me or anyone I know; I pull it up from my memory file and bless the Lord, saying it while I lift my eyes towards heaven.  I fell asleep that night thanking and praising the Lord because I wanted to wake up in the morning!

Right now, as I lay in my bed sobbing, I realize Aunt Flora has no clue her telling me about Big Daddy has given me understanding. I can cast that spirit of suicide back into the pit where it originated. Neither me, nor any other member of our family will be influenced by that spirit ever again, in the Name of Jesus! Thank You Lord for revealing the root of that spirit that used to taunt me!  Hallelujah, glory! …. I got out of bed and danced my happy self tired! Thank You Jesus for deliverance!!!

Once I calmed myself, I thought about how I had sworn off men that night; the truth hit me square in the face! I became aware of my weakness for sex, and decided to apply some good ole common sense. That was to keep my, “Love me some good smelling, football looking men self, real busy!” I’m embarrassed now, thinking of how I used to be; actually how I would be now if I didn’t keep myself busy, busy, busy!

Being in the catering business, I come in contact with a lot of people and some I know I won’t see again because of the different circles we travel in everyday. After Wiley, I went almost a year without a man and one night at a wedding reception; I was serving a platter of champagne and came eye to eye with this football player looking, dark chocolate, 6 foot 2, bald, earring wearing man. The way he looked at me, I felt sparks and when I smiled my suggestive smile back at him, he asked if I could take a break. I said to him, “Sure, anything for you big man, lead the way!”  He nodded for me to follow him, so I did, right out of the reception hall, to the patio area; where I rested my tray on an empty table; and switched my behind right behind him into the parking lot. I followed him right to the back of his long bed, tinted windows, truck. We were there for what seemed like over an hour.

I could hear the people as they were starting to leave and I knew I had to get back to work before I was missed. While walking back into the hall he asked me for my number and I told him I didn’t give my number to strangers. He laughed so loud and said, “You got it twisted don’t you?” I quickly turned to face him and the moment I looked at him; I realized he was right; I am twisted to do what I just did! Here I go again, feeling ashamed and cheap, lord I need to get this flesh under something besides a man!

I told Dora what I had done and she prayed for me, put oil on me and prayed in the spirit over me for at least 30 minutes. She told me very sternly, that I needed to be baptized with the Holy Ghost to get my flesh under subjection. She said for me to pray daily as she would for me and if need be; she would fast with me so I could get my baptism. That’s when I included asking to become filled in all of my devotions.

The last time I went with a stranger was only 9 months ago and I remember that clearly! We were working a 50th birthday party for a Veteran at the West Memphis Country Club and man can those guys drink! I was manning the buffet table when suddenly this guy grabs me from behind and twirls me around and by me having a serving platter full of shrimp salad in my hand; the shrimp salad went everywhere. Here we go again with this tall light brown football playing looking man; apologizing very sincerely for the mess he’s caused. I tell him not to worry and while I’m getting the food up, Mattie and Vicki comes and help me. After we get the food area clean, I go into the rest room and clean myself up as best I could. When I walk out of the restroom there he is waiting for me and he asks me to, “sincerely accept his apology.” I thought he was drunk so I didn’t want to upset him; some drinkers get violent and I didn’t want Bobby Ray and Maynard to have to pull out their guns. So I smiled at him and said, “It’s not a problem, mistakes happen.” And kept walking away from him, he stepped in front of me, grabbed me by my waist and pulled me to himself and kissed me with the most passionate kiss and I heard myself moaning!

He leads me away as though we’re dancing and we end up in the men’s room. He locks the door and we were locked in there for a long, long time. When he unlocked the door he says “I hope my wife hasn’t been looking for me.” I stood there froze; ‘did he say wife! Oh my, my, what have I done now?’ I let him leave out first just in case she was watching him, then I slowly exited. My eyes were scanning the room to see who was watching. I saw Jamal and Willie glance my way and I felt my face turning fire engine red from embarrassment. Geez Angela! I hid back in the kitchen the rest of the night; talk about scared and embarrassed! Every time Jamal or Willie came into the kitchen I couldn’t look them in the face and I was so scared the man’s wife was going to come in the kitchen looking for me. Geez!

While cleaning and packing up to leave, I kept thinking what Dora is always telling me about needing to be filled to the brim with the “Holy Ghost Power” in order to overcome evil and temptation; and I almost started crying. Not because of what I had just done with a married man, but because I enjoyed so much what I had just done with a married man! His phone number would have definitely ended up on my speed dial if I hadn’t found out he was married! These Memphis women carry knives to use on women just like me to protect their grits & biscuits! Dora didn’t hear about that episode, I decided to keep myself real busy and not think about any more men period! Starting that Sunday and every Sunday service since, I have been going to the alter asking for prayer to become filled with the Holy Ghost; that last episode of sleeping with a married man was too scary.

Laying here thinking about this, I realize how I have always, for as long as I can remember; been attracted to men with muscles. I believe it’s because I want a strong man in my life; the kind of man I can feel safe being in his arms. Wow, I feel the presence of the Lord; I think I understand the reason I yield to the men I have been with is….. Because …..I have never ever…. experienced being held securely in the arms of my biological father……. Wow, I realize now that when my relationships failed, I felt rejection AGAIN, from someone I thought would love and protect me, which summonsed the suicide spirit; ok Angela, just end your life! Wow, what a revelation.

After I meditated on that, I thought about Aunt Flora and how she thought she was freeing herself by telling me the family secret and lie; but, she has triggered my secrets to surface and now I’m examining myself, un be known to her. The Holy Spirit is allowing me to explore my soul and get to the root of the suicide spirit that was attached to me, and, reveal why I fall for the type of men I do. Thank You Holy Spirit; thank you, for revealing understanding; now show me how to become totally healed and please, fill me now as I yield to You.  After waiting a few minutes for the Holy Spirit to fill me, I rolled over and slept like a baby.

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    My second book titled “Shame In Me” was originally published December 2011. PROSPERING SOUL PUBLISHING is now publishing “SHAME IN ME REVISED” and is available for purchase through all of your  on-line retailers.

                                              ShameCover1600.jpg

                                                            CHAPTER ONE

                                                    No Way Is This Happening
A Saturday to remember!
This is not happening to me! I must be dreaming, no, I am dreaming! Maybe if I close my eyes I’ll wake up. Still here! I have to be dreaming; no way is this really happening to me! I know I am not in jail. I must be having one of those dreams that seem real. I could not possibly be in jail for real! Oh Lord, I am in jail! How did I get here? I don’t believe this! How did I end up here, in jail? Me! In jail!
                                                          Loud speaker:

“….MONTGOMERY, MARVA”

Policeman walks to the front of the room and states, “all of you get one phone call, the line forms there.”

Oh, that’s me, why is this guard pulling my arm so hard, doesn’t he know his own strength! What inhumane treatment. Oh Lord, you have got to get me out of here! I don’t belong here. Jesus, help me, please.

I want to cry but I’m afraid if I do, the others being arrested will think I’m weak and I don’t want anyone to pick on me. I’d better keep a straight face so no one will know how scared I am. My goodness, how in the world did I end up here, me, in here? In the name of Jesus; I decree protection over me while I’m in this place. Cover me with Your Blood, I promise,

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Lord; if you get me out of here, I’ll never come back.

I know I should have never written those checks, but I’ve written checks before… What’s wrong with me? Standing here decreeing and justifying my wrong in the same breath! What have I become? I know writing bad checks is wrong. How did I become this. What happened to me? Lord I know better, please, I really need you…

This is so strange. Now I can’t stop the tears, and I don’t care who sees me. Lord, I really need to feel your presence now. Help me Jesus. I want to know what caused me to become this person that justifies writing bad checks. I need to know the precise cause of what made me think, no wait, what made me not think about writing a check that wasn’t any good. I have to know what type mindset I captured; so I can avoid it and never allow that type of thinking to overcome me again because I never ever want to come back to this place. This is unbelievable! me in jail!

Who can I call? Mom will be worried, uh, not to mention enormously disappointed in me. And I don’t want any of my siblings to know I’ve been writing bad checks. They all look up to me. Out of the seven of us, I am the only grown one with no kids out of wedlock. They all brag on me because I own a real nice Condo, a CLS 550 Mercedes Benz and, I have been Senior Executive Accountant for Beckman and Jacobs Law Firm for over two years. Beckman and Jacobs is the most prestigious law firm, not just here
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in Mableton but in the whole state of Georgia. I really
do have it going on and look at what I did; landed myself right here in jail. I’ll just skip my phone call for now I am too embarrassed to call anyone.

Whew! Finally I’m in a cell and it’s empty. Thank you Lord I know you orchestrated me being alone in here because I have never, in all my twenty-
four years of life, ever have been this scared. Growing up in the low income areas of Chicago, I know the definition of scared. While in line to get my “wrinkled jail issue” orange jump suit, I heard some women talking about a church service in the chapel tonight that starts at six thirty and I’m definitely going to attend. As I was being escorted to my cell, I asked the female guard if it would be alright for me to attend the services this evening. She told me Administration encourages the inmates to attend and she also informed me the preacher speaking tonight is excellent at breaking down the Word. If I wanted to attend, she would have to come and get me. I told her I would appreciate it.

I really want to check the service out. I haven’t been to church in so long. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there was a time when I had a really close relationship with the Lord. Uh, I wonder exactly when did my love for Him diminish. When did I withdraw from His presence? How did I get to this place of not even knowing I wasn’t in fellowship with the Lord anymore? When did I stop putting God first in my life? I have a lot of self examining to do…

Lord, I know I have a lot of nerve asking you to

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deliver me out of here but I’m asking and while I have your attention; I also want to know where I slipped away from you and what caused me to slip away so I can make sure it never ever happens again! I must find out at what point in my life I took on the mindset that writing bad checks was no big deal. Holy Spirit, please show me where I went wrong… I repent of my sinful ways, I truly am sorry…

Look at me standing here like I’m just visiting, this is crazy. I might as well sit down and get comfortable; I’ll be here until Monday. This is truly a shame; in fact it’s a crying shame if I wasn’t so stunned, I’d be crying right about now but I have got to figure out what happened to me, what put me in here.

I should be home reading my book, waiting for
Mom to call, instead I’m in jail. Huh, what a joke, me Miss Marva in jail on a Saturday night. Little Miss boring not home reading. I live the most boring life of anyone I know. I have had the same routine since I started work over three years ago. You can set your clock to my daily schedule. I always do the same thing at the same time.

