Monday, January 16, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 8

Five years later
On the long plane ride back to Protégé, Arizona, Sage tried to calm her nerves once more about going to see Delane again. Already she knew that he was not going to be happy to see her again. After all, she’d pursued him with the wrong motives and taken half of what the man had acquired during their marriage in their divorce settlement. What man would want to see a woman who’d done that to him?

However, it was extremely necessary that Sage did see Delane again. Not only did she need to relieve the lingering guilt of what she’d done by giving him back most of what she took from him, she also needed to tell him about their four-and-a-half-year-old son. The same son that Sage decided to keep her married name for since she wanted to honor his father and reduce the social stigma that went along with a mother and child having different last names. The same son that she affectionately called her ‘man’ or her ‘little man’ at times since he’d been the only male in her life since her divorce.

Sage didn’t want another man in her life. After what she’d done to Delane, she didn’t think that she deserved any romantic happiness. As a result, she didn’t seek it and she always refused it when it came her way, no matter how great the guy was, as in the case of MacCauley London, who attended the same church and who’d expressed his interest in Sage countless times to no avail.

Originally, Sage had wanted to give the guilt money that she’d gotten from her husband to charity, but her mother had argued against it, stating that they needed the money more. Never had a statement been truer, because a month after that incident at the duplex, Sage discovered that she was pregnant.

Unwilling to tell her mother about the baby since Sivilla was only going to pressure her to get rid of it anyway or try to use it to extract more money from Delane, Sage began to revisit earlier liberation plans that she’d had before her marriage. Except this time she didn’t have to wait around and accumulate a secret stash that would enable her to leave Sivilla and her manipulations. This time, Sage had more than enough money handy to start an immediate new life without her mother.

After giving Sivilla one-fourth of the money and none of the possessions she’d gained from the divorce, despite the fact that the older woman wanted their usual fifty/fifty split, Sage waited until she was home alone to pack her things and leave. The reason the split was twenty-five/seventy-five this time was because Sage was still bitter with her mother about setting her up and because now that she was pregnant, she would need more of the money in order to take care of her child.

When Sivilla came home, she found a note that stated that her daughter was declaring her independence and that she need not try to find her because Sage was through with the whole gold-digging game and just wanted to be left alone to live her life as she saw fit. There was no mention of the child Sage carried in the short note since that would have surely gotten Sivilla’s wheels a’ churning to find her.

Sage had not wanted to be found by her mother. That was the main reason she relocated to a state that didn’t have community property laws in an effort to insure that Sivilla would not follow her and would not become a negative influence in her grandchild’s life.

Although she’d wanted to give up the gold-digging game months before she ever pursued Delane, as soon as she discovered she was pregnant, Sage became determined not to let any part of that lifestyle (directly or indirectly) touch her child’s life. She didn’t want her son to grow up like she did, not having a real place to call home because his mother was constantly in search of new male money prey.

Thinking back upon her childhood now, Sage thanked God that Sivilla did have the good sense to use some of the money she gained to send her to boarding school from ages six through sixteen. Otherwise she wouldn’t have had any education or a stable place to lay her head for most of the year.

It was an added blessing that Sage excelled in her studies and thus graduated a year ahead of schedule. Especially since the year right after that her mother’s prospects began to dwindle due to Sivilla’s overexposure in the California area and since that was also the year Sage’s father, Hal Davenfall, died overseas in a military combat zone, causing the child support payments to dry up as well.

If Sage had been a lazy student or even mediocre in her studies, she might not have ever received her high school diploma from that boarding school. Or at all for that matter since she’d spend the next few years after graduation living a nomadic life. After that, Sage knew not to even think about going to college. Especially since it became obvious that Sivilla now needed her daughter’s youth and beauty as well in order to help trick rich men out of their money.

Fortunately, Sage’s determination to leave that reckless lifestyle behind has paid off. Now she enjoys a different kind of life for herself and her child, a life of peace and stability in a city called Opus, Georgia – a family-friendly town with lots of parks, restaurants, and shopping centers.

