Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 12

The Monday after the pool party, Chasity went for her first Bennington job interview. Although the owner of the florist was not currently in need of a store manager, Mrs. Bassett was so impressed by Chasity that a part-time floral designer position was immediately offered at the end the interview.

Chasity wowed Mrs. Basset with her impressive resume which detailed her extensive educational background that showed that she could have been a professional landscaper or architect if she wanted to be. This showed her future employer the extent of her love for floristry since there were no educational requirements for that career and since she could have easily bypassed all that schooling and gone right into it.

Another thing that impressed Mrs. Bassett was Chasity’s pleasant and confident demeanor. With those two things working for her, she would easily become a customer favorite. Lastly, the thing that really set Chasity apart as an exceptional person was the sample arrangements she’d made during the impromptu test run that Mrs. Basset gave her during the interview. The bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, wreaths, and vase arrangements that she crafted showed that she had a creative eye and a flair for design. Mrs. Bassett couldn’t let a talent like that go. Besides, she knew that if she didn’t hire such a person, her competition definitely would.

Chasity was so excited about landing a job so soon that she decided to go for a walk after her successful interview and explore the city awhile before going back to her hotel. Since she was so near the downtown area, she chose that as her sightseeing destination.

Bennington’s downtown area had several large and interestingly shaped skyscrapers that would have definitely been an architect’s idea of heaven. Marcos would’ve love to have designed that building, Chasity mused, remembering college conversations they’d had as she admired a seventy-story edifice with a glass pinnacle. The pinnacle contained an exclusive restaurant that serviced many of Bennington’s rich citizens. Marcos always talked about designing buildings with glass augmentations attached.

Wait, why am I thinking about him? Chasity caught herself and shook her head to remove all thoughts of her child’s father. She didn’t want to remember anything about Marcos. Not his career dreams from long ago and especially not how he’d kissed her on her first weekend in Bennington. She’d awakened with that kiss on her mind again this morning like she had every morning since it happened.

Rounding the corner of the green and white, glass-topped building, Chasity instantly got a reprieve from all thoughts of Marcos as her attention became focused elsewhere. Although it was sunny outside, she didn’t have to shield her eyes to see her surroundings because the gathering clouds above were blocking out the glare. And what she saw caused excitement to course through her veins and hope to leap in her belly. Directly across the street was an empty building sandwiched in between a busy diner and a dry cleaner.

That would be the perfect site for the first of many Bradshaw Bouquets, Chasity mused, ready to run across the street to look at the two-story, glass front building closer. And that’s exactly what she did, too.

Conquistador Realty Company, she recited, reading the name of the realtor that owned the building and failing to make the connection to the Valdez family.

********

So engrossed in looking through the clear windows of the empty building that she deemed perfect for her future business, Chasity failed to see Marcos come out of a restaurant three buildings away. He’d just had a business lunch with the manager of his real estate company (which he housed in a separate building on the north side of town) and was now headed back to his architectural firm right around the corner. Marcos failed to notice Chasity, too, and if it hadn’t been for his companion, he wouldn’t have seen her at all.

“It looks like we have an interested party in one of our properties down the street,” Thaddeus Charleston stated, pointing to the right as they waited for his car to be delivered to the front. Marcos rode with him today and he was going to drop his boss off and return to the real estate office to begin working on the things they’d discussed over lunch.

As soon as Marcos’ eyes lighted upon Chasity, his pulse began to race with thrilling desire and it was as if his very soul demanded that he stare. She looked delicious in the outfit she wore with its white mandarin collar jacket and fitting dark brown pants. Her auburn hair was pulled up in a smart bun with curly ringlets on the sides and in the back. In her ears was a pair of circular brown and white coral earrings. Chasity looked professional and sexy.

Turning to Thaddeus, Marcos said, “Perhaps you’re right. By the way, I think I’ll walk back to the office today. I need the exercise after that big lunch we just had.”

Seeing that the valet had delivered his black BMW, Thaddeus turned to his boss and nodded. “Okay, sir. I guess I’ll be talking to you later then.”

Marcos waved goodbye to his faithful employee who had listened to him with a sense of awe on his olive-skinned face all during lunch. Thaddeus had been in awe as his boss laid out a strategy where they would out bid their competitors for a piece of prime riverfront property, hold onto it for a while, and then later resell it to the highest bidder. Such a plan was a stroke of genius because during that six-month holding period the value of that particular property would have skyrocketed, which meant more profits for the Conquistador Realty Company.

Now through with business, Marcos proceeded to make his way in the opposite direction of his office building, instantly extending his lunch hour even more to make room for a little stimulating encounter with the mother of his child.

********

“Is there a particular reason you’re staring in the window of this building?” a familiar male voice suddenly said from behind Chasity.

She fought not to grimace as she immediately recognized that voice as belonging to the man who’d broken her heart all those years ago. The same man that still had the power to do so today, if she let him. Pasting a neutral expression on her face, Chasity turned around to face her unexpected companion.

“Hello,” she said. Ooo…oh my, Chasity added to herself with sudden appreciation as her eyes swept over Marcos’ highly appealing frame in the expensive black Italian suit he wore. Her body began to instantly ache in previously ignored places at the sight of him.

Chasity cleared her throat and swallowed hard before continuing, despising her body for betraying her with its constant desire for this man. “I was just sightseeing,” she informed, unwilling to share her dream with someone she couldn’t trust. Marcos Valdez had not proven himself to be trustworthy in the past and she wasn’t convinced that he could be trusted now, despite how good he treated his relatives.

Knowing him, he’d probably try to buy the building and hold it hostage until I give in to his advances, Chasity reasoned.

She was unaware that Marcos already owned that building and that if she’d so much as whisper that she desired to have it, he would turn the deed and the keys over to her within the hour. Furthermore, that seventy-story glass-topped building she’d been admiring earlier was also designed by Marcos. That had been his first major job when he arrived in town and its success had placed him literally on the map in elite southeastern society.

“Perhaps I can take you on a tour of the city. I have some free time on my hands right now and I have lived in Bennington for quite some time, so I do know my way around,” Marcos volunteered; ready to cancel every afternoon meeting he had to accommodate her.

Chasity shook her head. “No thanks.” She pointed to the sky. “It looks like it’s going to rain anyway, so I probably should be heading back to the hotel now.”

Marcos looked up and realized that gray clouds had formed overhead. When did that happen? he mused, wondering why he hadn’t noticed that the sun wasn’t shining anymore before now. Maybe it was because he considered Chasity to be his own ray of sunshine and seeing her had kept his day illuminated.

“It does look like rain. In fact, it looks like it’s going to pour down any minute now. I’ll be glad to give you a lift back to your hotel. That’s if you don’t mind walking up the block and around the corner to my office.” Marcos waited, wondering if Chasity would turn him down yet again. One had to admire the man’s tenacity.

First looking at the sky that seemed to get darker with each passing second and then back at the man in front of her, Chasity finally nodded her consent. After all, even though Bennington was a fairly large city, it was not so large that a taxi was conveniently waiting on every corner. Therefore, she’d probably have to call for one and by then the sky may have really opened up its fury. Besides, Chasity was kind of curious about where Marcos worked which is why she didn’t take the other option available to her. Truthfully, she could have simply waited inside of one of the downtown businesses for her taxi.

********

Marcos and Chasity made it inside of the Valdez Architectural and Design Firm right before the sky opened all the way up and began to pour down sheets of rain. “Follow me,” Marcos said, after stepping over the threshold of the automatic glass doors that led to the first floor of his workplace.

As soon as Chasity entered the red brick and glass constructed building, she noticed the beautiful floral arrangements sitting upon the large red granite pedestals that were strategically positioned every seventh tile along the walls. The colorful flowers seemed to welcome her into the lobby. As a result, she felt compelled to comment on them.

“Who does your floral arrangements?” Chasity asked as she proceeded to follow him up to his third floor office since that’s where his car keys were located.

“A local florist by the name of Stockard Bassett,” Marcos replied, acknowledging the middle-aged first floor receptionist with a nod as he passed by her. Mrs. Ulrich had been with him from the beginning and her elegant appearance and professional demeanor gave his firm that refined aura that he required. Plus, she knew her job like nobody’s business and she could work circles around the younger receptionists upstairs.

“If that’s the same Stockard Bassett that owns the Bassett Florist & Gift Shop not too far from here, then I’d say you’ve just called the name of my new boss,” Chasity said, trying not to be unnerved by how attentively the first floor receptionist looked at her. It felt as if she was under a microscope.

She certainly looks more wholesome than the others, Mrs. Ulrich mused, waving courteously to her boss and his female guest. Inwardly, she hoped that her bachelor of a boss would finally settle down soon. Over the years she’d seen too many women to count accompany Marcos to his office from lunch dates. Fortunately, Mr. Valdez had the good sense not to date any of the ladies that worked at the office, even though many had given him the eye of interest on several occasions.

Yeah, there’s definitely something different about this one, Mrs. Ulrich thought, noting how adoringly her boss looked at the woman walking beside him towards the elevators. In fact, Mr. Valdez seemed absolutely smitten by the auburn-haired woman with him.

Marcos pressed the white ‘Up’ elevator button and then turned to look at Chasity, leisurely perusing the features of her face and especially that delicious hair of hers. She’d never looked more beautiful to him than at this very moment.

Baby, I love you so much, Marcos mused, wanting to declare his feelings so badly, but knowing that now wasn’t the time or the place.

“Yes, that’s the same one,” he said, finally replying to Chasity’s previous inquiry about her new employer. “I’m pleased to know that you’ve found a job so soon. I would have offered you one here, if I’d thought you’d take it. After all, you were one of the top students in that design class we took together.” The steel elevator doors opened and Marcos stepped inside first, placing a hand on the right side grooves so that the doors would remain open no matter how slowly she chose to enter the lift. With the other hand he pressed the number three.

Chasity stepped into the open elevator behind him and pushed all thoughts of that first architectural class that they’d shared out of her mind, for it was in and through that class that she first met and fell in love with Marcos. The homework and class work assignments they’d discussed, coupled with the group meetings they’d attended had all been the vehicles that he’d used to inch his way closer to her.

“You’re right. I probably wouldn’t have taken it. Besides, we wouldn’t have made a good team anyway,” Chasity stated, thinking that she couldn’t even imagine having Marcos as her boss. I’d probably have to file sexual harassment charges, she mused as she stared straight ahead, waiting for the elevator to stop and the doors to open again.