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings I make it to the gym from six to six forty-five am. On my way home from the gym I stop at “Doughnuts & More,” a family owned bakery just a block from the gym, and I have breakfast; a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and a hot cup of herbal tea. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, on my way to work, I stop at “Lil Lucy’s Café” and grab a cheese filled croissant

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and a cup of hot herbal tea for breakfast.

During my morning break at work, I have my lunch and I purposely set my lunch time from four-thirty to five pm. so I can have my dinner. I have five local delis programmed on speed dial in my office phone this way I have my lunch and dinner delivered to me at the office.

When I arrive home from work I get my mail; pick out my clothes for the next day and I crawl into bed with my book. I talk on the phone with Mom, and my older sisters, Stacey and Janelle every night except every other Friday. That’s when I call Mom as I leave my office and talk to her while I drive from work to the “Panache Bar and Grill” located here in Mableton. I’ve been going there for over a year now. The Panache is where I meet two of my office associates, Kayla Braxton and Lisa Ardmore. Kayla supervises the Personnel Department and Lisa supervises the Court Clerks.

They know who’s doing what with whom at work and all of the juicy details of the current shock and awe cases. They get to the Panache before I do and the more wine they drink, the more information I get. I just sit, smile and drink my seven up and cranberry juice while my ears get full. Oh my goodness, I wonder what the buzz in the office will sound like about me being in here! I’d like to be a fly on the wall to hear that!

Saturdays after exercising and breakfast, I have “Me Time” then I shop. I have a standing eight

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thirty am appointment for my hair. I Leave there and
go to my ten thirty manicure and pedicure. Then I shop for the house. I purchase whatever is needed, towels and sheets those sorts of things. Then I’m off to the mall or boutique, depending on what I want to get. After that I pick up some groceries for the weekend and head home. Once home, I’m in with a good book while I lie on my chaise and read until late Sunday.

The only time I divert my Saturday routine is if I have to attend a previously planned event, like a play or by invitation only affair. That’s my quiet, predictable boring life. How I ended up here, is what I need to figure out. I need to know what would make me write checks I know I shouldn’t and think I don’t belong in jail. When did I stop having a consciousness of doing right and began entertaining the idea of doing wrong? Now that’s what I need to figure out by Monday.

Today began as any other ordinary Saturday for me. Even with my animated imagination; I never would have been able to paint this picture. Me spending the night, or shall I say the weekend here in jail!

After I exercised, I had my bagel and tea, went home showered, dressed and headed to my hair appointment. Last week I finally broke down and let my cosmetologist, Rashida cut my hair. Every since ninth grade I have always flat ironed my hair or wore a French roll. I have been complaining for several months about being bored with my hair and wanting to do something different and Rashida has been trying

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to convince me to let her cut it for some time. So I caved in and let her give me the “Atlanta Kandi Cut” as she called it. So today because my hair is short I didn’t use all of my appointment time and as I left the salon I noticed a “Just Opened” sign outside three doors down. It was a new café, “Hanna’s Manna” and I decided to check it out. When I say you can get the best three cheese omelet in all of Georgia there, that’s putting it lightly; Oh the butter!

After eating my omelet I drove over to my manicure and pedicure, left there and was off to the
Galleria Specialty Mall to purchase a new set of throw pillows for my bedroom chaise. Because I read a lot while on my chaise, I replace my pillows every three or four months. However the ones I purchased today were very expensive but on sale so they shouldn’t go flat too soon. I left there and drove over to the Neiman and Marcus in the Marketplace on Peachtree Road NE. I must get a gown to wear for Judge Berkshire’s retirement party being held two weeks from today, September first. Judge Berkshire is a close friend to one of the board members of my firm and whenever we get a “board member memo” inviting us to any function; it is expected of all management to attend.

I must have tried on every rack gown in the store before the sales clerk informed me of some new Michael Kors after five’s that had just arrived. I told her my size and five minutes later, I was modeling his latest designs. The lavender draped cowl neckline sleeveless dress fit me perfect! I know fourteen hundred dollars is a lot for me right now considering I would need another fifteen hundred for shoes and

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purse, but I told her to ring it up. I thought ‘If the check
goes through, it goes through.’ I changed back into my clothes and went to the register to pay for my gown… Now why didn’t I just pause and consider doing the right thing?

Maybe, just maybe, if I can pinpoint my frame of mind at that exact moment, then I can figure out why I would do such a thing.

I am five feet five and I’m proportioned to my height. I wear a size seven in clothing and shoes. When I tried that gown on, I looked up at myself in the
mirror, and wow, that gown fit like it was tailored just for me! I slightly twisted myself around as if I were hula hooping, trying to find the price tag to see how much it cost. Hum, I thought as I glanced at it. I looked back up at myself in the mirror and at that moment I thought ‘this is the gown, and I deserve it, after all, I do work very hard.’ That’s when I told the sales clerk I was going to take it. I knew there was not enough money in my checking account to cover it but I had written checks before at this store and they all went through… Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t think twice about being dishonest…

What is wrong with me? What’s happened to me? I just walked up to the register and pulled out my checkbook and wrote the check like I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

The sales clerk went through the processing procedure and the check just would not process. She told me there was a slight problem with her register

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and for me to go upstairs to the credit offices and they would clear up the matter, it would only take a few moments. I knew the check wouldn’t clear, I only had twelve hundred and some change in my checking account.

So I took the escalator down and not up, I headed towards the parking lot thinking, ‘that’s alright; I get paid Thursday. I’ll get a gown next Saturday from “Britney’s Boutique” or from “One of A Kind Boutique” over on Austell Road.’ Now that the gown situation was settled in my mind, it was grocery shopping time. I started looking through my purse to see if I had put Olivia’s grocery list in it. When I stepped off the escalator onto the lower level I was wondering what would be good for dinner.

I heard footsteps behind me and could tell it was more than one person, so I didn’t think anything of it. Two plain clothes policemen walked up in sync with me. After three or four steps, one of them asked, “Marva Montgomery?” I closed my purse, stopped, turned toward the man and said, “Yes, I’m Marva Montgomery.” The other man stood behind me and grabbed my wrists and slapped a pair of handcuffs on me.
The man standing in front of me said, “Miss Montgomery, you are coming with us.” I was baffled. I asked, “Why, who are you, where are you taking me, what’s this all about?” They were both silent. The man that stood in front of me started walking and took me by the arm and directed me to the service elevators.

Now as long as I have been shopping at this

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mall, I never knew those elevators existed until today. I couldn’t believe I was being handcuffed like a common criminal. I began shaking my head ‘no’; no way is this happening. As we rode the elevator up to the third floor no one uttered a word. All I could think of was they obviously have me mixed up with someone else. When we stepped off the elevator they directed me to a door marked “Security Personnel
Only.” I thought to myself, ‘ok, I didn’t steal anything, when they go through my purse they’ll see and let me go. Thank you Jesus, this is just a mistake!’

As soon as we walked through the door, we were in what looked like a reception area. There were two long sleek designed candy apple red leather sofas facing each other. To the right of the sofas was a wall that simulated a bank teller’s booth with bulletproof glass. Through the bulletproof glass I could
see a metal desk with a padded wooden stool parked at it, ‘guess the cashier is on break.’ To the right of the booth was a large round smoked black tinted glass table with several high gloss metal and black chairs around it. Directly to the right of the table and chairs was a wood, swinging door.

Out of the swinging door comes two police officers suited in blues, with guns and clubs and they were approaching us. I noticed one of them pull out what looked like a business card from his chest pocket. He looked at the card and began to recite; “You have the right to remain silent…,” oh no he isn’t. I know he’s not reading me my rights! The man never

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glanced up at me. The other cop walked behind me and waited until the undercover policeman un-cuffed me.

My Juicy Couture Terry Heritage Tote was hanging on my arm when I was cuffed downstairs and considering the weight of the purse and the contents my arms were tingling from the pressure. Off goes the cuffs, but before I could relax my arms, the policeman immediately clamped on a new pair. Oh great, they each have their own personal set of cuffs. Oh no, not another set of cuffs! That’s when I began to panic. I couldn’t breathe. I started walking around in a circle, trying to catch my breath. Not helping! I can’t breathe! I bent over to try and put my head between my knees but one of the policemen extended his leg and stopped me from moving.

Once I was immobile, the policeman standing in front of me took me by my arm and made me stand straight up. I felt ambushed, and restricted, this is not happening to me! That’s when I started crying.

I threw my head back as far as I could and shouted from the depth of my belly, “What are you arresting me for, I haven’t stolen anything?” Just then the swinging door gave out a squeak. I turned my head towards the sound to see an elderly lady stepping into the room with us. She looked to be in her late fifties, dressed in a linen and silk blend powder blue Saint John pant suit and she had impeccable blonde highlights in her short cropped hair cut. She was walking towards us with a clip board in her hand and it was full of papers. I noticed as she

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began to grab at her small frameless eyeglasses that
were hanging around her neck, how she seemed so deep in thought on what she was reading as she gently placed the glasses on her nose; never looking up.

She stopped and stood next to one of the black chairs by the table and briefly glanced up over her glasses at me. She began flipping pages and started speaking with a thick deep Georgian accent, as if she were reading a transcript. “Marva Montgomery, you are being charged with ‘repeated theft by intent.’ You are in possession of store merchandise totaling twelve thousand, seven hundred forty-one dollars and eighty two cents. This merchandise was acquired by you through means of insufficient funds and, is hereby considered stolen property.”

Now I was being pulled by my arm out of the same door I came in. Right back to the elevator we had used to come up. I’m thinking, ‘so I didn’t get away with it. They were keeping a running tab of what I owed.’ As the three of us stood waiting for the elevator my mind began rewinding. I saw every item I had written checks for. I saw myself at every register
and at home putting each item in my closet. It’s hard to believe, me, predictable, boring Miss Marva Montgomery; housing stolen merchandise.

Why didn’t I just mail the money to the store for the clothes, or why didn’t I respond to the letters the store mailed me? I knew I hadn’t paid for those items and now, right this second; I realize… I had no

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intension of paying for the clothes. I actually thought I had a right to them. My attitude was ‘Huh, they gave them to me.’ How did I become this person, actually this thief shocked to be hauled off to jail?

When the elevator door opened, a young man suited up in a dark and light brown pinstriped Dolce and Gabbana, was exiting. He had about two inches of platinum spiked hair, and a blue money bag in his hand. The three of us walked onto the elevator and turned around to face the door. I noticed the young man was entering into the door we had just come out of. As we rode the elevator down, reality tried to sink in but my imagination pushed it aside. I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me, no, no, no, that’s not true, I didn’t want to believe this was happening to me.