With her son, Sage lived in a modest two-bedroom apartment in a middleclass neighborhood. Fortunately, her apartment building was right across the street from a vibrant Pentecostal church. The same Pentecostal church that caught Sage’s attention from the very beginning of her stay in Georgia.

After several weeks of watching the joyful church members come and go to their place of worship, and after hearing the jubilant praise of that church’s worship services filter across the street and into her open apartment windows, Sage decided to attend one fateful Sunday. That Sunday led to two, then three and soon she had turned her life completely over to Christ, and the guilt of what she’d done in the past had lessened considerably. It would have gone away completely if Sage was willing to forgive herself, but she wouldn’t do that until Delane had forgiven her first.

From her move to her conversion, Sage experienced bouts of extreme loneliness and despair. After her conversion, those bouts left for good and she experienced what it was like to have a real family for the first time in her life. The pastor and his wife were even there at the hospital the day she went into labor, while another church member joined her in the labor and delivery room to see Sage give birth to a beautiful mocha-skinned son that she named Delaney Ryder.

Three months after Delaney was born, Sage enrolled in a Georgian culinary school to pick up her dream of becoming a chef/caterer. Because she’d been a good steward over her share of the divorce settlement, she still had enough funds to take care of her child and pay for college. The part-time job she worked at an upscale restaurant helped, too, and it gave her experience and exposure to the type of career she wanted to root her professional feet in.

Now that her college graduation was well behind her and she was starting to make a pretty good living through her catering efforts, Sage decided to try to go back and finally make things right with her ex-husband like her pastor and his wife advocated that she do for years. Although she knew that romantic reconciliation was next to impossible with Delane, she could promote financial reconciliation by returning the majority of his money and all of his possessions. Not to forget the most important thing, which was to allow Delane a chance to know his son.

Sage also wanted to abide by the principle for living that she found in Matthew 5:23-24. She saw those passages as a sure sign for her to make things right with the person she’d hurt before she presented her gift of cooking to more of the world. Sage wanted her catering business to be a success and she doubted if it would be with the lingering guilt she felt or with her still holding onto the money and things she’d received through ill-gotten means.

Fortunately, Sage didn’t have to worry about her son on this trip. Delaney’s godmother Shari - who was also her business partner and who was there at Delaney’s birth - had him safely in her care and would continue to look after him and the business for one week which was the proposed length of Sage’s stay in Arizona.

The catering business was mutually agreed upon to be called, ‘A Taste of Sage’ after the person that solely financed the company even though both partners shared equally in the labor. Shari insisted that it only fair to do so under the circumstances, plus she liked the catchiness of the name and the wonderful manifold meaning attached to it. After all, how many businesses could proclaim to have a taste of wisdom, a taste of the famed aromatic seasoning, and a taste of the talented chef named Sage Etheridge-Ryder all rolled into one?

Lord, please make this week count for something and please let Delane be home when I get there, Sage mused as the descending plane prepared to land. Inwardly, she hoped that the black and gray ’67 Impala that she had shipped all the way from Georgia had made it safely here as well.

The classic vehicle in question had been purchased by Delane during their marriage in honor of his father who used to love such vehicles. Unfortunately, Sage had taken it in the divorce settlement after she’d unwisely listened to her mother who’d coveted the vehicle from day one. Fortunately, she hadn’t given it to Sivilla and had used the car to travel to Georgia. Of extra good fortune is the fact that Sage planned to return that to her ex-husband first.

Sage would also return all the jewelry that Delane’s family lawyer presented to them right after their honeymoon from his mother’s old safe deposit box. That steel container had included seven priceless jewels and a brief note from the deceased Mrs. Ryder, telling her son that the enclosed gems therein were to be given to his future wife.

And lastly, although there was a large sum of money to be returned as well, Sage would have to give that back in installments since she’d had to use a great deal of it to live off of, to pay for her education, and most importantly to take care of her child these last five years.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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