Marcos reached over and gently turned her face to his. “We both know that that’s a lie, Chasity. You and I make a great team,” he said huskily, slowly perusing her features again and licking his lips in the process.

Then as the elevator signaled that they’d made it to the third floor with a ding, Marcos discreetly released Chasity’s face and waited for the doors to open. She would never know how much effort it took for him to release her just then when everything in him wanted to stop the elevator mid-floor and ravish her body. Yeah, it was a good thing that she wasn’t working for him. Otherwise he’d definitely break his no fraternizing with the help office rule.

Chasity stood beside Marcos trembling with delectable desire from his gentle touch and from the succulent memories that he’d provoked within her with his heated words and actions. He was exactly right. They did make a great team on so many levels. Or rather they had. As long as I keep it in the past tense, I’ll be fine, Chasity told herself, just as the elevator doors opened and she was ushered down the gray carpeted hallway towards his private office.

Fortunately, Marcos remained professional the whole time she was there, even introducing Chasity to several of his employees before driving her back to the hotel in the pouring rain. Just like Mrs. Ulrich had noticed the difference in their boss, many of Marcos’ other employees had noticed his intense attraction to Chasity as well. In fact, several of his single female employees were convinced and a bit disappointed that they’d just met what had to be the future Mrs. Marcos Valdez.

After dropping Chasity off, Marcos drove around the city for a while in the rain before going back to work. It had taken everything in him again to keep from asking if he could accompany Chasity up to her suite. But he’d done it and he was so proud of himself for exercising such restraint. After all, a one-night-stand wouldn’t be enough for him anyway. Marcos wanted the whole enchilada with the mother of his child and some way, somehow, he intended to have it.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 11

Marcos finally got a chance to talk to Chasity alone after all of the other guests were gone, after he and Lee beat the pants off of Jaleel Jr. and Juan in basketball. Although he knew that Chasity had stayed until the very end because she wanted to spend as much time as possible with their daughter, he couldn’t help trying to carve out a little of her time as well.

“May I take you back to your hotel tonight?” Marcos asked, after she’d returned to the den from helping Marjorie tuck in the little ones upstairs. He was sitting in the same chair that he’d been in last weekend.

One thing about this man, he definitely doesn’t give up easily, Chasity thought, fighting not to frown at his politely asked question. In fact, Marcos was so courteous about it that one would have thought that this was his first time ever asking her that question, as if she hadn’t turned him down about the same thing just last weekend.

“No thanks,” Chasity replied in a much calmer tone than the way she’d answered him the last time he asked her that question. She would not let Marcos get to her like he had before. There would be no repeat of the couch incident. Chasity would make sure of that by not sitting down in his presence tonight at all. Instead she remained standing and began to look at the multiple family photos on the wood-paneled den wall, searching for any pictures of La’Charity as a baby. Chasity would ask for copies of those pictures so that she could add them to the new photo album she was starting now that she was back in her daughter’s life.

“I take it you’re a very independent woman now,” Marcos inquired, making polite conversation, hoping that he could somehow change her mind. She’s even sexier from the back, he mused, recalling how he used to lick a sensual trail from her middle back upwards and then across each shoulder blade all those years ago. In all honesty, he’d like to do that now.

“Yes, I’ve become a very independent woman since our college years. I not only can fend for myself pretty well now, I like fending for myself. Besides, I’ve already called my taxi while I was upstairs,” she stated, chancing a backwards glance at him only to find him staring again as he’d done throughout the day hours.

Why does he always watch me like that? Chasity thought irritably, noticing how Marcos seemed to devour her features every time he looked at her. And right now, he was perusing her frame from head to toe, as if trying to see beyond her clothes. The man gave new meaning to the phrase ‘watch you like a hawk’. But then again, he was only acting like the predator that he was.

“How did you get that scar on your left leg?” Marcos asked, abruptly changing the subject. Not only had he noticed something on Chasity’s body that wasn’t there before, he wasn’t about to go into why she’d become so fiercely independent over the years. Especially since he’d been partly to blame for her having to work so hard to make a success of her life.

He’d heard from Marjorie how Chasity refused the Deweys’ money and also refused her father’s money after the birth of their daughter. Yet if she’d only give him the opportunity, Marcos would gladly make up for those years of hard labor by using his sizable inheritance and the significant income from his profession to give her the life of luxury that she deserved.

Chasity looked down at her leg and then back up at Marcos. What ‘doesn’t’ he notice about me? she mused, before answering him. “I broke my leg as well as suffered a deep cut to my knee last year at work. If I hadn’t, I would have been here as soon as I heard about the Deweys’ demise.” She turned back to the wall, instantly noticing a picture of La’Charity around the age of three and making a mental note to ask Marjorie for a copy.

“It looks like it healed up pretty good, otherwise you wouldn’t be wearing those stunning heels,” Marcos replied, taking note of the sexy, golden high-heeled sandals she wore today. Inwardly, he wished that they were suspended up in the air in the throes of passion. But he would not go there now. After all, he needed to take some time to get to know Chasity outside of the bedroom again. However, Marcos definitely was not going to wait a whole year to get to know her inside the bedroom like he’d done before.

“So you’ve known about La’Charity’s whereabouts for a whole year?” Marcos asked when Chasity remained silent about the stunning heels compliment and kept her back turned to him so that he couldn’t see her blush.

With all blushing aside now, Chasity turned to Marcos with a slight smile. “I’ve known about La’Charity’s whereabouts since she was born. I kept up with the Deweys from afar through newspapers, Internet articles, and any other source that would give me insight into how my daughter was being raised. Through those sources I saw the announcement of her christening, her ‘child of the week’ photo, and various mentions in numerous publications where her adopted parents credited their happiness to God, their marriage, and to their precious daughter. And then I saw the Deweys’ obituaries.” She frowned with sadness at that point. “I liked Patrick and Sheena. I was sorry to hear that they’d died.”

Marcos nodded. “Yeah, they were good people. I met them when I first moved here almost five years ago. They were not only excellent parents to La’Charity; they were excellent friends to my sister and her husband. In fact, Jaleel still works for the paper that Sheena started after college and made into the success that it is today. Margie used to work as a legal secretary for Patrick from time to time when she wasn’t busy having or adopting kids.”

Chasity smiled again and turned to run her fingertips along a happy photo of Patrick and Sheena each holding one of La’Charity’s hands as they walked along the beach. She would ask Marjorie for a copy of that picture as well. “I had a feeling they’d be good to our daughter, that’s why I choose them. That’s also why I vowed never to contact La’Charity directly until she was eighteen or unless something happened to the Deweys. I believe I’ve kept that promise.”

Marcos drew the brief smile she gave him into his heart and held it in a sacred place as he became reflective, remembering the love they once shared. “Would you have ever contacted me?” He rose to his feet and came to stand beside her in front of the photo wall.

Chasity shook her head and looked him directly in the eyes. “What we had was over, Marcos. Plus, you’d already made it plain that you didn’t want a baby, so, no, I would not have contacted you. However, just like I would have waited for La’Charity to turn eighteen with the Deweys before contacting her, I would have left the choice up to our daughter to contact her birth father once she knew the whole truth. By the way, does La’Charity know that she was adopted?”

Marcos’ gaze faltered a bit as he forced himself to push past the deep hurt he’d felt from Chasity’s words. After all, he was the one that hadn’t wanted the child, so why should he be so troubled about not being told about his daughter? Yet a part of him was very bothered by the whole thing. If Marcos had known that Chasity decided to have the baby, that would have been sufficient reason for him to search her out and possibly reconcile at some point. It would have most definitely been enough reason to give her the financial support that she needed. He would have made sure that she and their child were well taken care of.

“Yes, Patrick and Sheena were very honest with La’Charity about her birth. Especially when it became obvious to her and a few of her school friends that she didn’t look anything like her mother or her father. The bronze skin, honey-colored eyes, and wavy auburn hair were a bit too different from the deep mahogany skin, dark eyes, and kinky hair her parents had.” He pointed to the obvious physical differences in the beach photo Chasity’s fingers had paused over.

Then Marcos turned to face Chasity with a tender smile on his lips. “By the way I’m glad our daughter looks so much like you. It’s no wonder I was so drawn to her. She’s beautiful, just like her mother.”

And has an outgoing personality just like her father, Chasity thought, blushing again despite herself. This time Marcos was able to plainly see how he was affecting her.

“I…um…” Her next words were interrupted by the sound of a taxi horn in the distance. Chasity looked towards the sound and then back towards Marcos. “That’s got to be for me. Goodnight, Marcos.”

“Wait, Chasity. Let me at least walk you out,” he replied, grateful that this private conversation had ended on a better note than the previous one had. Tonight he would engage in the first cold shower he’s had since he was a thirteen-year-old hormonal teenager who didn’t know what to do with himself after discovering his very first girlie magazine under his father’s bed.

Marcos had no idea that Chasity was thinking along those same lines as he walked her to her waiting taxi and held the car door open for her. In fact, to ease her hormones down Chasity would also take a body cooling shower, followed by a long, reflective phone call to Tennessee. After that, a long time of prayer on her knees.

I hope Yashika ain’t too tired tonight,
Chasity mused, recalling that her friend had gotten a second job recently. She couldn’t wait to talk to her former roommate about the fact that Marcos was starting to get underneath her skin again. After all, Yashika had not only been Chasity’s roommate in her time of need, she’d also become a valued friend.

Marcos smiled and waved goodbye to Chasity as the taxi proceeded down the street. Then as he made his way across the Irelands’ well-trimmed front lawn, he failed to notice a waving Karis as she stood in the bay window of her living room, trying to get his attention. She wanted him to come over there since she couldn’t leave the house right now because her daughter was still in the bathtub.

But Marcos didn’t see Karis waving and he definitely didn’t see her snatch the wine-colored curtains closed because he’d ignored her attempts to get his attention. He had too many stars in his eyes from watching Chasity all day and for most of the night to notice any other woman. The fact that she’d let him walk her outside put even more stars in Marcos’ ebony eyes and encouraged his heart that he was wearing her down.

********

Another person that neither Marcos nor Chasity had noticed was the little girl in the white footies and long turquoise nightshirt who had stood in the corner of the brown carpeted stairwell listening to them as they’d conversed in the den.

Nakiya had come downstairs for a glass of milk and had failed to do the right thing and announce herself like the Irelands had taught her to. Now she had information that she had no idea how to process correctly.