I closed my eyes and imagined myself in my car heading home with a nice aged rib eye steak and a fresh crisp Caesar salad from Mario’s Deli, nicely wrapped in Mario’s signature bag; lying on the passenger seat of my car. Oh yes, and I am headed home to eat, straighten up the kitchen, wait for Mom to call, rest and read my book. I was so deep in that thought I even smiled. When I heard the sound of the elevator bell, my imagination slid aside and reality took over. I realized the two policemen in the elevator with me were taking me to Fulton County jail. I can not be going to jail, this is not happening, this is not possible!

The door opened, we were back on the lower level of the parking lot and my two county escorts

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guided me to a parked police car. I started praying out loud, “Lord, help me, please! Jesus, help me! I’m sorry, Lord, please help me.” Now I’m crying and praying, “Father, I repent of my wrong doing, please forgive me Lord. I am so sorry!” By this time we are standing at the rear door of the police car. The policeman who handcuffed me opens the door. I remember bending over to get in, everything that happened after that seems like a foggy motion picture. I really believe I couldn’t handle what was happening to me, so I slipped into a place. A place that was safe for me, I just couldn’t believe I was actually going through the booking proceedings. I really thought I was watching someone else in my body being booked; this could not possibly be ME!

Now I’m sitting here on this bunk wondering how I came to this. Me, Marva Montgomery, brought up to know better. I definitely need deliverance from whatever caused me to be here. I am going to seek You Lord with my whole heart. I need to know what made me put myself in here, and make sure whatever
it is; it is cast completely out of me!

CHAPTER THREE

Me And My Job
Mirror, mirror of my heart

As I get up from my knees I recall my frame of mind when I left Chicago. It was to come to Atlanta for the sole purpose of attending Spelman College. While earning my degree, I took several business courses. One of my instructors told me: “This class provides proven adequate principals for running a business. However ‘observation’ is the best method in determining the most appropriate and effective techniques that will best work for the business you choose.” So, my plan was to return to Chicago, work for a small accounting firm, get some hands on experience about the do’s and don’ts of running a small business then establish my own accounting firm.

That was my plan, however two days before graduation, while packing up my dorm to return to Chicago; I received a certified letter from Beckman and Jacobs Law Firm. They are located in downtown Mableton and are considered the largest and most prestigious law firm in the Atlanta region also; they are referred by other states. They were impressed with my four point seven grade average. My major was accounting with a minor in statistical math. The letter informed me I was a candidate being considered for the only accountant position available. I was extremely flattered to be considered for the position, so I decided to call and confirm my interview. I interviewed the following Thursday and two weeks

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later I started working. Only three weeks after graduation and I had a job, and did I praise me some Lord!

The first year I worked as an Accountant I started at the pay rate of eighty thousand per annum. I gave the Lord all His due; first fruits, tithe, offerings and praise because He has been nothing but good too me! I would even sow into various ministries and bless those who were less fortunate. I felt so privileged to be twenty one years old and making that kind of money.

I sent money home to Mom every month until I purchased my Condo. She refused the money and told me to use it to furnish my Condo and for me not to get in debt. I followed her advice and paid cash for everything. After being on the job a month I suggested a software system and because its implementation was a great success I received a hefty six month raise and a bonus at the end of the year. Exactly one year to the day I was hired, the big bosses were so impressed by the way I made the software training so easy, I was promoted to Senior Executive Accountant. I had nine employees to supervise and my pay tripled plus, they gave me an expense account. This past June, I received another very substantial raise.

Thinking of all this now, I can see it was shortly after my promotion I stopped going to church. I can’t believe this. I have been Senior Executive Accountant for a little over two years, and today is the first time I have even thought about why I stopped going to church. This is unbelievable! I can not blame anyone

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but myself for becoming so ‘busy making money’ that I almost completely forgot about God. Right now it’s so obvious to me it was after my promotion, my Monday through Friday work week turned into twelve hour days; eight-thirty in the morning until eight-thirty at night.

Why did I allow money to separate me from the love I had for the Lord? There was a time in my life nothing would have been able to separate me from the love I had for Him, what happened to me… Well, since I’ll be here until Monday I’ll lay here and get to the bottom of this. I want to get out of here and never ever never come back!

Now I recall my freshmen year at Spelman. As soon as I moved here I joined Purpose and Destiny Christian Center. My roommate, Roslyn Fitch, was from Cleveland Ohio and her mothers’ sister, Ethel and her husband, Greg lived in Bankhead. Aunt Ethel told Roslyn about Purpose and Destiny Christian Center because she and Uncle Greg were members.

After Roslyn visited and told me about what a great time she had at the church, I visited and shortly joined. Uncle Greg would come get Roslyn and I to take us to their house and while Aunt Ethel was getting ready we would eat breakfast. We would all leave from church and go back to the house and have a good Sunday dinner, help clean up the kitchen then head back to the dorm. As long as I fellowshipped at Purpose and Destiny, I was doing all the right things.

Right now I can clearly see my no longer attending church happened gradually. Shortly after I
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was promoted, the first service I missed was Wednesday night Bible study. I remember leaving work and going directly to church, but by the time I arrived; the message was over and people were at the alter having prayer. So I decided to purchase that night’s CD and while I was standing in line to purchase my CD I thought, ‘I’ll just purchase all of Wednesday night Bible Study CD’s when I attend Sunday services. I get off work too late.’ Yeah, I remember that. Okay now I’m getting somewhere, let me see if I can pinpoint when I consciously decided to stop attending Sunday services.

My alarm clock is always set to go off at five-thirty am seven days a week. However I usually wake up before my alarm goes off. Not long after I stopped attending Wednesday night Bible Study I started turning off my alarm on Saturday evenings, thinking I would wake up in time for Sunday School without the alarm. I remember the first few times not setting the clock, I would wake up at five twenty; go to the restroom and get back into bed and fall right back to sleep. I missed Sunday School but made it to church, and soon after that I started sleeping until nine am.

The first few times I woke up and looked at the clock I thought to myself, ‘I must have been extremely tired to sleep that late. I must need the rest.’ I hurried getting showered and dressed and drove all crazy trying to get to ten-thirty am service and when I arrived, I felt so rushed it was difficult to get into Praise and Worship. Yeah, yeah, now it’s clear to me; I was gradually getting disconnected.

After three or four times rushing to get to
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service, I decided to just lie in bed on Sunday mornings and study my Sunday School lesson. I stayed home studying until the quarter ended and I didn’t have the new book. Hello! That’s when I stopped setting my clothes out on Saturday evenings, for Sunday. I had no intentions of attending church; none what so ever! …

Oh Lord, doing this reflection, I can see how it became easier for me not to attend Sunday Services. No longer were my affections set on things above, they were set on my job. Now tears are beginning to drop from my eyes. Oh this is so painful; seeing myself; my selfish self…

I am so sorry Lord. I repent of my selfishness
and return to You; my First Love… I really do need some tissue in here, I can not stop crying… this is so painful… oh forget it I’ll just cry out to the Lord and let the snot flow… OH GOD HELP ME, PLEASE! ………..

I feel so much better allowing my tears to cleanse my soul. I hope they don’t think someone is hurting me in here the way I was crying out, emptying out really. Let me see, where was I …oh yeah, after missing Sunday Services, I remember mailing my tithe and offerings to the church. Um, let me see if I can figure out when I stopped sending in my tithes and offerings? Let me think, um, oh no, I don’t believe this, it was right after Thanksgiving, yeah I remember.
I had done all of my Christmas shopping for my family. It was the first Christmas after my promotion and I was making all that money, oh my goodness, I remember. I went all out buying everyone what they wanted.
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I had taken the time to phone each one of my family members to ask what it was they wanted for Christmas and I made myself a list. After each purchase I wrapped and labeled the gift myself and stacked all of the gifts in the family room. Yep, after I had everybody’s gift, I loaded up my car and went to a mailing center to ship everything. When I was leaving the mailing center, I noticed a new boutique just three doors down from where I was parked, so I walked over to check it out.

Oh my goodness! I remember as soon as I walked into the boutique, my eyes were drawn to a gorgeous Chanel brown and pale green tweed suit with a crepe waffle patterned shell. I had a pair of Jimmy Choo cognac pumps I just knew would match perfectly. I went into my purse, pulled out my cell phone to pull up my banking app and find out my balance. I had already written my check for my tithes and offering and my balance was a little over fifteen hundred dollars. All those Christmas gifts wiped me out. The suit was twelve hundred seventy five dollars. I would have a little over two hundred dollars to last me two weeks. I spend more than that in a week; with gas, meals, my hair and nails.

I walked around that boutique thinking of how I could take this suit home with me. That’s it! Right there was when I decided to no longer give my tithe and offerings to the Lord, the suit went home with me. Wow… this is wrenching my heart, Lord, God! I’m so sorry… I can’t stop crying. I have got to get some tissue in here… oh how this hurts remembering that day…
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As soon as I walked in the house, I went straight to my shoe closet and pulled out my shoes. I
can see myself now almost trembling as I pulled my shoes out of the closet, dropping my purse and keys right there where I stood. My heart was racing I was so excited about the outfit matching my shoes. I yanked the plastic off the newly purchased outfit, oh no, they don’t match! The brown on the suit was too dark. All I could think about was ‘what store will I go to next week to find my matching shoes and purse.’ I was so excited about my new shopping mission. I never thought twice about robbing God; never gave it a second thought! Lord, I am so sorry, I just tossed our relationship aside like it wasn’t precious to me… I can’t stop sobbing. Oh Lord please forgive me, I am so sorry…

After that, I never sent any more money to the church. I was so caught up with buying things that I forgot about sowing and giving to the Kingdom of God. I forgot all about the Lord who has been nothing but good too me!

I wasn’t aware of my being comfortable with not going to church or no longer honoring the Lord with my finances. Now, I can see how I eased into spending Kingdom money on more stuff. I exchanged my affections for what I considered Holy; for things that never satisfies. When my eyes were diverted off the Lord, they became full of lust for more stuff.

Prayer is the only thing I never stopped doing… Ah, I just realize I have slacked also in my praying. I do all of the talking. I don’t enter into worship

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anymore, nor do I listen for direction. Lord I just complain to You about my problems at work. Oh how I
need to find another church. A church that is closer to my job so I can get connected to a local body and be encouraged to seek after the things of the Lord and His presence. Lord I want to reconnect and get an even deeper relationship with You than before. Yes; I want a closer walk with You Lord, an even closer walk than before.

Right now I’m seeing in my mind a tall pile of charcoal burning. The coals are red and blazing hot. Very slowly a coal rolls down the side of the pile, off by itself. I watch the lone coal sit there in one spot and soon, the red color it once emitted, indicating it was on fire, just goes out. Right now I feel like that coal that rolled away. I rolled away from the church, from the presence the hunger and the fire I once had for the Lord and became so self absorbed.

I may have gradually rolled away from You Lord, but I’m desperately going to cling to You now. Lord, I’m so sorry. I repent for putting “things” before You. I want to get back to having a right relationship with You. I want to spend time with You, in your Word and Your Presence, like I did before except now I want to be closer. Forgive me, and restore me; please.

The guard has come to take me to the service. Look at me. My impulse is to look for my purse and keys. Lord did I have it made! Being here is just stupidity on my part considering the freedom I had

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just this morning. I could go where I wanted, eat whatever I desired, and now I’m being treated like a caged animal. What caused me to become this Marva Montgomery that would write checks knowing I could not make them good, what happened to me?

 

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                    Now Enjoy chapters 1 and 3 from my first book “Abandoned No More”

Mary Ann Thompson (Mat) is a 22 year old elementary school teacher who has met Mr. Timothy Johns at a church singles meeting. After agreeing to have a cup of coffee with him, she not only ends up with a bad taste in her mouth but begins a journey into her childhood like she’s never experienced before and realizes she has abandonment issues.

Enjoy chapters 1 and 3 

CHAPTER ONE

The Singles Meeting

Meeting and avoiding Mr. Johns

Oh, I’m so beyond tired. I’ll get some sleep tonight. While I unlock the front door to my apartment, I hear the slight sound of the phone ringing. I glance at my watch. Five forty five. Just like clockwork, I know it’s him again. Today is Monday, the second day he’s called. I know I made myself clear as store bought ice; I don’t want to be bothered! Before I arrived home yesterday evening, he had already called and left a message. He said he was sorry and wanted to talk to me and asked me to please call him. After I listened to his pitiful excuse of an apology, I just deleted it.  I really, don’t want to be bothered.

I’d better check my messages now before I get relaxed. Beep ….Monday, five forty five pm. “Sister Thompson, I totally understand what you were saying to me last night. But, I really think you are afraid of a relationship with me. I will never intentionally, ever, bring you harm. I would like for you to give me a chance to prove it to you. Please call me. Bye.” I bend over and inform the answering machine “Hey Mr. Johns you are a man, and that means you’re prone to lie. And you’ve got some nerve telling me that I am just afraid of a relationship! Newsflash, Mr. Timothy Johns, not going to happen!  I do not want to be bothered.” Now I began pacing the floor thinking ‘Oh, I’m going to set him so straight. What must I do to get my point across? I’ll write him a note, something.  I know; I’ll call him from work tomorrow, when I’m done with him, he’ll know he’s been stung. I can’t believe him!’

Today is Tuesday oh man only Tuesday. Getting to sleep last night was difficult. I was furious at Mr. Johns for assuming I’m afraid of a relationship, the nerve of that man! Who does he think he is, telling me I’m afraid? Let it go Mat; don’t get worked up all over again. Hurry and get out of here you don’t want to be late.

Alright, its lunch time let me get this over with and call him. I don’t want him to be able to call me back. I’ll use the office phone, there are two phones with blocked numbers in there and I’ll have some privacy. Oh, this is perfect. I don’t have to talk to him, he’s not answering his cell I’ll just leave him a message. “Hello Mr. Johns, this is Mary Ann Thompson, please do not, I repeat, do not call me ever again. You are a liar and you are no different from any other man. Burn my number or throw it away don’t ever call me again, leave me alone!”  Slam goes the phone…There that should do it. Maybe, just maybe, now he will keep it moving!

While driving home from work I remember two months ago in July, I joined the Singles Ministry at church. Now, I really wish I hadn’t. I have been going to Bethel for three years and as soon as I let my guard down, here comes trouble. The first time I attended the Singles Ministry was to check it out. The majority of the members are married with children. Because I didn’t see many single people at Bethel, I just assumed the Singles Ministry was a group of divorcees.  The Singles meet twice a month, every other Friday evening. Some Friday’s the meeting will be substituted for a Saturday outing. There was maybe fifty singles at the first meeting I attended. Something the teacher said captured my attention. She told us, as singles we must first seek the mindset that the Lord is always with us, even though we are single in number. The importance of us knowing we are not alone is very crucial to having a relationship with the Lord, and consequentially with other people.  I wrote down all the scriptures she gave regarding Jesus telling us that we were never alone. The next day, I studied the scriptures and I felt such a peace and confidence afterwards. My morning and evening devotions were more personal after that. I thought the class was very edifying, so, I decided to become a part of it.

My last meeting, I lingered after we were dismissed.  I struck up a conversation with the young lady, Barbara, who teaches the class.  She was telling me how she noticed I had not missed a meeting so far, and asked me if I was enjoying the class. She informed me of a suggestion box that was available concerning the Singles Ministry. When she pointed toward the box, that’s when I noticed Mr. Johns looking our way. I really thought he was checking Barbara out. I told her that I was learning so much from the class and was amazed at how this class was motivating me to studying my Bible more. Barbara continued telling me the class was designed to help singles keep their commitment to the Lord and, have good, clean fun being single.  I returned to my seat to collect my belongings. While gathering them, I was in deep thought as to if I wanted to stop and get a banana split, or go straight home.  Just as I turned to leave the room, Mr. Johns was standing there with his hand extended toward me. “Hello” he said in his deep baritone voice. “Hello” I said as I extended my hand toward him. He introduced himself as Timothy Johns. I was hesitant to give him my name, but when he flashed that smile, that perfectly full shaped pearly white smile, my mouth fell open and I heard myself say “Mary Ann Thompson.”  Quickly removing my hand, I turned and went the opposite way to exit the room. I thought to myself, not interested, you can flash that smile on someone else!

The following Sunday, after service, I was walking towards the parking lot when I heard “Have a blessed day, Sister Thompson.” I turned to my left, he said “Over here.” I turned to my right, it was Mr. Johns. “Thank you and you also.” He stood there, about two cars away, flashing that big smile of his. That Thursday night, I was running a little late to Bible Study. I was so busy hurrying to get inside before 7:30, when I arrived inside the vestibule, there was no usher at the door, so I hurriedly pulled the door and it swung open really wide. There he was, standing there, just grinning. “Good evening, Sister Thompson.” He said. I dryly replied, “Evenin.” I made sure to sit as far from him as possible. As I sat down I thought to myself, he, is going to be a problem!

The next Sunday, I pulled into the parking lot, and switched on my Mr. Timothy Johns radar. My eyes combed through the parking lot. Coast was clear, now, if I can get to the sanctuary. I spotted him entering the sanctuary looking around the room as if for someone, yea wonder who. After he entered I thought well, I’ll wait here a few minutes and make sure he’s seated before I go in. After a few minutes, I cautiously entered, looking for him, to make sure I sat in the opposite direction of wherever he was. My eyes met his; he flashed his smile and nodded. I started to roll my eyes, but I reminded myself, smile, be polite, Mat, you are in church. So, I gave him a courtesy nod.

After the benediction, I purposely stayed in my seat, giving him plenty time to leave. When the ushers were done tidying up, I collected my things and headed for my car. There were a few people still talking outside, but I didn’t see Mr. Johns. I unlocked my car, threw my purse in the back seat and was about to place my Bible and notebook with it when “Excuse me” came out of nowhere. I recognized the voice, darn it!  Mr. Johns, again I thought, ‘Ok, I’m going to put a stop to this.’  As I stood up and turned around, he was slightly bent over standing right in my face. I was looking directly into his eyes, and all I saw was kindness. I stood there as if I were hypnotized.  He broke out with his famous smile again. I thought no, no, that’s not going to work on me. I closed my eyes, took in a deep sigh, and was just getting ready to tell him to get lost, but before I could say anything, he said. “I want to ask you out for coffee or tea while I have the nerve. Please say yes, please.”  I squinted my eyes, shook my index finger at him and said, “Only if you promise we go our separate ways afterwards, deal?”  His smile fell, as our eyes locked his eyes turned to puppy eyes right in front of me.  He says “Let’s just have a cup of coffee first. You do drink coffee don’t you? Or are you a tea drinker?”

Now I’m fuming, “Lets just get this over with” I spewed out. “Now?”  He asked. “Now or never!”  I said. He smiles again, and says “Fine.”  “Fine then.” I yell back, as I throw my Bible and notebook in the back seat, and slam my rear car door. I jerked the front door open, got in my car, and started it. He was still standing there watching my every move. I rolled down my window, and said “WHAT!”  Here comes that smile again. He says, “Follow me, ok?” I just glared at him. This man is really getting on my nerve! As I watched him, almost run to his car, I thought, all men want to do is to break a women’s heart, and if Mr. Johns thinks he has a chance to get a hold of mine, he has another think coming. I don’t care how great that smile is.

CHAPTER THREE

It Began With a Dream

Remembering NY and the death of “Lady”

 

Now it’s Tuesday night. After I settled myself, I checked my messages. Sure enough he left me another message. I listen….Beep, Tuesday, five thirty five pm. “Sister Thompson, I am so sorry I made you feel you can’t trust me. I really do care about you and I would never, never do anything ever, to hurt or harm you. I feel so bad knowing you are upset with me….I can’t sleep or eat, please call me so I can prove to you that I only have the utmost respect for you, please call me. I am so sorry. Bye.” Huh! I am not falling for that sad song.  I have said all that needs to be said. I’ll just keep the ringer off. I’m going to bed and get some good sleep.

Oh! My! Where did that come from, why am I dreaming about her? I haven’t thought about Hazel since Mother’s Day. What in the world brought that on? I glance at the clock, it’s three thirty seven in the morning, and I need to get back to sleep.  My heart is racing and I feel tears welling up. The dream seemed so real, just like it was actually happening. I felt like I was really six years old. That was so weird.