Uncle Marcos and Miss Chasity are La’Charity’s real parents? Now she’s really gonna get more stuff than me, Nakiya thought, feeling hot flashes of envy flow through her slender body. After all, everyone knew how rich Uncle Marcos was. There was that big house of his. A house that he not only designed, but also had built from the ground up. It was talked about by everyone that ever visited it, children and adults alike. Everyone especially loved his dome-covered pool that could be utilized in all seasons.

Forgetting all about the milk now, Nakiya tiptoed her way back upstairs to the room that she shared with La’Charity. I bet she’s gonna get lots of presents for Christmas, too, she mused, wishing that she could share in her roommate’s good fortune, unmindful of just how blessed she already was and of how wrong it was to covet her newest stepsister’s or anyone else’s blessings. After all, Nakiya’s life had never been this good before and she ought to have been more grateful for what she now had.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 10

Marcos only got a few feet closer to the area where Chasity was before yet another person stopped him. This time it was a single-parent friend of his who lived down the street with his ten-year-old son that everyone affectionately called Junior since he was named after his father.

Dr. Rowe Trayne brought his son to the party today for multiple purposes. This party gave his rambunctious only child another opportunity to socialize with his peers. It also gave Rowe a chance to scout for a potential second wife among the single women who’d brought their children today as well.

While Marcos had been afraid of commitment for years, Rowe had enjoyed being married and had been very disappointed when his first wife left him for another man due to his hectic work schedule. Fortunately, the former Mrs. Trayne left him custody of their child and that kept Rowe from being too lonely during his free hours. However, the competent physician still craved the companionship of a woman at times and, unfortunately; he was craving the companionship of the same woman that Marcos had his eye on today.

“Look here, Marcos. Who’s the new lady over there with your niece? From what I can see, she’s beautiful, has no ring on her finger, and seems to love children a lot. A woman like that just might be the perfect second wife for me. Can you introduce a lonely brother to your sister’s new friend?” Rowe inquired with a friendly smile upon his cinnamon-skinned face. He took two of his fingers and smoothed down his thick brows in anticipation of meeting the beautiful stranger in question.

Hot jealousy coursed through Marcos’ veins at the very thought of Chasity with another man. Could he introduce Rowe to Chasity? Rowe had no idea how close he’d just come to a knock-down, drag-out fight by asking that insidious question. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Marcos planted the semblance of a smile upon his face and finally gave the man a reply.

“Chasity’s already taken, man,” he said, unclenching his fists at his sides by sheer willpower. Relax, man, Marcos told himself.

“By whom? Anyone I know?” Rowe inquired further, wanting to size up the competition. After all, he was a handsome, well-educated, financially secure physician and considered to be one of Bennington’s most eligible bachelors. Surely he could boot almost any man out of the running for Chasity’s favor.

Marcos’ ebony pools grew hard as flint as he stared intently into the other man’s walnut brown eyes. “By me,” he replied bluntly. Then he stalked off towards to the house, looking for the coldest drink of water he could find. Marcos needed something to help cool his temper down; lest he ruin the good friendship he had with La’Charity’s pediatrician in a jealous outburst.

I wish somebody had told me this sooner, Rowe thought, watching how stiff Marcos’ broad shoulders were as he walked away.

Marcos was not a man to run up on all willy-nilly or a man that would take kindly to another fellow moving in on his territory. In fact, most people knew that Mr. Valdez was either a great friend to have or a formidable enemy to cross. The majority chose to come into alliance with him, both personally and professionally, especially since Marcos already owned most of the prime real estate in Bennington and had barely been there for five years.

“Sorry about that, man,” Rowe said to Marcos’ departing back. When the ebony-eyed architect suddenly stopped and looked backwards with a smile of forgiveness upon his face, the pediatrician smiled back, knowing that all was well between them again.

********

Around dusk, people started to leave, taking some happy and some very tired children home with them. Marjorie stood by the paved driveway near the Ireland family van, waving to a few of her departing guests as they drove away. Behind her, Marcos and her boys were busy playing basketball. It was obvious that Jaleel Jr. (aka J.J.), Juan, and Lee still had energy to burn and their athletic uncle was helping them consume it. The girls were still somewhere on the property with Chasity. Nakiya and La’Charity seemed to be captivated by the newest female in the family and had hardly let the woman out of their sight all day.

I’m surprised good old Uncle Marcos ain’t somewhere near Chasity, too, Marjorie thought humorously as she recalled how often Marcos’ eyes had followed his college sweetheart around today. When big sister cornered him about it a few hours ago in a quiet section of the house, little brother had whispered one of his most shameful secrets to her.

Marcos’ exact words were, ‘Since Chasity is the only woman to ever make me cry like a baby after sex, I’m not going to stop pursuing her until she is finally Mrs. Valdez. No man in his right mind should let a woman who can affect him to that degree get away’.

At that point, a wide-eyed Marjorie gave Marcos her nod of approval and admonished him to steer clear of Karis since she didn’t seem at all willing to go quietly in the night and might even throw a monkey wrench into his optimistic wedding plans with Chasity.

I just hope you listen to me, little brother, Marjorie thought as she glanced briefly across the street and saw Karis sitting on the green metal decorative bench on her front porch. It was clear that the woman was watching and waiting for Marcos to finish his game so that she could have a few private words with him before he went home. How desperate can one woman be? Marjorie mused with disgust as she turned to go back inside to join her husband in the cleanup portion of the evening.

********

Unknown to Marjorie or her brother, Chasity was watching Marcos, too. She and the girls were standing on the patio, leaning on the safety rails while watching the athletes shoot hoops on the left side of the house near the exterior door that led to the den. The males couldn’t see them because of the privacy shrubs aligning the backyard, but the girls could clearly see the basketball area from their position due to the fact that the patio area was slightly elevated above the thick shrubbery.

Nakiya and La’Charity were taking turns interpreting what the athletes were saying since the males were speaking both verbally and through sign language. Lee and Marcos were on the same team against Jaleel Jr. and Juan and it was definitely an animated game with lots of trash-talking and laughter.

“Uncle Marcos just told Lee to watch his back, because J.J. is a B-Ball thief and loves to steal the ball from the right,” La’Charity said, excited about being of service to Miss Chasity. Unfortunately, Lee did not heed his uncle’s advice and soon the opposing team had the ball and had scored another basket through a fanciful lay-up performed by Juan who’d quickly been passed the ball from his B-Ball stealing older brother.

“Uncle Marcos just told Lee that that’s okay. That they’re still in the lead and better luck next time,” Nakiya stated. Although she’d wanted to be the only interpreter in this pastime, Miss Chasity had graciously suggested that the girls alternate that task which is what they were doing now.

“Very good,” Chasity remarked, for lack of anything else to say as she watched Marcos with a growing sense of admiration. That warm feeling only grew stronger as she took careful note of how supportive he was of his ten-year-old nephew/teammate through word and deed. How he constantly patted the deaf young man on the back whether he made the basket in or not. How he consistently showered Lee with encouraging words even when he went astray like he just did by not adhering to instruction. In fact, Marcos was acting like a true uncle to all the boys by playing ball with them. There was no telling how wonderful he’d be as a father.

Oh my God, Chasity mused, suddenly reminded of the fact that Marcos was a father. In fact, he was her child’s father, which meant that she would have to deal with him on some level for the rest of her life. Then while the girls continued to interpret for her, Chasity prayed to God for strength, knowing that she would definitely need it when faced with the likes of Marcos Valdez on an ongoing basis.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 9

The following weekend, Marjorie invited Chasity back to her home for a pool party that she was giving the kids before they returned to school for the fall term. Although Chasity knew that Marcos would be there as well, the fact that the house would be full of people, including many from the neighborhood, did a lot to appease her mind that there would not be a repeat of that intimate encounter they’d had last weekend.

Mindful of her generous curves and of the fact that she didn’t want to incite any kind of desire within Marcos, Chasity did not wear or bring a swimsuit today. She would have preferred to wear one of her more conservative pantsuits, but she had no idea that Georgia summers could still be so hot in late August and therefore opted to wear a gold halter-style skirt set that stopped right above her knees and allowed what little air there was to cool off her arms and shoulders.

As soon as Marcos saw Chasity in that outfit, his ebony eyes bucked with extreme delight while his heart and loins stirred with excitement. The bashful Chasity from long ago had been a modest dresser who would never have shown her shoulders or that much of her legs in public. She hadn’t even worn makeup back then. Somehow over the years she’d come out of her shell a bit and was even wearing lipstick and eye shadow these days. Whether Marcos was responsible for that or not, he didn’t know, but he sure liked the change in her. But then again, he’d liked seeing the radiance of Chasity’s natural beauty, too, and had thrived on the challenge of trying to get under those long, yesteryear, granny skirts she used to wear.

After watching Chasity interact with his family and friends without so much as a hello to him for almost an hour, Marcos decided to make himself known to her. Leaving the area where he was conversing with the men tending to the grill on the wooden patio, he walked towards the area where the mother of his child was.

Halfway there, one of Marjorie’s late arriving neighbors from across the street approached him. Unfortunately, that neighbor was one of the women Marcos had recently dropped socially. Of equal misfortune is the fact that this woman refused to stay dropped, even showing up at his home last night for a little rendezvous. Fortunately, Marcos had the good sense to turn her away.

“Hello, stranger,” Karis Gentry purred as she blocked the way of the pecan-tan man that had been her on-again, off-again lover for the past year and a half. Incidentally, the only reason she’d remained in Marcos’ life this long was because she had a sexually adventuresome side that often matched his own.

Karis had hoped that the successful architect would one day realize and appreciate how compatible they were in the bedroom and marry her. Unfortunately, that hadn’t happened yet. And just last weekend, Marcos had called and broken things off with Karis for good. He even refused her advances last night and that had really wounded her pride. Afterwards, Karis had gone back home and cried silent tears in her private bedroom at the house that she lived in with her mother and her six-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

Unfortunately, Karis didn’t realize that Marcos could never marry a woman like her, despite their sexual compatibility. He was the type of man that always had to be presented with new challenges and that needed to be stimulated on multiple levels. His relationship with Karis stayed strictly on a physical level and did not offer him many challenges or opportunities for personal growth, whereas a certain quiet preacher’s daughter could challenge and stimulate him on so many levels, too many to count.

Marcos forced a smile upon his face in order to hide his frustration at being distracted from his mission, even if that distraction was dressed in a leopard print bikini-styled top and a matching sarong. “Hello, Karis. And it hasn’t been that long for you to think of me as a stranger. I’d hoped we could still be friends.”