It was three days after my sixth birthday. Grammy is telling me to wear the purple dress with the ruffles; I had gotten for my present. Yea! She said Lady would really like to see me in that dress.  I was so thrilled. We are going to the secret place.  I loved to go to the secret place, and I was going to wear my new dress too! Only Grammy and me could go to the secret place. She told me to never tell anyone about anything I saw there, and to never say anything about “Lady.” Grammy would drive for a long time before we would get there. Everyone there was old and walked real slow, and had a lot of wrinkles except for Lady. Lady always sat in a wheel chair. She never said anything, but, when she saw me, her face would light up. I would run to her, get up in her lap and she would kiss my face over and over again. Grammy would tell her about all of the things I had done and Lady would keep her eyes on me the whole time Grammy talked. After Grammy would finish updating Lady about me, Grammy would say it was time for her and Lady to do some grown-up talking. That was my queue to go sit in the hall on the bench that had big yellow and red flowers in the fabric, and smelled like Pine Sol. After a little while, Grammy would come get me, and she always had her white handkerchief out of her purse and would be holding it in her hand. While she drove back home, she would sniffle and wipe her nose.  She would always drive for a little while, then we would stop at the mall, get something to eat and Grammy would buy me something, usually something I could put in my hair. As I got older, I noticed, when we would get back in the car, after leaving the mall, Grammy would have put her hankie back in her purse by then. She never changed her routine. I didn’t know it at the time, but we did this every month, the last Saturday of every month.

This particular trip is etched in my mind for two reasons. One, I wore my new dress for the first time and two, after we had left the mall; I asked Grammy, “Why is Lady’s name Lady? La Tasha, in my class, said she has a dog and Lady is a dog’s name. So why is that Lady’s name?” Grammy patted me on my hand and said “When you get older, you will understand. Lady is not her real name, Lady is her secret name. Remember M.A.T., we don’t tell anyone our secret, ok?” Ok, I said. But I was thinking ‘if her name is a secret, why did she have a dog’s name.  I’ll be so glad when I turn seven, then I’ll understand.’

My goodness, its four thirty in the morning, if I can get two more hours sleep, maybe I won’t be tired all day.  Four fifty nine am., forget it, I’m getting up. I can’t go back to sleep, I’m wide awake. That dream has triggered my memory of the fifth grade. Let me get up and put a pot of coffee on. I’ll need the caffeine to keep me awake today. While I’m sitting at the kitchen counter I am visualizing myself walking up to the back door. I can feel my nervousness even now.

It was Thursday and I was going to tell Grammy I didn’t want to go to the secret place that Saturday, I was not looking forward to that long ride to Delevan, NY.  I had created this perfect excuse in my mind as I walked home from school. I would tell her that I had a homework project that was due Monday. Grammy was old, but she was smart. I would have to make it look like I was doing some homework. She didn’t know a lot about reading and math, but she was sharp when it came to lying. She had this knack; she could what they call read people and boy could she read me! It was like she would know I was lying before I could finish my lie. She never whipped me for lying, she would shake her head ‘no’ then put up one of her hands as if it were a stop sign, while I was still talking and say “ unh, unh, not gonna fly. Try the truth.” So today I had to be real convincing with this school project thing.  The truth is I know Lady is really my mother, Hazel Thompson Grammy’s daughter. I figured it out last year, after my ninth birthday.

Our house was in an old neighborhood where the houses have a cut out in the front door, just large enough for the mail man to deliver our mail through. I loved to read, and I would get the mail off the floor and give it to Grammy and read it after she did. Usually the mail consisted of ads and utility bills. I read every ad that came through the door. Because Grammy only had a half brother she called Tanner, receiving a personal letter was very unusual. After Tanner died she would sometimes get a letter from Cousin Bertie, his only child. I read an envelope that came in the mail addressed to Miss. Hazel Thompson C/O R. Connors. I knew Thompson was my last name, and even though people called Grammy Miss Connors, her full name was Ruby Mae Connors. When Grammy had a few of her friends over to play cards, I would hear some of them call her Ruby Mae. And Grammy would sometimes say “my ex husband Beau Connors did this and my ex husband, Beau Connors did that, and that’s why he’s my ex.” Then they would all break out in a group laugh. I had learned in school how to properly address an envelope, so I knew C/O meant in care of, so I was trying to figure out why Grammy was getting Hazel Thompson’s mail when Hazel Thompson was related to me. I figured Hazel must be a relative of mine and I wanted to know exactly how she was related to me, where was she, and why haven‘t I heard about her before. I thought maybe she is my father’s sister and she knows where he is. I wanted to know about my Thompson family. So, I went into the kitchen. “Grammy, here’s the mail. Who is Hazel Thompson, is she my father’s sister?”  Grammy was cooking. She turned around real fast, eyed me up and down and asked me “Where is this coming from M.A.T.?”  I said “Maybe she knows where my mother and father is. Grammy what’s my mother’s name?” She turned back around to face the stove and said “Remember when I told you, that you will understand some things when you get older, well your mothers name is one of those things you will have to get older before I tell you. This way you won’t be confused. All you need to know is that your mother loves you so very, very much. Now go in the pantry and see if you can find me the brown sugar.”  As I walked to the pantry, I thought ‘now how does she know my mother loves me very, very much.’ Right then, I knew my mother was Lady. The way she looked at me, the way she kissed me. It all made sense to me. I understood that Grammy was Lady’s mother and that’s why she had her hankies in her hand every time she had to leave Lady. So, for almost a year, I pretended not to know who Lady was.

Honestly, I was getting tired of pretending we weren’t visiting my mother. I couldn’t stand to see the life leave Lady’s face when I hugged her goodbye. I was beginning to need a hankie myself. Also, at my school, they use Pine Sol and the smell was reminding me of that flowered bench. Now that I know who Lady really is, I miss her and don’t want to. I have so many questions. What happened to her and my father? What happened to her that put her in a wheelchair. Why is her existence a secret?  I am beginning to have a hard time holding back my questions. Every time I think ‘this is it! I’m going to walk right up to her and ask her.’  I think of her hankies, and I don’t want to cause her pain. So, I drop it. But lately, I’m thinking of asking her questions every day. So this particular day, I made up a lie so I wouldn’t have to go to the secret place Saturday.

When I came into the house from school, I put my books down on the kitchen table. I was determined to tell Grammy right now while I was ready.  I could hear her talking. I was trying to figure out if she was on the phone, or if someone was with her in the living room. I didn’t see a car out front, maybe a neighbor dropped by. The closer I moved to the living room; I realized she was on the phone. I listened to her say “Doctor, are you sure?  Thank you.” She hung up, so I walked around the corner and said “I’m home.” Grammy didn’t turn around. She said in a trembling voice, “Good, go get you a snack, I’ll be there in a minute.” I wanted to hug her and ask what was the matter. I took a step towards her and said “Grammy” she lifted her left hand towards me and waved for me to leave while her right hand was clamped tightly over her mouth as if it were a lid hindering any and all sounds. I turned around to go back into the kitchen and tears began streaming down my face. I had never, ever, seen Grammy like this. I couldn’t figure out why I was crying but when I saw my books on the kitchen table, it hit me, I was scared. If Grammy was crying, I’d better be scared because something was terribly wrong.

I heard Grammy go into the bathroom and she stayed in there until the phone rang. She hurried to the phone and yelled “I’ll get it.” I held my breath so I could hear what she was saying. “Are you sure doctor, nothing else, nothing? No, no family member will be there. Do what must be done. Mail me the paperwork, I’ll make sure to return it as soon as possible. Thank you doctor.”  She hung the phone up. I turned around and watched her appear in the doorway. Grammy’s eyes were red and puffy and her shoulders are fiercely moving up and down as she stood there sobbing. I ran over to her and we hugged one another so tightly. We both cried until we couldn’t cry anymore. When I felt Grammy loosen her grip on me, I let go of her. We silently walked over to the table; we each pulled out a chair to sit in. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I was so scared, what could have happened to cause Grammy to cry like this. She handed me a handful of napkins as I sat down. “M.A.T. I have some news that is very hard for me to tell you.” She grabs herself a napkin, her bottom lip starts to tremble. She looks down at the napkin, and begins fumbling with it. She keeps her head down and continues. “I didn’t want to tell you this way, I always imagined you being fourteen or fifteen when I tell you this, but the time has come and today is the day.” She puts the napkin up on the table, looks up at me, and says “Lady is my daughter, your mother. Her name is Hazel. The rest home phoned me, her body shut down, she’s dead, Hazel just died.” Her voice is trembling in a slightly higher volume. She continues, “The Social Worker will call tomorrow and let me know where they will send her body. Her body, oh M.A.T., I’m sorry, I wanted to tell you about Hazel when you were older so you could make some sense about who she really was. My baby was so beautiful” her eyes water up “and so smart, like you M.A.T. I know you don’t remember her because you were almost three when she got sick and you had to come live with me but M.A.T.” Now Grammy is yelling, “Your mother loved you with all her heart, and don’t you forget that!” She starts to rapidly blink back tears, she stands up, grabs a clean napkin off the table, blows her nose, looks at me and says “Now, how about some hamburgers for dinner?”  Then she smiles at me. Just like that she moves on to the next order of business!

She walks up to me, pats me on my shoulder and goes straight to the bathroom. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe my mother was dead. My mother, whose heart I will never have a chance to know. My mother, whose laugh I never heard. My mother, gone. Grammy’s baby, how in the world could she contain herself. My insides were turning flips. The little girl in me was screaming and crying, jumping up and down. The little girl in me was telling me how I should have told Lady I knew she was my mother. How I could have hugged her more and she would have known I knew who she was. How in the world could Grammy be so calm! I stood there, tears flowing out of me like a river, my heart felt as if it was being stabbed. Oh the pain I felt. I’m trying to think what Grammy did to turn off her pain. How could she not feel it anymore? I stared at the floor, as if the answers were written on it. When, not two minutes later, two minutes! Grammy stood in the doorway, jingling her car keys until she had my attention. I slowly turned around, she stood there smiling, all puffy and red eyed and said, “Last one out, must lock the door.”  I couldn’t move, I stood there froze, how could she act as though nothing just happened?  She walked pass me, opened the back door and stood there smiling at me. I forced myself not to think about Lady. I turned around, grabbed some napkins off the table, blew my nose and walked out the door.

We picked over our hamburgers. Grammy and I took turns sniffling and wiping our noses. On the way home, she stopped at the drug store and picked up a couple boxes of tissues, one box for her and one box for me. She never said anything to me. Grammy wasn’t much of a talker. The handful of friends she had; understood how she was and never pried. Should a subject come up she didn’t want to talk about, she would simply change the subject, cut and dry. Her favorite way of changing the subject was to look you in the eyes while you were talking and say “nice weather we’re having isn’t it?”  The only person I ever heard her talk to was one of her friends, Miss Addie. So on the way home, I figured when Miss Addie comes over, I’d listen at their conversation and find out what was going on, but Miss Addie never came by. Whenever I would look at Grammy, she would be watching me and cut her eyes away. I knew she wouldn’t answer any of my questions, so I left her alone.

My bedroom and Grammy’s bedroom share a common wall. I could hear her crying late at night when she thought I was sleep. Hearing her cry would set me off, I shoved my sheets and bedspread in my mouth so she couldn’t hear me crying, but I felt her pain. Each morning we would get up and have puffy eyes, but nothing was ever said. That Monday I didn’t have to go to school. I attended my mothers “services” instead. Grammy’s friends were there, some of the neighbors, me that was it. Later that evening, I counted the people that were there in my head, there were eighteen people at my mother’s funeral. Grammy silently drove us to a cemetery and as soon as she opened her car door, she started weeping. I got out of the car and hurried over to her and held on to her arm, mainly for me, I needed her. There were men and women there dressed in black and white uniforms that had a company name on the sleeves. As Grammy and I walked from her car, two of the uniformed men approached us, nodded, and held their hands out to show us where we were to go. We walked over to a sectioned off area. There was a group of fold up chairs lined in rows, on top of an artificial turf rug. Again, two more men held out their hands directing us to the sectioned off area and our seats. When we sat down, I sat so close to Grammy, I was sitting partially on her chair and on mine. I watched Grammy and didn’t let her arm go. I felt as long as I held onto her, she couldn’t leave me.  We sat there with a steady stream of tears flowing down our faces.

The minister, who performed the services, looked like he didn’t know how to smile. And his voice, talk about monotone! He was so dull; he could have been explaining the life in a day of a roach. He said four lines about life itself and he was done. It was over. My mother had a FOUR LINED LIFE. When the men rolled Lady’s casket towards the ground, Grammy squeezed me real tight and let out a scream “Hazel!”  Two ladies dressed in the same uniform the men wore, walked up behind Grammy and rubbed her back.  Grammy shook her shoulders as if to shake the ladies hands off her.  As the casket was being moved, I could feel Grammy’s body tremble. I closed my eyes real tight and started praying to God out loud, “Please, God, don’t let her hurt anymore.”  I felt Grammy go limp, I thought she had fainted. But when I opened my eyes and looked up at her she was smiling at me. She said in a trembling voice, “M.A.T. I’m ok.”  Then she squeezed my arm. After the casket was completely situated, Grammy’s friends and the neighbors came up to us one by one and hugged us. We sat there for a few moments after the last neighbor hugged us; one of the men dressed in uniform walked up to Grammy and gave her a brown 5”X 7” box. She took one look at the box and started crying again. This time she covered her face and let it all out. I stood up next to her and rubbed her back as tears silently fell from my face. She composed herself, got up and we walked back to the car crying in silence, no sounds were being uttered, just tears streaming down our faces. We both had hankies in our hands and we both sniffled and wiped on the ride back home.

As we waited at a traffic light, I glanced at a family standing on the corner, patiently waiting for the light to give them permission to go. There was a mother holding her little baby in her arms as she folded down his little shirt collar. He looked to be about a year old, the father, stood there holding the hand of the older brother, who looked to be about 3. I thought ‘I have been cheated out of having a mother and father. I wonder what happen to them, what was it that made them decide they no longer loved each other?’ At that moment, I made a promise to myself, I will never, ever, under any circumstances, leave my babies! Having all of these questions now, and knowing how private Grammy is, I knew I’d never find out if I asked her, so, I resolved to listen in on every conversation she would ever have and from now on, I would keep track of whatever I’d hear and just connect the dots. I had to know who Lady really was. I just had to find out.

Grammy and I never talked about Lady ever again. Once, we were leaving a restaurant. While Grammy was paying our bill, I was standing by the door waiting for her, the waitress that waited us stood by me. Grammy handed me some money and said, “Quick! here, give this to that lay, woman.” I took the money, as I turned around; I realized she couldn’t say the word Lady, not even in a sentence.

Now, I’m twenty two years old and I’m crying uncontrollably at five forty five in the morning. Tore up over something that happened over twelve years ago.  Spilled milk! Why am I crying over spilled milk? Where is all this coming from? And why now!

NOW READ CHAPTERS 1 AND 3 FROM “SHAME IN ME”

CHAPTER ONE

No Way Is This Happening

A Saturday to remember!

This is not happening to me! I must be dreaming, no, I amdreaming! Maybe if I close my eyes I’ll wake up. Still here! I have to be dreaming; no way is this really happening to me! I know I am not in jail. I must be having one of those dreams that seem real. I could not possibly be in jail for real! Oh Lord, I am in jail! How did I get here? I don’t believe this! How did I end up here, in jail? Me! In jail!

Loud speaker:

“….MONTGOMERY, MARVA”

Policeman walks to the front of the room and states, “all of you get one phone call, the line forms there.”

Oh, that’s me, why is this guard pulling my arm so hard, doesn’t he know his own strength!  What inhumane treatment. Oh Lord, you have got to get me out of here! I don’t belong here. Jesus, help me, please.  I want to cry, but I’m afraid if I do, the others being arrested will think I’m weak and I don’t want anyone to pick on me. I’d better keep a straight face so no one will know how scared I am.

My goodness, how in the world did I end up here, me, in here?  In the name of Jesus; I decree protection over me while I’m in this place. Cover me with Your Blood, I promise, Lord; if you get me out of here, I’ll never come back.

I know I should have never written those checks, but I’ve written checks before… What’s wrong with me? Standing here decreeing and justifying my wrong in the same breath! What have I become; I know writing bad checks is wrong. How did I become this, what happened to me, Lord I know better, please, I really need you…

This is so strange, now I can’t stop the tears, and I don’t care who sees me, Lord, I really need to feel your presence now.

Help me Jesus, I want to know what caused me to become this person that justifies writing bad checks. I need to know the precise cause of what made me think, no wait, what made me not think about writing a check that wasn’t any good. I have to know what type mindset I captured; so I can avoid it and never allow that type of thinking to overcome me again because I never ever, want to come back to this place. This is unbelievable!  I’m in jail!

Who can I call? Mom will be worried, uh, not to mention enormously disappointed in me. And I don’t want any of my siblings to know I’ve been writing bad checks. They all look up to me. Out of the seven of us, I am the only grown one with no kids out of wedlock. They all brag on me because I own a real nice Condo and a CLS550 Mercedes Benz and, I have been Senior Executive Accountant for Beckman and Jacobs Law Firm for over two years.

Beckman and Jacobs is the most prestigious law firm, not just here in Mableton, but in the whole state ofGeorgia. I really do have it going on and look at what I did; landed myself right here in jail.  I’ll just skip my phone call for now; I am too embarrassed to call anyone.

Whew! Finally I’m in a cell and it’s empty. Thank you Lord I know you orchestrated me being alone in here because I have never, in all my twenty four years of life, ever have been this scared; and growing up in the low income areas of Chicago, I know the definition of scared.  While I was in line to get my “wrinkled jail issue” orange jump suit, I heard some women talking about a church service in the chapel tonight that starts at six thirty and I’m definitely going to attend. As I was being escorted to my cell, I asked the female guard if it would be alright for me to attend the services this evening. She told me that Administration encourages the inmates to attend and she also informed me the preacher speaking tonight is excellent at breaking down the Word, if I wanted to attend, she would have to come and get me. I told her I would appreciate it.

I really want to check the service out. I haven’t been to church in so long. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there was a time when I had a really close relationship with the Lord. Uh, I wonder exactly when did my love for Him diminish; when did I withdraw from His presence? How did I get to this place of not even knowing I wasn’t in fellowship with the Lord anymore?  When did I stop putting God first in my life? I have a lot of self examining to do…

Lord, I know I have a lot of nerve asking you to deliver me out of here, but I’m asking and while I have your attention; I also want to know where I slipped away from you and what caused me to slip away so I can make sure it never ever happens again! I must find out at what point in my life I took on the mindset that writing bad checks was no big deal. Holy Spirit, please show me where I went wrong… I repent of my sinful ways, I truly am sorry….

Look at me standing here like I’m just visiting, this is crazy. I might as well sit down and get comfortable; I’ll be here until Monday. This is truly a shame; in fact it’s a crying shame if I wasn’t so stunned, I’d be crying right about now but I have got to figure out what happened to me, what put me in here.

I should be home reading my book, waiting for Mom to call, instead I’m in jail. Huh, what a joke, me Miss Marva in jail on a Saturday night. Little Miss boring not at home reading. I live the most boring life of anyone I know, I have had the same routine since I started work over three years ago. You can set your clock to my daily schedule. I always do the same thing at the same time.

On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings I make it to the gym from 6 to 6:45 am. On my way home from the gym I stop at “Doughnuts & More”, a family owned bakery just a block from the gym, and I have breakfast; a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and a hot cup of herbal tea. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, on my way to work, I stop at “Lil Lucy’s Café and grab a cheese filled croissant and a cup of hot herbal tea for breakfast. During my morning break at work, I eat my lunch and I purposely set my lunch time from four thirty to five pm. so I can eat my dinner. I have five local delis programmed on speed dial in my office phone this way I have my lunch and dinner delivered to me at the office.

When I arrive home from work, I get my mail; pick out my clothes for the next day and I crawl into bed with my book. I talk on the phone with Mom, and my older sisters, Stacey and Janelle every night except every other Friday. That’s when I call Mom as I leave my office and talk to her while I drive from work to the “Panache Bar and Grill” located here inMableton. I’ve been going there for over a year now. The Panache is where I meet two of my office associates, Kayla Braxton and Lisa Ardmore. Kayla supervises the Personnel Department and Lisa supervises the Court Clerks.

They know who’s doing what with whom, at work and all of the juicy details of the current shock and awe cases. They get to the Panache before I do and the more wine they drink, the more information I get. I just sit, smile and drink my seven up and cranberry juice while my ears get full. Oh my goodness, I wonder what the buzz in the office will sound like about me being in here! I’d like to be a fly on the wall to hear that!

Saturdays after exercising and breakfast, I have “Me Time” then I shop. I have a standing eight thirty am. appointment for my hair. I Leave there and go to my ten thirty manicure and pedicure. Then I shop for the house. I purchase whatever is needed, towels and sheets those sorts of things. Then I’m off to the mall or boutique, depending on what I want to get. After that I pick up some groceries for the weekend and head home. Once home, I’m in with a good book while I lay on my chaise and read until Monday.