Karis put a pout on her full, kissable lips, recalling how Marcos always found that adorable. “We might as well be strangers, because friendship isn’t enough for me. I want more.” Placing her hands on her hips, she stood with her right leg in front of her left in order to give Marcos a delectable glimpse of her smooth mocha thigh. For her slender frame, Karis was quite shapely.

“I can’t give you more. I told you that.” Marcos looked beyond Karis’ curly black head of hair and frowned when he realized that he’d somehow lost sight of Chasity during the course of the conversation.

Although frustrated with her failed attempt to draw his eyes to certain parts of her body, Karis took advantage of Marcos’ preoccupation with something in the distance and draped both of her arms around his neck. Before he knew it she’d moved closer and was whispering in his ear, causing many curious eyes to look their way and assume what used to be the truth. Marcos and Karis used to be lovers, but no more.

“Why don’t you let me give you a few things then,” Karis volunteered. She had firsthand knowledge of Marcos’ somewhat eccentric bedroom preferences and definitely wouldn’t mind adding a few things to his extensive repertoire. Tonight, if he liked. In an effort to send her message louder and clearer, Karis slipped her soft manicured hands underneath Marcos’ sky-blue knit shirt and caressed his washboard stomach. Oh how she loved feeling those rippling muscles beneath her fingertips.

Just then, Marcos spotted Chasity coming from around the left corner of the house, engrossed in a lively conversation with La’Charity, who was wearing a cool yellow and navy-blue sundress with yellow sandals today. Nakiya, dressed in a purple and fuchsia-colored Adidas short-set, was fast on their trail. All three females had hot dogs and drinks in their hands and were headed towards one of the picnic tables on the east side of the large backyard, a safe distance away from the fenced-in, above-ground pool.

I can’t believe this timing, Marcos mused, feeling as if he’d just been caught cheating. However, as soon as he saw the quick look of disdain cross Chasity’s features, he knew that he’d had nothing to worry about in that department. It was obvious that she didn’t care who he dated and that bothered him. That really bothered him.

Having to practically peel Karis off of him, Marcos put some physical distance between them by taking two steps backwards near the picnic table area on the west side of the backyard. As much as she had turned him on in the past, he was equally, if not more turned off by her now. Clingy women didn’t appeal to him whatsoever. Never had.

“Karis, remember this is a kids’ party,” Marcos said, looking around and wondering where the woman’s own child was since that was obviously the excuse she’d used to come over today. One look towards the pool where Marjorie was serving as lifeguard and he saw Karis’ daughter, Terrika, happily splashing with some of the other kids.

“Besides, I told you that I was in love with someone else,” Marcos continued in a low tone, for Karis’ ears only. He was trying to be discreet and trying to keep his promise of ‘never be deceitful to another woman’ at the same time. Over the past seven years, Marcos let all of his women know that he was not looking for a commitment. Ironically, that particular statement was no longer true since the mother of his child arrived in town. Marcos would love to commit to Chasity, and to know that he had exclusive rights to her heart and body would be like a dream come true.

“And I told you that I didn’t believe you,” Karis replied, refuting his previous statement. Even now she looked at him with disbelief, thinking that he was just running scare because she’d started to push for commitment lately. A man like Marcos was never ruled by his heart. Either his head or his loins ruled him.

“Whether you believe me or not, it’s true,” Marcos insisted, knowing within himself that he was telling the truth. He loved Chasity with all of his heart and theirs had been the only romantic relationship he’d ever looked back upon with longing and regret. In fact, if it weren’t for those private pictures he kept, Marcos probably would have forgotten that some of his other relationships had ever even existed.

Now let me see how fast I can get rid of Karis, Marcos thought, ready to forget all about the woman in his face now and return to his original plan of trying to talk to Chasity alone.

********

Yeah right, he’s still in love with me. If he was, he wouldn’t be hugging another woman in front of me, Chasity thought from her seat at the first picnic table on the east side of the yard, trying not to be too affected by what she’d just seen. Wonder what lie he told to get her, she mused, thinking that for Marcos ‘honesty’ was simply a three-species plant that bloomed in May and June and was not a sign of good character at all.

“Miss Chasity, will you teach me how to make a terrarium for my aunt?” La’Charity asked, interrupting her biological mother’s thoughts. She had yet to be told what Marcos and Chasity’s real relation to her was. The adults agreed to take things slowly in that department, even though Marcos and Chasity had both recently taken paternity tests for verification purposes per Marjorie’s request.

“Of course, honey,” Chasity replied, already thinking of what they would include in the indoor garden-in-a-glass. Club moss and definitely hepatica, she mused, very fond of the latter with its three-lobed leaves and white or sometimes lavender flowers.

Then not wanting to leave any interested child out, Chasity turned to the older child at the table on her left. “Would you like to learn how to make a terrarium, too, Nakiya?” She took a sip from the white Styrofoam cup she held as she waited for the child’s answer. Marjorie’s fruit punch had a lemony taste to it and gave the drink an extra something special, which is why it was being consumed so fast among today’s guests.

Nakiya turned up her cute button nose in distaste as she swallowed the remaining bit of hotdog in her mouth. “No, I don’t like playing in the dirt. I like to keep my hands, nails and clothes clean,” she replied, revealing her snooty side in that answer. Then showing off her materialistic side, Nakiya took a moment to brush an imaginary piece of lint from the tank top of her designer short-set and to reposition the matching barrettes on her long braided ponytail.

Chasity chuckled, not offended at all by Nakiya’s haughtiness. She still thought the young lass to be simply adorable and delightfully candid. “I understand. Well, I guess it’ll just be La’Charity and me then.”

La’Charity’s eyes lit up at that prospect and she stopped mid-bite of her coleslaw laden hotdog. She liked Miss Chasity and would love to do a special project just between the two of them. Quickly chewing the food in her mouth and swallowing, she exclaimed, “I can’t wait!”

Chasity traced the bridge of her daughter’s perky nose with her index finger. “I can hardly wait, either, honey,” she said with an abundance of love flowing through her voice and eyes. Then reaching for one of the white napkins she’d brought from the house, Chasity proceeded to wipe the corners of La’Charity’s mouth where some of the coleslaw had not quite made it all the way in.

“Now about this terrarium, we do put the water in the glass bowl after we put in the pebbles and all the other stuff, right?” La’Charity asked, just getting geared up for another question and answer time. Inwardly, her heart sang at the tenderness at which she’d just been shown. She’d felt precious when Miss Chasity wiped her mouth just then and her pleasure was evident by the lovely smile resting upon her pretty little face.

Nakiya sat silently eating and watching the other two people at the table with envy now pricking at her heart. Now she was sorry that she refused Miss Chasity’s invitation to make a terrarium. Already she could tell that they were going to have so much fun. La’Charity always gets to do the best things, Nakiya mused, forgetting that only a moment ago she’d turned her nose up at the very idea of ‘playing in the dirt’.

Then turning away from the two people at the table with her, the nine-year-old spotted her adopted father placing a book of matches in his back pocket and realized that she suddenly needed a hug of reassurance from him. Jaleel always made Nakiya feel special and that was just one of the things she wanted from him right now.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 8

All throughout the evening, Marcos watched Chasity interact with his relatives, particularly with the children. He soon realized what he’d basically ignored before - she was born to be a mother. After all, hadn’t she always surrounded herself with children at her father’s church, teaching Sunday school and being over the youth choir? Now Chasity had even formed an instant bond with Nakiya and that brash youngster was the hardest out of all the other children to warm up to.

Unfortunately for Marcos, the mother of his child basically ignored him all evening, refusing to even make eye contact with him, even at the dinner table when he’d asked her to pass the peas while sitting directly across from her. Chasity’s hands may have passed the peas, but her eyes had remained on La’Charity who had sat right next to him.

When it was time for the kids to go upstairs and prepare for bed, Chasity gave each of them a warm hug goodbye and then asked to use the phone so that she could call a taxi back to the hotel. She didn’t want to interrupt the Irelands’ nightly routine by having someone drive her.

“Sure, go right ahead,” Jaleel said, pointing to the top of the dark wood encased floor model television set where the brown phone sat. He was on his way out of the L-shaped den enroute to his office at the end of the long first floor hallway directly across from the master suite. Jaleel was going to work on his column one last time before tomorrow’s deadline. He always gave his paragraphs a final tweak before submitting the final draft for publication.

“No need to do that. I’ll take you,” Marcos quickly volunteered in a take-charge manner as he stood up from the brown fabric chair he’d sat in near the TV set. He was eager to be alone with Chasity, anxious to finish their earlier conversation, excited about starting something new with her. Tonight perhaps.

“I don’t need you to take me anywhere!” Chasity spat out vehemently as her whole body tensed with hot anger. Fortunately, the children were already upstairs with Marjorie, who was responsible for bath and prayertime, so they were not privy to the searing resurgence of bitterness that had just come out of Chasity’s mouth. She was glad the children were not around to be shocked by her current behavior. In all honesty, Chasity was pretty shocked by the intensity of her words herself. She usually practiced way more self-control than this.

Jaleel paused in the den’s arched doorway at Chasity’s sharp tone and turned back around to look at the two people behind him. An amused expression came upon his caramel-skinned face and a smile played at the corners of his mouth as he noted how Marcos’ eyes became ablaze with excitement instead of offense at Chasity’s biting words.

“Are y’all going to be all right in here by yourselves? Or do I need to stay and chaperone?” the tall, slender man asked as his comedic gaze shifted from Marcos to Chasity and back to his brother-in-law again. Brother-in-law, this woman is your match if I ever saw one, Jaleel mused, finding humor in almost every situation as usual, which is what made his weekly column so popular.

Marjorie had privately briefed her husband about the nature of Chasity and Marcos’ relationship and how it related to La’Charity during their short trip outside to feed the family dog in the backyard. Therefore, Jaleel knew that they had a sordid history together. Yet from his observation of them throughout the evening and now, he sensed that Marcos and Chasity also had a very tempestuous future ahead of them due to their obvious unresolved issues.

True to his take-charge nature, Marcos took the initiative and answered for them both. “We’ll be fine, Jaleel. I just wanted a chance to talk to Chasity alone about our daughter and to apologize for all the pain I’ve caused her.” Marcos was aware that his sister had shared the paternity news with her husband due to Jaleel’s knowing look after they returned from feeding the dog. And because feeding the dog was usually the kids’ job.

Still trying to speak for others, Chasity mused, biting her tongue this time. You should have been a lawyer instead of an architect! she thought, confident that Marcos had succeeded in his chosen profession. There was also little doubt in her mind that he probably owned his own business considering the fact that he had such a domineering personality and would not be content submitting to anyone.

Marcos looked at the mother of his child and saw defiance in her gorgeous eyes and knew that Chasity wasn’t about to let him take her anywhere tonight for real and probably not any other night. That knowledge made him want her all the more.

“If you don’t want me to take you back to your hotel, that’s fine. I can say what I need to say right now,” he stated, ready to seize the moment. Inwardly, his loins stirred even hotter at the fire in Chasity’s defiant eyes.

Marcos had always loved how the introverted woman stood up to him. He counted himself one of the fortunate to know how much passion lie lurking behind that reserved exterior. Marcos had no idea that he was the only man that had ever seen that side of Chasity. If he had, his ego would surely quadruple in size at this very moment.

Chasity stood with folded arms across her chest. She really didn’t want to hear anything that Marcos had to say. After all, he was a known liar. However, since this conversation was a long time coming, she decided to just let it happen and finally be done with it.

“You can speak your peace while I wait for my taxi,” she replied dryly, finally going over to the phone and dialing the number she’d written down earlier.

The whole time Chasity talked on the phone, she kept her back to Marcos, refusing to even look at him. Once the taxi had been dispatched to the Irelands’ address, she sat down on the matching brown sofa opposite the chair and forced herself to meet Marcos’ heated gaze. There was no doubt in her mind that he’d been steadily watching her the whole time she made her call.

Meanwhile, a smiling Jaleel went through the den’s arched doorway, past the eat-in kitchen and on to his home office down the hall. Brother-in-law, I think your player days are over.

With the full knowledge that he was dealing with a short amount of time here and knowing how resistant Chasity could be to his will at times, Marcos sat down in the chair again, took a deep breath, and began. “First of all, I don’t blame you for being angry with me. I did pursue you for the wrong reasons and told a bunch of lies while I was doing it. But you got to know that I truly had come to love you. So much so that I panicked when I finally realized it. I was afraid of loving you, Chasity, afraid of becoming a parent, and terrified of us turning out like my parents did. That’s why I ran like a coward. I’m ashamed of myself and I have carried that shame around for years. Please forgive me, Chasity.”

Chasity’s pulse accelerated at his seemingly sincere words and at the genuine repentance resting upon his pecan-tan face. It sped up even more as quick images of the tender and loving way Marcos had held her all those years ago flashed in her mind to support his claim of having been in love with her once upon a time.

No, he’s just a very good actor that’s all, she thought, talking herself out of even trying to believe Marcos. Chasity couldn’t afford to believe him again and a part of her didn’t even want to forgive him, even though she knew she should. After all, bitterness seemed like a suitable enough cloak to protect her from the intense attraction that she still felt for the man across from her.

“You really expect me to believe that you actually loved me back then?” Chasity asked, trying to project her disbelief in her question, despite the fact that her body had been decisively soothed and deliciously aroused by his potent words.

“Whether you believe it or not, it’s true. I did love you back then and I still love you now. In fact, I’m glad that you didn’t abort our child because La’Charity will always be my evidence of the love we once shared.” Upon noticing how Chasity’s warm honey eyes had darkened to almost an oak brown with desire at his words, Marcos effortlessly got up from the chair he sat in and joined her on the sofa. He’d never forget those telltale signs of Chasity’s mounting passion or the fact that her bottom lip was vulnerable to certain types of caresses.

Marcos hid a smile when Chasity stiffened up as he sat down beside her. He was amazed by her resilience and her ability to resist him even when it was obvious that she still wanted him just as much as he wanted her. Oh, the wonderful challenges she always presented him with just kept his blood pumping with excitement.

Chasity stiffened even more as Marcos stretched out both of his long arms on the headrest behind them, causing one of his arms to be directly behind her head. His legs, he comfortably stretched out in front of him, as if presenting them for her eyes to feast off of. And that expensive spicy cologne Marcos wore made Chasity want to bury her face in his neck in order to get a deeper whiff.

Stop it! she told herself, trying to force her body not to react to Marcos’ nearness, wanting to flee from his presence, but not wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much he still affected her. Chasity was especially affected by those long, deliciously hairy legs of his in the brown cargo shorts he wore. She had vivid memories of her tasting those long limbs during the more passionate phase of their relationship. In fact, she wanted to taste them now.

I said stop it! Chasity told herself again. Then sensing that her body was going to be rebellious in this matter, she sought another way to stop this madness. Especially since Marcos was still watching her every move and seemed ready to pounce upon her at any moment like the predator he was.

“Maybe you did love me back then and maybe you think you still do now. However, what you did to me makes it impossible for me to ever love or trust you again,” Chasity forced out, despising her own treacherous body for pulsating with so much need for the man beside her. “All I want now is my daughter,” she added quietly, wishing that that statement was one hundred percent true now, the way it was a few hours ago.

“And I want you both, but of course for very different reasons and in very different ways,” Marcos replied in a whisper as he leaned closer to her right ear, allowing his fresh warm breath to caress her neck. Mmm…she still smells so good, he thought, inhaling a deep whiff of her floral perfume into his strong nostrils. Ever since he’d known her, Chasity has always smelled like rose petals in the springtime.

When Marcos noticed her shiver of delight stemming from his breath’s caress, he knew that Chasity had not only lied to him, but also to herself. Their daughter wasn’t the only thing she wanted, either. Deciding to seize the moment, he used his nearness to place a light kiss upon her lips.

If Marcos had claimed her lips in a hard kiss, Chasity would have been better able to resist him and would have promptly pushed him away after a hard slap on the face for good measure. After all, predators were never gentle with their prey. One viewing of a Discovery Channel documentary on predators can attest to that. But when Marcos only brushed his mouth across hers with the tenderest of caresses and then licked her bottom lip in that sensual way she liked, Chasity found her lips involuntarily opening in invitation and a soft sigh of deep desire escaped just before she welcomed his tongue into her mouth.

Upon seeing her reaction to his butterfly kiss, Marcos forced himself not to respond with his usual ferocious need leading the way, fiery need that had been stroked that much higher with her opposition to his charm. Instead he continued along the tender path, allowing Chasity to determine how fast or slow the kiss progressed and to what degree it deepened. Oh, how it pained the aggressive man to allow someone else, anyone else to lead the way in anything.

The way Chasity responded to Marcos was like sand flowing through an hourglass - steady, but ever so slow. She probed his mouth, teased his tongue with hers, and suckled his bottom lip with meticulous precision as she surrendered wholeheartedly to the tender side of him. Where had her anger gone? Where was the bitterness now? They both were currently consumed by Chasity’s passion as she delectably familiarized herself with the joys of Marcos Valdez again.

Although Marcos didn’t want her to stop for anything, this moment still felt like sweet torture to him. He wasn’t a natural follower and patience had never been one of his stronger virtues. Plus, the fact that he’d never wanted a woman this badly before in his life caused Marcos to really wrestle with himself right now. He had to particularly fight to keep his hands respectfully above Chasity’s neck.

But first things first. Marcos had to somehow convince Chasity to go home with him on that star-filled night. He had to somehow get her to want him so badly that she’d agree to anything he asked. Remembering how taken she was with his legs, he brought his right leg up and rested it upon his left knee. Then Marcos reached for one of Chasity’s hands and began to slowly move it over his lower limb, allowing her to feel the hard muscles and the silky hair there. He knew he’d struck gold when she moaned with pleasure and tightened her grip on his calf muscle before lightly tracing its grooves with her fingertips. She also began to increase the pace of their succulent feast and was now practically devouring his lips with her hungry kisses.

It was at that point that Marcos knew that Chasity was his for the taking. “Cancel the cab, baby. Let me take you back to the hotel. Better yet, let me take you to my house. It’s only four blocks away and it even has a retractable mirror on the bedroom ceiling for our viewing pleasure,” he whispered against her lips, letting her know that he had every intention of making love to her tonight. Thoroughly.

Chasity suddenly stopped all movement and abruptly broke the kiss. Her passion flew away as if it had wings and common sense returned, bringing anger along with it. “Once again you’ve asked the wrong thing of me, Marcos,” she said, standing hastily to her feet. “But this time, I won’t compromise my ethics for you. This time, I’m going to do right by myself.”

Just then, a horn sounded outside, indicating that her taxi was there. Then gathering her purse, Chasity looked back at a highly surprised and thoroughly disappointed Marcos and added, “La’Charity will be the only thing between us from now on.” Then she proceeded to make her way out of the house.

That’s where you’re wrong, Chasity. La’Charity will ‘not’ be the only thing between us, Marcos mused with determination as desire continued to pump through his veins even as he heard his sister’s front door close in the distance.

Now that he’d been presented with this new challenge, he was taking himself officially off the dating market. All the other ladies in Marcos’ social life were as good as dumped as of this moment. He wouldn’t make the same mistake of keeping other women in his life like he had during their college years. Especially since too many of those women had thought it their duty to find creative ways to let the preacher’s daughter know of his little trysts with them.

Some of the women had written Chasity short letters and mailed them to her house. A few had reverted back to high school tactics and written who he was with on the walls of the ladies room near the mirrors where all the other females could see the messages. And one very innovative woman had written ‘Marcos is a dog’ on his car windshield in bold, red, spray paint.

Marcos had hated himself a little bit more each time he’d lied to Chasity about being faithful back in college, each time he insisted that those women were in his past and that they were just jealous that he’d chosen her over them. Unfortunately for Chasity, she believed him every time and ended up feeling and looking like a fool when it was all over. Unfortunately for Marcos, he now had that working against him even though he was determined to be faithful this time. Of equal misfortune is the fact that he didn’t even know if he would get another chance with Chasity, but he was definitely going to try.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 7

“Chasity?!” Marcos declared, blinking rapidly to make sure that he wasn’t hallucinating.

Although pale with shock right now, Chasity’s skin was still just as flawless as it had ever been. And even though they were staring at him with open hostility now, her warm honey eyes still pulled Marcos into their depths. Moreover, he could never forget Chasity’s straight dark auburn locks nor her 5’8, curvaceous figure that still made him want to pull her into his arms and usher her into his bed. Seven years hadn’t changed her voluptuous body at all and it showed in the formfitting, coral-colored, short-sleeved pantsuit she wore.

Marjorie’s arched brows rose higher. “You two know each other?” She pointed and looked at Marcos and Chasity respectively, before settling an angry gaze upon her four-year younger brother again.