The only time I divert my Saturday routine is if I have to attend a previously planned event, like a play or by invitation only affair. That’s my quiet, predictable boring life. How I ended up here, is what I need to figure out. I need to know what would make me write checks I know I shouldn’t and think I don’t belong in jail. When did I stop having a consciousness of doing right and began entertaining the idea of doing wrong? Now that’s what I need to figure out by Monday.

Today began as any other ordinary Saturday for me, even with my animated imagination; I never would have been able to paint this picture. Me spending the night, or shall I say the weekend here in jail!

After I exercised, I had my bagel and tea, went home showered, dressed and headed to my hair appointment. Last week I finally broke down and let my cosmetologist, Rashida cut my hair. Every since the 9th grade I have always flat ironed my hair or wore a French roll. I have been complaining for several months about being bored with my hair and wanting to do something different and Rashida has been trying to convince me to let her cut it for some time, so I caved in and let her give me the “Atlanta Kandi Cut” as she called it. So today because my hair is short I didn’t use all of my appointment time and as I left the salon I noticed a “Just Opened” sign outside three doors down. It was a new café, “Hanna’s Manna” and I decided to check it out. When I say you can get the best three cheese omelet in all of Georgia there, that’s putting it lightly; Oh the butter!

After eating my omelet I drove over to my manicure and pedicure, left there and was off to the Galleria Specialty Mall to purchase a new set of throw pillows for my bedroom chaise. Because I read a lot while on my chaise, I replace my pillows every three or four months. However the ones I purchased today were very expensive but on sale so they shouldn’t go flat too soon. I left there and drove over to the Neiman and Marcus on Peachtree Road NE.I must get a gown to wear for Judge Berkshire’s retirement party being held two weeks from today, September 1st. Judge Berkshire is a close friend to one of the board members of my firm and whenever we get a “board member memo” inviting us to any function; it is expected of all management to attend.

I must have tried on every rack gown in the store before the sales clerk informed me of some new Michael Kors after five’s that had just arrived. I told her my size and five minutes later, I was modeling his latest designs. The lavender draped cowl Neckline sleeveless dress fit me perfect! I know fourteen hundred dollars is a lot for me right now considering I would need another fifteen hundred for shoes and purse, but I told her to ring it up. I thought ‘If the check goes through, it goes through.’ I changed back into my clothes and went to the register to pay for my gown…. Now, why didn’t I just pause and consider doing the right thing?

Maybe, just maybe, if I can pinpoint my frame of mind at that exact moment, then I can figure out why I would do such a thing.

I am five feet five and I’m proportioned to my height. I wear a size seven in clothing and shoes. When I tried that gown on, I looked up at myself in the mirror, and wow, that gown fit like it was tailored just for me!  I slightly twisted myself around as if I were hula hooping, trying to find the price tag to see how much it cost. Hum, I thought as I glanced at it. I looked back up at myself in the mirror and at that moment, I thought ‘this is the gown, and I deserve it, after all, I do work very hard.’ That’s when I told the sales clerk I was going to take it. I knew there was not enough money in my checking account to cover it but I had written checks before at this store and they all went through… Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t think twice about being dishonest….. What is wrong with me? What’s happened to me? I just walked up to the register and pulled out my checkbook and wrote the check like I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

The sales clerk went through the processing procedure and the check just would not process. She told me there was a slight problem with her register and for me to go upstairs to the credit offices and they would clear up the matter, it would only take a few moments. I knew the check wouldn’t clear, I only had twelve hundred and some change in my checking account, so I took the escalator down and not up, I headed towards the parking lot thinking, ‘that’s alright; I get paid Thursday, I’ll get a gown next Saturday from “Britney’s Boutique” or from “One of A Kind Boutique” over on Austell Road.’ Now that the gown situation was settled in my mind, it was grocery shopping time. I started looking through my purse to see if I had put Olivia’s grocery list in it. When I stepped off the escalator onto the lower level, I was wondering what would be good for dinner.

I heard footsteps behind me and could tell it was more than one person, so I didn’t think anything of it. Two plain clothes policemen walked up in sync with me. After three or four steps, one of them asked “Marva Montgomery?”  I closed my purse, stopped, turned toward the man and said, “Yes, I’m Marva Montgomery.” The other man stood behind me and grabbed my wrists and slapped a pair of handcuffs on me. The man standing in front of me said, “Miss Montgomery, you are coming with us.” I was baffled. I asked, “Why, who are you, where are you taking me, what’s this all about?” They were both silent. The man that stood in front of me started walking and took me by the arm and directed me to the service elevators.

Now as long as I have been shopping at this mall, I never knew those elevators existed until today. I couldn’t believe I was being handcuffed like a common criminal. I began shaking my head ‘no’; no way is this happening. As we rode the elevator up to the third floor, no one uttered a word. All I could think of was they obviously have me mixed up with someone else. When we stepped off the elevator, they directed me to a door marked “Security Personnel Only.” I thought to myself, ‘ok, I didn’t steal anything, when they go through my purse they’ll see and let me go. Thank you Jesus, this is just a mistake!’

As soon as we walked through the door, we were in what looked like a reception area. There were two long sleek designed candy apple red leather sofas facing each other. To the right of the sofas was a wall that simulated a bank teller’s booth with bulletproof glass. Through the bulletproof glass I could see a metal desk with a padded wooden stool parked at it, ‘guess the cashier is on break.’ To the right of the booth was a large round smoked black tinted glass table with several high gloss metal and black chairs around it. Directly to the right of the table and chairs was a wood, swinging door.

Out of the swinging door comes two police officers suited in blues, with guns and clubs, and they were approaching us. I noticed one of them pull out what looked like a business card from his chest pocket. He looked at the card and began to recite “you have the right to remain silent….”oh no he isn’t; I know he’s not reading me my rights! The man never glanced up at me. The other cop walked behind me and waited until the undercover policeman un-cuffed me.

My Juicy Couture Terry Heritage Tote was hanging on my arm when I was cuffed downstairs and considering the weight of the purse, and the content, my arms were tingling from the pressure. Off goes the cuffs, but before I could relax my arms, the policeman immediately clamped on a new pair. Oh great, they each have their own personal set of cuffs. Oh no, not another set of cuffs! That’s when I began to panic. I couldn’t breathe. I started walking around in a circle, trying to catch my breath, not helping! I can’t breathe! I bent over to try and put my head between my knees but one of the policemen extended his leg and stopped me from moving. Once I was immobile, the policeman standing in front of me took me by my arm and made me stand straight up. I felt ambushed, and restricted, this is not happening to me! That’s when I started crying. I threw my head back as far as I could and shouted from the depth of my belly, “What are you arresting me for, I haven’t stolen anything?”

Just then the swinging door gave out a squeak. I turned my head towards the sound just as an elderly lady was stepping into the room with us. She looked to be in her late fifties, dressed in a linen and silk blend powder blueSaint Johnpant suit and she had impeccable blonde highlights in her short cropped hair cut. She was walking towards us with a clip board in her hand and it was full of papers. I noticed as she began to grab at her small frameless eyeglasses that were hanging around her neck how she seemed so deep in thought on what she was reading as she gently placed the glasses on her nose; never looking up. She stopped and stood next to one of the black chairs by the table and briefly glanced up over her glasses at me.

She began flipping pages and started speaking with a thick deep Georgian accent, as if she were reading a transcript. “Marva Montgomery, you are being charged with ‘repeated theft by intent’. You are in possession of store merchandise totaling twelve thousand, seven hundred forty one dollars and eighty two cents. This merchandise was acquired by you through means of insufficient funds, and is hereby considered stolen property.”

Now I was being pulled by my arm out of the same door I came in, right back to the elevator we had used to come up. I’m thinking, ‘so I didn’t get away with it, they were keeping a running tab of what I owed.’ As the three of us stood waiting for the elevator, my mind began rewinding. I saw every item I had written checks for, I saw myself at every register and at home putting each item in my closet. It’s hard to believe, me, predictable, boring Miss Marva Montgomery; housing stolen merchandise.

Why didn’t I just mail the money to the store for the clothes, or why didn’t I respond to the letters the store mailed me? I knew I hadn’t paid for those items and now, right this second; I realize… I had no intension of paying for the clothes. I actually thought I had a right to them. My attitude was ‘Huh, they gave them to me.’ How did I become this person, actually this thief shocked to be hauled off to jail?

When the elevator door opened, a young man suited up in a dark and light brown pinstriped Dolce and Gabbana, was exiting. He had about two inches of platinum spiked hair, and a blue money bag in his hand. The three of us walked onto the elevator and turned around to face the door. I noticed the young man was entering into the door we had just come out of.

As we rode the elevator down, reality tried to sink in but my imagination pushed it aside.  I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me, no, no, no, that’s not true, I didn’t want to believe this was happening to me. I closed my eyes and imagined myself in my car heading home with a nice aged rib eye steak and a fresh crisp Caesar salad from Mario’s Deli, nicely wrapped in Mario’s signature bag; lying on the passenger seat of my car. Oh yes, and I am headed home to eat, straighten up the kitchen, wait for Mom to call, rest and read my book. I was so deep in that thought; I even smiled. When I heard the sound of the elevator bell, my imagination slid aside and reality took over. I realized the two policemen in the elevator with me were taking me toFultonCounty jail. I can not be going to jail, this is not happening, this is not possible!

The door opened, we were back on the lower level of the parking lot and my two county escorts guided me to a parked police car. I started praying out loud, “Lord, help me, please! Jesus, help me! I’m sorry, Lord, please help me.”  Now I’m crying and praying, “Father, I repent of my wrong doing, please forgive me Lord. I am so sorry!”  By this time we are standing at the rear door of the police car. The policeman who handcuffed me opens the door. I remember bending over to get in, everything that happened after that seems like a foggy motion picture. I really believe I couldn’t handle what was happening to me, so I slipped into a place. A place that was safe for me, I just couldn’t believe I was actually going through the booking proceedings. I really thought I was watching someone else in my body being booked; this could not possibly be ME!

Now I’m sitting here on this bunk wondering how I came to this.  Me, Marva Montgomery, brought up to know better. I definitely need deliverance from whatever caused me to be here! I am going to seek You Lord with my whole heart. I need to know what made me put myself in here, and make sure whatever it is; it is cast completely out of me!

CHAPTER THREE

Me and My Job

Mirror, mirror of my heart

As I get up from my knees I recall my frame of mind when I leftChicago; it was to come here toAtlantafor the sole purpose of attendingSpelmanCollege. While earning my degree, I took several business courses. One of my instructors told me “the class provides proven adequate principals for running a business. However ‘observation’ is the best method in determining the most appropriate and effective techniques that will best work for the business you choose”.  So, my plan was to return to Chicago, work for a small accounting firm, get some hands on experience about the do’s and don’ts of running a small business and then establish my own accounting firm.