What have you done now, little brother? Marjorie mused, knowing without asking that this was yet another woman whose heart Marcos had broken due to his fear of commitment. I told that boy there’s no perfect woman out there.

With her face now turning a deep crimson with anger, Chasity retorted, “Mrs. Ireland, meet La’Charity’s biological father. Who, I’m assuming, is also your little brother from Texas.”

“What?!” Marjorie and Marcos both uttered simultaneously, looking at each other and then back at Chasity who was already making her way to the front door. The bronze-skinned woman would walk back to the hotel if she had to. She needed time to think and she could not do it here with the predator in the same room.

Quicker to recover than his sister, Marcos’ long legs propelled him towards the door before Chasity opened it. “You told me that you were having an abortion,” he accused in a tone that sounded like a low hiss as he rested his hand heavily upon the front door to keep her from opening it.

Inwardly, Marcos knew that his ex-girlfriend’s unexpected declaration was true. Even his natural eyes could attest to that fact. La’Charity had Chasity’s eyes, bronze complexion, unique auburn-colored hair and the child’s May birthday was exactly nine months away from that unprotected sexual encounter Marcos and Chasity had had in college. Therefore, he had to be the father. He just didn’t know why he didn’t make the connection sooner.

Chasity’s eyes narrowed bitterly at Marcos as yesteryear’s pain came rushing back to her mind like a flood. “I told you I was going to get rid of it, but I never told you how. I saw no reason to since you didn’t want anything else to do with me or her,” she hissed back, standing up to him like never before. Yes, Marcos was still the handsomest man she’d ever seen up close, but she was no longer that shy preacher’s daughter’s who was so overwhelmed with his attractiveness to see him for the predator that he really was. And Chasity would continue to stand strong against this man whose very name meant rebellious.

Just then, a bronze-skinned little girl in a pink and white outfit came bounding into the room with a happy skip in her feet, causing her three long ponytails to bounce with each step. “Uncle Marcos, I heard your car pull up. Did you bring the ice cream?” La’Charity asked with an expectant look upon her face.

Suddenly all of Chasity’s anger flew from her body with an inaudible whish and it was as if it had never even been there. Taking a deep breath and exhaling, she slowly turned around to face her daughter. Tears instantly welled up in Chasity’s eyes, her stomach stirred with a blend of happiness and joy and she forced herself not to pull the sweet little girl into her arms as she so desperately wanted to.

Now see, this is what can make the bitterness finally go away, God, Chasity mused, thinking that being reconciled to her daughter could probably make the bitterness stay away for good. Then she wouldn’t have to struggle so hard in that area. That thought caused her eyes to dry, allowing her to see her daughter even more clearly.

Marcos’ anger left as well at La’Charity’s arrival. Now that he knew that she was his daughter, she was even more precious to him. He was glad that Chasity hadn’t followed his selfish advice, glad that she was a woman with her own mind. “Of course I brought the ice cream, Bonita.” He smiled affectionately down at La’Charity. “Go get your brothers and sisters and we’ll make sundaes after we eat the sandwiches Aunt Margie fixed for everyone.”

Regardless of paternity, all the kids called each other brother or sister. Marjorie and Jaleel were known as Mom and Dad, while Marcos was known as uncle. La’Charity was the only child to call Marjorie and Jaleel, aunt and uncle since that’s what they’d been to her when her adopted parents were alive.

Suddenly, Marjorie stepped in at that exact moment and did the most amazing thing. “Before you go, La’Charity. I want you to meet a very good friend of mine and of your parents. Her name is Chasity Bradshaw. She was there at your birth and she’s been wanting to see you again for a long time.”

La’Charity stood in front of the pretty stranger and looked up at her. It pleased her immensely when the woman kneeled down to her level so that she could see her better. “Nice to meet you, Miss Chasity. Any friend of Aunt Margie’s and my parents is a friend of mine.” Then she extended her small right hand in friendship.

“I’m happy to be your friend, La’Charity,” Chasity replied, finally finding her voice as she briefly shook the right hand of the outgoing child. She knew exactly where the child got that trait from. Marcos Valdez never met a stranger in his life, easily befriending both men and women, especially the women which was why he was considered a ladies man in college. Chasity still didn’t know why she fell for such a man. But then again, one look at Marcos’ virile outer appearance, combined with his above average intelligence and charismatic personality was enough to hook most women, even a preacher’s daughter.

Again Marjorie intervened. “Would you like it if Miss Chasity stayed and had a sundae with us, La’Charity?”

Good looking out, Margie, Marcos mused, wanting to keep Chasity with them, or rather with him, forever. While no one was watching, he adjusted the collar and hem of his white polo shirt, trying to make sure that he was still looking as well-groomed as she remembered from his college days.

The little girl smiled and nodded. “Yeah. I’ll help you with the sprinkles, too,” she said to Chasity, liking the friendly stranger already and not knowing why. La’Charity also liked that the woman had eyes identical to hers. She’d never met anyone else with warm honey pools like hers before and the similarity pleased her.

Then La’Charity looked up at her uncle before leaving the room. “You did remember to bring the sprinkles this time, didn’t you?”

Marcos laughed. “Chocolate syrup, too, your majesty.” He did a quick bow, losing himself in his daughter’s smile. My daughter, he rehearsed, feeling a father’s love well up in his heart this time and not just an uncle’s as he picked her up for a kiss.

Chasity looked on with a mixture of envy and happiness flowing through her veins as the little girl kissed Marcos on the right cheek and left the room to go gather the others when she was positioned upon her feet again. It was obvious that La’Charity loved her biological father and vice versa. What was also clear was the seemingly unfairness of the situation.

I’m the one that wanted her, Lord, not him, Chasity whined inwardly, wondering why Marcos got to have the loving relationship with their daughter and not her. The fact that she had to fight not to pout revealed that she still had a lot more growing up to do, despite the mature air that she was so well known for.

However, Chasity was mature enough to see that it was in her best interest right now to be grateful for the opportunity that she currently had to change things, and hopefully develop her own relationship with her daughter. She stood to her feet and turned to Marjorie, completely ignoring Marcos now.

“Mrs. Ireland, thanks so much for allowing me into your home today. I was so afraid that you’d turn me away, possibly even slam the door in my face when I told you who I was.”

Marjorie smiled tenderly at Chasity, feeling as if she was already a part of the family. “Turn away La’Charity’s twin? Never! And by the way, no more of that Mrs. Ireland stuff. From now on, call me Margie like everyone else.” Then she hugged the relieved woman and led her out of the living room and into the yellow and evergreen decorated kitchen.

Marcos followed the two women a few seconds later, feeling a bit left out now because it was obvious that Chasity wanted nothing to do with him whereas she seemed quite prepared to wholeheartedly embrace the rest of his Georgia family.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 6

One year later
Around noon on a hot August Saturday, Chasity walked out of the crowded Bennington airport terminal and caught the first taxi she could find enroute to the hotel that she’d reserved a room at. After spending three months in a cast, regularly attending a fracture clinic for the first six of those twelve weeks, enduring multiple x-rays and the inconvenience of not being able to drive herself around, plus several additional months of grueling physical therapy from her fractured tibia (shin bone), she was finally walking normally again, even wearing heels again.

Fortunately for Chasity, she had the type of job that she could do sitting down and was able to return to work within a month after her injury. After wallowing in self-pity for a couple of weeks during the early days of her recovery, she made the decision to take in a roommate and then subsist off of the bare essentials for the rest of the year in order to put back what had been lost from her bank account. Chasity even sold her computer and car in her determination to reenter her daughter’s life not just physically healthy, but financially healthy as well.

Although Chasity wasn’t rich and probably wouldn’t be able to open up her own floral shop for years to come, she could afford to put her child up in a decent apartment and provide for her without government assistance. At least for the next two years, if she continued to manage her money wisely and took odd landscaping and freelance floral jobs as she often did back in Tennessee.

Having done as much research as she could about her daughter’s whereabouts and present situation, Chasity discovered that the child had been placed with a Mrs. Marjorie Ireland. Marjorie was Sheena’s best friend from college and when the Deweys died in a bad car accident while attending a business conference up north, Mrs. Ireland had been left with Sheena’s only child and placed as executor of her friend’s sizable estate.

Chasity could care less about that will and about any assets that had been left. She hadn’t taken any money from the Deweys the first time and she didn’t want any money from them this time. All she wanted was her daughter. Marjorie Ireland could have the money.

After checking into her hotel, Chasity went to shower and change. Her next taxi trip would lead to the residence of one Mrs. Marjorie Ireland.

********

“Uncle Marcos, let’s say it again,” seven-year-old La’Charity said to the man that she’d come to love dearly over the last year. Before her adopted parents died, she’d just seen Marcos on occasion, mostly whenever she visited with the Irelands. Now she saw him almost every day and they have formed a very strong bond. In fact, their bond was quite different from those that Marcos had with all the other kids. Quite different from the bond that La’Charity had even experienced with her adopted father.

Patrick Dewey had been loving, kind, and lots of fun, but Marcos Valdez seemed to understand La’Charity like no one else could. He especially seemed to understand her unceasing search for knowledge that prompted hundreds of questions, which usually drove other people nutty.

Marcos liked answering La’Charity’s questions and seemed to take it as his personal duty to teach her something new every time he saw her. Today they were sitting on the couch in the den going over counting to ten in Spanish while the other kids were in the pool out back, unwilling to have anything to do with school topics just yet. Jaleel was supervising the swimmers while Marjorie was in the kitchen preparing snacks for everyone.

“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez,” Marcos recited, verbally feeding his youngest niece another serving of his heritage and satisfying her need to learn in the process. Marjorie did not share this part of her brother’s heritage. Although they shared the same African-American mother, their fathers were different. His was Hispanic and hers was Native-American which would explain why they’d always carried two different last names, had different textures of hair, and possessed different skin tones. However, they both did have their mother’s ebony-colored eyes and strong aristocratic nose.

Upon her second divorce, Quantia Valdez left both of her kids in their fathers’ custodies so that she could roam the world in her singing career without the encumbrances of children. Unfortunately, this caused Marcos and Marjorie to grow up in two different parts of the country, he in Texas and she in Washington state.

Yet despite the miles that had divided them, the brother and sister continued to stay in touch over the years through phone calls and letters, especially since they never wanted to be separated in the first place. Interestingly enough, that is the main reason Marjorie enrolled in the foster care program. She wanted to give other kids who felt displaced a sense of family, especially since Quantia still failed to keep in touch with her and Marcos on a regular basis. They usually had to call their mother first. Fortunately, Marjorie’s father kept in constant touch with her via phone and even visited her during the holidays.

With a sentimental streak just as strong as his sister’s, as soon as Marcos completed his undergrad degree and all of the subsequent architect-related training, he established his new company in Bennington, Georgia in order to close the miles between him and Marjorie. That decision allowed him to be a part of his sister’s life full-time. Fortunately, that was one less decision that Marcos would have to regret in his life.

When La’Charity repeated those Spanish numerals behind him as fluently as if she’d been reared in a Spanish-speaking home, Marcos nodded with approval and gave one of her thick ponytails an affectionate tug. “Very good, Bonita,” he said, smiling down into the distinct, honey-colored eyes of the little girl in the pink and white summer short-set.

La’Charity smiled, too, with a sense of accomplishment and with the understanding that he’d called her pretty again. Uncle Marcos often called the girls in the house pretty, but when he said it to her, his eyes always took on this faraway look as if he was remembering something or rather someone.

“Do I get ice cream today?” La’Charity asked, waiting for the customary reward for a job well done. Uncle Marcos always rewarded the kids when they accomplished a challenging task. He’d brought all of them new bicycles each time one of them successfully learned sign language in order to better communicate with Lee, the very first foster child that Marjorie and Jaleel adopted, who was unfortunately born deaf. Fortunately, Lee could effectively read lips and that helped him a lot at home, in school, and at play.

Interestingly enough, La’Charity learned how to sign faster than all the other kids, as well as many of the adult family members, even Jaleel. Only Marjorie and Marcos had beaten the little girl’s two-month record, perfecting their signing abilities in a four-week period of time.

“Sure, tell Aunt Margie that I’ll be right back with ice cream for everyone,” Marcos said, getting up to leave. Even though La’Charity had earned the treat, he would extend the blessing to all the children, which cut down on jealousy and competition among her peers who ranged in age from fourteen to nine. Marcos was especially mindful of the nine-year-old/second foster child that Marjorie and Jaleel adopted right before La’Charity was bequeathed to them. Nakiya had a jealous streak out of this world and it had landed her in trouble too many times to count.

********

Scanning the block for the right address, Chasity noticed a silver Chevy Tahoe coming out of the driveway of a two-story, red brick house and realized that that was the residence she’d been looking for. God, please don’t let that be Mrs. Ireland leaving, she prayed as the yellow taxi slowed down and prepared to stop in front of the house.

After paying the cab driver and leaving him a tip, Chasity got out of the vehicle and made her way across the large front lawn to the main door. Pressing the lighted doorbell, she forced herself to wait patiently for someone to answer. In the distance, she could hear sounds of children playing happily in the even larger backyard. A camel brown Astro van was in the driveway to her right.

I will not cry. I will not cry, Chasity rehearsed, wishing that her emotions didn’t always spill out of her eyes so easily.

Suddenly the large black door swung open and a tall, shapely woman with deep chocolate skin, friendly ebony eyes and a pleasant smile appeared. “Yes, may I help you?” Marjorie asked, looking down into the bronze-skinned woman’s eyes.

Oh my goodness! If I didn’t know any better I’d say I was staring into La’Charity’s face in twenty years, Marjorie thought, immediately noticing the familiar features of the stranger in the coral-colored outfit. Suddenly a wallet-sized photo from her best friend’s private files appeared in her mind and Marjorie realized that she was looking directly into the face of La’Charity’s birth mother.

“Yes, I’m Chasity Bradshaw,” the nervous young woman replied in a hoarse voice, thick with emotion. Chasity paused and cleared her throat before continuing. “I’m La’Charity’s biological mother,” she added, feeling her eyes well up with tears, despite her earlier resolution not to cry.

Marjorie nodded her acknowledgment and opened the door wider. “Come on in, Ms. Bradshaw. I think we have a lot to talk about.”

Then after telling her husband to keep the children outside for a while so that she could talk undisturbed with their unexpected visitor, Marjorie returned to the contemporarily decorated living room where Chasity awaited. The faint sound of an upbeat 80’s tune could be heard playing a short distance away where Mrs. Ireland had forgotten to turn the radio off in the kitchen while preparing snacks for her family a few minutes earlier.

As soon as her hostess was seated in the Isabella floral-patterned chair opposite her, a now dry-eyed Chasity began to briefly discuss the situation surrounding La’Charity’s birth. “To keep a long story short, Mrs. Ireland, I was deeply in love with my daughter’s father when I conceived. Unfortunately, I found out too late that he was only deeply in lust with me which is why I put on the birth certificate that he was unknown since I obviously never knew the real him at all. Anyway, there were three opinions on how to deal with the matter. The child’s father wanted me to have an abortion because he wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility, my preacher of a father wanted me to give her up for adoption because he was ashamed of me, and I wanted to keep La’Charity because she was mine and I’d always wanted to be a mother.”

Chasity blinked away her bitterness and shrugged. “I guess you know who got their wish.” She’d tried to get rid of all the bitterness she felt towards her father and Marcos, but every time this subject came up, she found tiny, sharp pieces of it still pricking at her heart.

Marjorie nodded in understanding. “Sheena told me how hard it was for you to give La’Charity up. How she couldn’t sleep for that whole forty-eight-hour waiting period because she so afraid you would change your mind, even though you handpicked them out of all the other adopted parents on the list as the right match for your child.”

Marjorie left out the fact that Sheena had also said that she wouldn’t be surprised if the birth mother came looking for her daughter one day because of how reluctant it was for Chasity to give the child up all those years ago. How Sheena disclosed that she was ready for that possibility by telling her daughter the truth as soon as she could understand the concept of adoption and by keeping a private file on La’Charity’s birth mother when the child became old enough to request more information. According to Sheena’s records, the father of the child was reported to be unknown and now Marjorie understood why Chasity had decreed it that way on the birth certificate.

Chasity smiled. “I had changed my mind.” Then she frowned and leaned forward on the comfortable floral print sofa she sat on. She suddenly felt uncomfortable in her body and most certainly uncomfortable about what she was going to say next.

“But my father and aunt pressured me to go through with it, reminding me that I had nothing to offer the child without an education and financial stability.” Chasity’s eyes misted over once again. “I had love, but unfortunately, love doesn’t pay the bills. Fortunately for La’Charity, Sheena and Patrick could give her both love and financial stability.”

Marjorie nodded again and then got right to the point of the matter. “Why are you here now, Ms. Bradshaw? Are you here to develop a relationship with your daughter? Or are you here to try to get your daughter?” Marjorie wanted to know if Chasity was as sincere as she seemed. Or was she more like Sheena’s brother who only wanted La’Charity because of the sizable inheritance that came with her.

Chasity sat up straighter and met the other woman’s intense ebony-colored eyes, almost wavering for a moment because they suddenly looked so familiar to her. Then she cleared her throat and prepared to answer the patiently waiting, white skort and orange blouse wearing Mrs. Ireland.

“Truthfully, I want both. I want to develop a relationship with my daughter first, then obtain legal custody at a later date. I’ll even take a job and apartment in town to insure that La’Charity will still be in your lives,” Chasity replied, being the peacemaker as usual by offering a gradual removal of the child instead of an abrupt abstraction like the territorial part of her wanted to do. However, the wiser part of Chasity knew that that could be detrimental to her daughter’s emotional wellbeing. After all, La’Charity had already lost one set of parents. To abruptly lose another might be devastating. It also might create resentment towards her birth mother and Chasity definitely didn’t want that.

“And to show you how sincere I am, I’ll even sign documents stating that I forfeit any financial resources that might be attached to my daughter’s custody,” Chasity added, still trying to be diplomatic and accommodating. Although she was unaware of the custody battle raging between Sheena’s brother and the Irelands, she was aware that the Deweys had been very prosperous people at one time and probably had left La’Charity a nice nest egg for her future.

As further proof of her sincerity, Chasity pulled out an envelope from the coral-colored purse in her lap and handed it to Marjorie. Mrs. Ireland opened the white envelope and scanned the legal documents that were inside. The documents were dated seven years ago and were signed by all principal parties pertaining to the adoption of La’Charity Dewey. They detailed who received monetary payments and when.

“As you can see, the Deweys’ adoption settlement was signed over to my aunt and not me. I took no money from them then and I’ll take no money from them now. All I want is La’Charity.” As Chasity spoke, she paid no mind to the sound of a car pulling up outside. It was a busy residential street. Cars came and went all the time.

Marjorie remained silent for a moment. Biological mother trumps adopted uncle ‘and’ custodial guardianship, she mused, thinking that if Chasity was really sincere, then this could mean an end to Lemuel’s harassment. If La’Charity went with her birth mother, Sheena’s scheming brother would not be able to get any more of his sister’s hard-earned money. With a greedy brother like that, it was a true blessing that Sheena had thought to change her will a week before the accident and left her daughter and her money to a more trustworthy person like Marjorie.

With her mind firmly made up, Marjorie smiled warmly at the eagerly waiting woman across from her. “Your plan certainly sounds reasonable, Ms. Bradshaw, but blood tests will need to be done to verify your parentage. And I’ll need to run these documents by my lawyer…” Before she could finish her statements, Marjorie heard her brother walk through the side entrance of the house where the den was located. He entered with his usual enthusiasm. It also sounded like he had two hands filled with white plastic grocery bags for all the swishing noises coming from the other room.

“Margie, I got ice cream and enough fixings to make better sundaes than Dairy Queen,” the tall man announced from the other room as he put his packages on the sturdy round oak kitchen table and came closer to the living room area.

Margie? Chasity gasped, remembering where she’d heard that voice and that name mentioned before. She also recalled where she’d seen ebony-colored eyes like Marjorie’s before. And that nose, Chasity mused, now seeing another family resemblance. Oh my God! Marjorie Ireland can’t be Marcos’ sister!

Chasity shot to her feet with a panicked look on her face. Lord, why do You keep allowing my life to go in all these twists and turns, she prayed, looking for the nearest exit. Her bronze complexion looked pale all of a sudden.

Marjorie stood up, too. Concern for her guest was written all over her face. Lord, please don’t let this woman have some kind of mental problems, she prayed, knowing that La’Charity definitely didn’t need to be around an unstable person.

“Are you okay?” Marjorie asked, with both of her expressive hands poised in the air in front of her, ready to reiterate her spoken question in sign language as she often did with her third son, Lee. Sometimes Marjorie forgot that she was talking to a hearing person when riddled with concern and right now she was very concerned about Chasity.