That was my plan, however two days before graduation, while packing up my dorm to return toChicago; I received a certified letter from Beckman and Jacobs Law Firm. They are located in downtown Mableton and are considered the largest and most prestigious law firm in theAtlantaregion and, they are referred by other states. They were impressed with my 4.7 grade point average. My major was accounting with a minor in statistical math.  The letter informed me I was a candidate being considered for the only accountant position available. I was extremely flattered to be considered for the position, so I decided to call and confirm my interview. I interviewed the following Thursday and two weeks later I started working. Only three weeks after graduation and I had a job, and did I praise me some Lord!

The first year I worked as an Accountant, I started at the pay rate of eighty thousand per annum. I gave the Lord all His due, first fruits, tithe, offerings and praise because He has been nothing but good too me! I would even sow into various ministries, and bless those who were less fortunate. I felt so privileged to be twenty one years old and making that kind of money.

I sent money home to Mom every month until I purchased my Condo. She refused the money and told me to use it to furnish my Condo and for me not to go in debt. I followed her advice and paid cash for everything.

After being on the job a month I suggested a software system and because its implementation was a great success; I received a hefty six month raise and a bonus at the end of the year. Exactly one year to the day I was hired, the big bosses were so impressed by the way I made the software training so easy, I was promoted to Senior Executive Accountant. I had nine employees to supervise and my pay tripled plus, they gave me an expense account. This past June, I received another very substantial raise.

Thinking of all this now, I can see that it was shortly after my promotion I stopped going to church. I can’t believe this, I have been Senior Executive Accountant for a little over two years, and today is the first time I have even thought about why I stopped going to church. This is unbelievable! I can not blame anyone but myself for becoming so ‘busy making money’ that I almost completely forgot about God. Right now it’s so obvious to me that it was after my promotion, my Monday through Friday work week turned into 12 hour days. 8:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night.

Why did I allow money to separate me from the love I had for the Lord? …… There was a time in my life nothing would have been able to separate me from the love I had for Him, what happened to me…. Well, since I’ll be here until Monday; I’ll lay here and get to the bottom of this. I want to get out of here and never ever never come back!

Now I recall my freshmen year at Spelman. As soon as I moved here I joined Purpose andDestinyChristianCenter. My roommate, Roslyn Fitch, was from Cleveland Ohio and her mothers sister, Ethel and her husband, Greg lived in Bankhead, GA. Aunt Ethel told Roslyn about Purpose and Destiny Christian Center because she and Uncle Greg were members. After Roslyn visited and told me about what a great time she had at the church, I visited and shortly joined. Uncle Greg would come get me and Roslyn and take us to their house and while Aunt Ethel was getting ready we would eat breakfast. We would all leave from church and go back to the house and have a good Sunday dinner, help clean up the kitchen then head back to the dorm. As long as I fellowshipped at Purpose and Destiny, I was doing all the right things.

Right now I can clearly see my no longer attending church happened gradually. Shortly after I was promoted, the first service I missed was Wednesday night Bible study. I remember leaving work and going directly to church, but by the time I arrived; the message was over and people were at the alter having prayer. So I decided to purchase that night’s CD and while I was standing in line to purchase my CD I thought, ‘I’ll just purchase all of Wednesday night Bible Study CD’s when I attend Sunday services. I get off work too late.’ Yeah, I remember that, ok, now I’m getting somewhere, let me see if I can pinpoint when I consciously decided to stop attending Sunday services.

My alarm clock is always set to go off at five thirty am seven days a week; however I usually wake up before my alarm goes off. Not long after I stopped attending Wednesday night Bible Study I started turning off my alarm on Saturday evenings, thinking I would wake up in time for Sunday school without the alarm. I remember the first few times not setting the clock, I would wake up at five twenty; go to the restroom and get back into bed and fall right back to sleep. I missed Sunday school but made it to church, and soon after that I started sleeping until 9am.

The first few times I woke up and looked at the clock I thought to myself ‘I must have been extremely tired to sleep that late. I must need the rest.’  I hurried getting showered and dressed and drove all crazy trying to get to 10:30 am service and when I arrived, I felt so rushed it was difficult to get into Praise and Worship. Yeah, yeah, now it’s clear to me; I was gradually getting disconnected.

After three or four times rushing to get to service, I decided to just lie in bed on Sunday mornings and study my Sunday school lesson. I stayed home studying until the quarter ended and I didn’t have the new book. Hello! That’s when I stopped setting my clothes out on Saturday evenings, for Sunday. I had no intentions of attending church; none what so ever! ……

Oh, Lord; doing this reflection, I can see how it became easier for me not to attend Sunday Services. No longer were my affections set on things above, they were set on my job. Now tears are beginning to drop from my eyes; Oh this is so painful; seeing myself; my selfish self……

I am so sorry Lord; I repent of my selfishness and return to You; my First Love…..I really do need some tissue in here, I can not stop crying…. this is so painful… oh forget it I’ll just cry out to the Lord and let the snot flow….. OH GOD HELP ME, PLEASE! ………..

I feel so much better allowing my tears to cleanse my soul, I hope they don’t think someone is hurting me in here the way I was crying out, emptying out really, let me see, where was I …oh yea, after missing Sunday Services, I remember mailing my tithe and offerings to the church. Hum, let me see if I can figure out when I stopped sending in my tithes and offerings? Let me think, um, oh no, I don’t believe this, it was right after Thanksgiving, yeah I remember.

I had done all of my Christmas shopping for my family. It was the first Christmas after my promotion and I was making all that money, oh my goodness, I remember, I went all out buying everyone what they wanted.

I had taken the time to phone each one of my family members to ask them what it was they wanted for Christmas and I made myself a list. After each purchase I wrapped and labeled the gift myself and stacked all of the gifts in the family room. Yep, after I had everybody’s gift, I loaded up my car and went to a mailing center to ship everything. When I was leaving the mailing center, I noticed a new boutique just three doors down from where I was parked, so I walked over to check it out.

Oh my goodness! I remember as soon as I walked into the boutique, my eyes were drawn to a gorgeous Chanel brown and pale green tweed suit with a crepe waffle patterned shell. I had a pair of Jimmy Choo cognac pumps I just knew would match perfectly. I pulled out my checkbook register to see what my balance was. I had already written my check for my tithes and offering and my balance was a little over fifteen hundred dollars. All those Christmas gifts wiped me out. The suit was twelve hundred seventy five dollars. I would have a little over two hundred dollars to last me two weeks, and I spend more than that in a week; with gas, meals, my hair and nails.

I walked around that boutique thinking of how I could take this suit home with me. That’s it!; right there was when I decided to no longer give my tithe and offerings to the Lord, the suit went home with me.  Wow… this is wrenching my heart, Lord, God! I’m so sorry…. I can’t stop crying ……I have got to get some tissue in here….oh how this hurts remembering that day….

As soon as I walked in the house, I went straight to my shoe closet and pulled out my shoes, I can see myself now, almost trembling as I pulled my shoes out of the closet, dropping my purse and keys right there where I stood. My heart was racing I was so excited about the outfit matching my shoes. I yanked the plastic off the newly purchased outfit, oh no, they don’t match! The brown on the suit was too dark. All I could think about was ‘what store will I go to next week to find my matching shoes and purse.’ I was so excited about my new shopping mission. I never thought twice about robbing God; never gave it a second thought!  Lord, I am so sorry, I just tossed our relationship aside like it wasn’t precious to me……I can’t stop sobbing; oh Lord please forgive me, I am so sorry…..

After that, I never sent any more money to the church. I was so caught up with buying things that I forgot about sowing and giving to theKingdomofGod. I forgot all about the Lord who has been nothing but good too me!

I wasn’t aware of my being comfortable with not going to church or no longer honoring the Lord with my finances. Now, I can see how I eased into spending Kingdom money on more stuff. I exchanged my affections for what I considered Holy; for things that never satisfies. When my eyes were diverted off the Lord, they became full of lust for more stuff.

Prayer is the only thing I never stopped doing…. Ah, I just realize I have slacked also in my praying. I do all of the talking. I don’t enter into worship anymore, nor do I listen for direction, Lord I just complain to You about my problems at work.  Oh how I need to find another church. A church that is closer to my job so I can get connected to a local body and be encouraged to seek after the things of the Lord and His presence. Lord I want to re connect and get an even deeper relationship with You than before, yes; I want a closer walk with You Lord, an even closer walk than before!

Right now I’m seeing in my mind a tall pile of charcoal burning. The coals are red and blazing hot; very slowly, a coal rolls down the side of the pile, off by itself. I watch the lone coal sit there in one spot and soon, the red color it once emitted, indicating it was on fire, just goes out. Right now I feel like that coal that rolled away. I rolled away from the church, from the presence the hunger and the fire I once had for the Lord and became so self absorbed.

I may have gradually rolled away from You Lord, but I’m desperately going to cling to You now. Lord, I’m so sorry. I repent for putting “things” before you. I want to get back to having a right relationship with you. I want to spend time with you, in your Word and Your Presence, like I did before, except now I want to be closer. Forgive me, and restore me; please.

The guard has come to take me to the service. Look at me! My impulse is to look for my purse and keys. Lord did I have it made! Being here is just stupidity on my part considering the freedom I had just this morning. I could go where I wanted, eat whatever I desired, and now I’m being treated like a caged animal. What caused me to become this Marva Montgomery that would write checks knowing I could not make them good, what happened to me?

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Welcome! « A Prospering Soul
  2. Hope Hawkins
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 02:04:08

    Ms Joanne, this book is truly a blessing and you are right; writing is definetly your calling. It’s funny because the story about (Mat) Mary Ann Thompson, most women could relate to, if not for themselves for someone they know or knew. The book touched my heart and spirit. I’d cried and prayed with Mat. I would like to commend you on a excellent book, that I recommend to everyone I speak to about it. God Bless You and continue to keep you and your family, Healthy, Strong and Happy.

    Reply

  3. Betty
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 22:11:20

    I really enjoyed this story. It has opened my eyes in understanding why some relationships I have had with people in my past had not worked out and I would just end the relationship when it would get complicated. I thank you for this story and can’t wait to the read the other books.

    Reply

  4. Funmi
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 21:48:29

    Wow! Ch. 1, 3, & 5 were fantastic; I’m going order this book now.

    Reply

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