“Of course, I’m okay,” Marcos answered from the other room. He assumed that his sister was talking to him. Soon he came walking into the living room and stood in the entranceway where he was just as tall as the oak wall unit and entertainment armoire nearby.

As soon as Marcos’ eyes lit upon Chasity’s warm honey pools, he felt slammed by intense emotions that refused to lie dormant any longer. Emotions that refused to be ignored or pushed aside. After all these years, Marcos Valdez found himself still overwhelmingly, overpoweringly in love with a preacher’s daughter. And suddenly that vulnerable feeling returned. And just like the prophet Jonah who’d fled from the presence of the Lord only to find himself trapped in the belly of a whale and later deposited right where he was destined to be, Marcos found himself smack-dab in Chasity’s life again. And also like Jonah, there would be no more running. This man would finally surrender to his destiny.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 5

“Margie, are you okay?” Marcos asked his older sister as he walked out on the dark patio. He’d found her weeping again for the fourth time this week after putting the five children in her care to bed.

As she silently wept, Marjorie Ireland, aka ‘Margie’, didn’t even bother to turn on the back porch light even though the switch was directly on the wall behind her. Her reason for this had nothing to do with the pesky Georgia mosquitoes that loved flocking to illuminated objects. Yet it had everything to do with the fact that she didn’t want to upset her family with her tears. The last three weeks had been hard on everyone.

At her brother’s voice, Marjorie lifted her head and nodded. “I’m okay. I just get choked up every time that sweet child says her nightly prayers,” she replied, referring to the little girl that she’d been given custody of when her best friend and that best friend’s husband died three weeks ago. Marjorie ran her hands across her face and took a deep breath to calm herself. Then while she wiped her old tears on the blue jean skort she wore, new tears were already forming in her eyes.

Marcos sat in the sturdy wooden chair beside his sister and draped an arm of comfort across her shoulders. “La’Charity is a sweet little girl, isn’t she?” the tall man said rhetorically, speaking fondly about the child that had warmed his heart upon sight with her honey-colored eyes, thick wavy auburn-colored hair, and friendly outgoing personality. “But what’s so disturbing about her prayers?”

Marjorie lifted her watery eyes upwards to the starlit night sky. “At the end of every prayer, La’Charity always asks God to say hello to her mom and dad for her, to tell them how much she loves and misses them, and that she’ll see them in heaven one day because she’s going to keep reading her Bible and praying and trying to live right.” She paused and sniffed back some of her fresh tears. “The child has accepted Patrick and Sheena’s deaths better than me.” Now where is that tissue I had? Marjorie wondered, starting to search her pockets as her brother released her.

Marcos nodded, feeling a strong tug on his own heart as he leaned back to look at the stars also. “That would start the waterworks. Maybe you should let Jaleel go in there during prayertime until you can handle it better.”

Marjorie shook her head and turned to look at her gray polo shirt and khaki trousers wearing brother. “No, I enjoy listening to the kids’ prayers. I just need to get a tougher skin that’s all, process my own grief more. Maybe even do more individual praying to see if I can get my faith to be as solid as little La’Charity’s.” Then she smiled playfully and added, “Besides, you know my husband is over the homework and playtime. If I tell him that I can’t handle the prayertime, I’ll never live it down.” With her left hand, Marjorie wiped more tears away while still searching for tissue with her right hand.

“I see your point. Maybe you should pray more then.” Marcos smiled, too, pleased that his sister was feeling a lot better now. He knew how much fun-loving Jaleel liked kidding his wife about something or the other. He also knew how well they functioned as a team, taking care of their five children (the first two by birth, the second two by foster care adoption, and the last one by inheritance). Marcos was additionally aware of the fact that his sister and her husband had restored his faith in love and marriage when before he’d had little to none.

Unfortunately, Marcos could not seem to find the right woman for anything. Perhaps he could if he stopped comparing every woman he met to Chasity Bradshaw. Perhaps he should take his own advice and pray more, too, considering the fact that he had yet to totally surrender his life to Christ or his love to anyone else. So far Marcos only went to church on Easter and Christmas. Outside of his business life and relatives, there was no real commitment anywhere else.

“By the way, where is my brother-in-law tonight?” Marcos asked, seeing where his thoughts had gone just that quick and deliberately veering his mind in another direction. Chasity was one subject he couldn’t afford to linger upon. Too many painful memories, too many regrets, too much temptation to return to Spring Garden, Colorado and find the one woman that could satisfy his body’s innate needs and his heart’s hunger for true love.

I wonder what Karis is doing tonight, Marcos mused, ready to settle for a good substitute since he couldn’t have the woman he really wanted.

Marjorie finally found some tissue in the right pocket of her skort and wiped away the rest of her tears. “Jaleel is where he always is this time of night. On that computer in his study, typing out next week’s column.”

********

Meanwhile, in Emerald Bay, Tennessee, Chasity wobbled around her modest two-bedroom apartment on her wooden crutches, trying to locate the items that she needed without calling her neighbor from next door to help her again. Unfortunately, trying to be so independent was causing her to have to make several trips from her small living room where the oak computer desk and its money management software was located to her bedroom nightstand where her checkbooks and bank statements were kept.

What a time not to have close friends, Chasity mused, wishing that she’d put forth more effort in that department over the years instead of allowing her distrust of people to make her even more of a loner than she already was. Besides God, only the plants around her were trusted comrades.

Tonight Chasity was intent on making an assessment of her finances in order to determine just how much she’d have left over once her medical bills and household expenses had all been taken care of. She hadn’t worked in three full weeks and her checkbook was already starting to show it. Although she’d been saving for four years towards opening her own florist, it amazed Chasity how one freak accident - coupled with inadequate medical insurance - could take her bank account so far back, almost to the starting point.

Moments later when Chasity saw her ending balance, she closed her eyes and hung her head in deep despair. Not only did this unfortunate accident come at the worse of times, the fact that it had hindered her physically and financially from going to see about her daughter was very discouraging. Chasity had wanted to return to La’Charity’s life, able to take care of her daughter in every way. Now she found that she could barely take care of herself. What court system in the world would award custody to a person in Chasity’s situation? None that she knew of.

Wobbling back to her bedroom with silent tears trickling down her bronze face, Chasity sat on the left edge of her full-sized oak sleigh bed, feeling as if God had somehow forsaken her. “But why, Lord? Why, after all you’ve brought me through thus far? You know that I never wanted to give La’Charity away in the first place. So why do I have to wait even longer to have her in my life again?” the despairing woman inquired in between heartrending sobs that grew louder and louder with each question.

Whether Chasity expected an answer to her inquiries or not, she was glad that she’d at least spoken the painful ponderings of her heart. After all, this was truly how she felt and she knew that God desired truth from his children even if it was painful to utter.

Suddenly a steady downpour began to hit the oval-shaped bedroom window on the right side of the room. Chasity looked towards the window and nodded in acceptance. It was no surprise to her that it had started to rain. Why should the weather remain fair outside when she was hurting so badly inside? Why shouldn’t nature cry with her? After all, weren’t they still good friends and isn’t that what friends sometimes did with and for one another?

********

In Spring Garden, Colorado, another Bradshaw was going through a difficult time. Boise was in the throes of a very bad dream, which was evidenced by all the sweat upon his chestnut-toned face, by his sticky short-sleeved gray pajamas, and by his rumpled sea-green bed covers. Thunder could be heard in the distance from an approaching storm.

“Why weren’t you paying attention in church today, Heidi? People were noticing,” Boise spoke aloud in his sleep, tossing to the right of the king-sized, mahogany poster bed he lay in. It was as if his bedding had transformed from just an ocean-like color scheme into a real live sea, a tempestuous sea at that, causing him to be flung to and fro with agony.

“I’m not surprised people have noticed my inattentiveness. My mind is constantly racing about the next thing on my long list of things to do that I find myself only half listening to most of your sermons these days,” Heidi’s voice echoed in response as a familiar point of contention replayed itself in Boise’s dream. “I’m overextending myself, Boise. There’s too much on my plate. I barely have a chance to catch my breath before I have to do something else.”

“Don’t you want people to think well of you?” Boise voiced aloud again as he tossed to the left, nearly removing the sea green fitted sheet now. The flat sheet was already on the floor.

“Of course I do, but I feel as if I’m being deceitful in pretending that I can do so many things effortlessly when I’m doing everything I can not to fall apart.” Then Heidi’s voice transformed into a pleading tone. “Boise, we have one of the biggest churches in the city. Why must I be on every woman’s auxiliary? Why can’t we train up good leaders that we can delegate some of our many duties to?”

“Because God called us to this vision, that’s why,” Boise argued. Even in his sleep he couldn’t understand why his wife constantly complained about something that he loved, about something that he thrived on and couldn’t seem to get enough of. Ministry was his life and helping people get saved was his calling. It was supposed to be their calling as she’d advocated upon marrying him.

“But every vision needs people to partner with it. Didn’t Moses’ father-in-law offer him wise advice in Exodus 18:13-23 that pertained to this very subject?” Heidi proclaimed, trying to show her husband the error of his ways through the Word. “Didn’t Jethro assert that trying to do everything all by ourselves was not good and would cause us to surely wear away? Well, I’m wearing away, Boise. It seems like the more I try to follow the Lord in serving others, the more drained I feel.”

“But the people we have are not ready for such responsibilities yet, Heidi. Therefore, you and I have to stay the course,” Boise stubbornly concluded as he tossed to the right of the bed again. Then as his wife’s voice left his head, his daughter’s soon replaced it. Chasity’s voice bore even more heartrending agony than her mother’s had.

“Daddy, I don’t want to give my baby up! I can raise her by myself. I know I can. Please tear those papers up, Daddy. I never should have signed them in the first place. Please tear them up, Daddy. Please!” Chasity pleaded desperately right before her voice turned into a haunting mother’s wail. “I want La’Charity…!”

Then with his granddaughter’s name reverberating in his head, Rev. Bradshaw sat abruptly up in bed just as a loud boom of thunder sounded nearby. No, I couldn’t let my grandchild grow up with the same shame that I had, Boise mused as painful memories from his own past as an illegitimate child began to surface as if they’d just happened. Even now he could hear the other kids in the neighborhood whispering behind their hands and pointing at him and his sister because they were dirt poor and had no father.

God, I did what was best for everyone. Didn’t I? Boise inquired, becoming increasingly unsure of himself and of his decisions with each passing day.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier