Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pred. & Preach. Daughter - Ch. 13

Two full weeks after her arrival in Bennington, Chasity received a late night phone call from Marcos at her hotel, telling her that he was sending a car to pick her up and take her to the hospital because there had been a family emergency. A fire had been started at the Ireland residence and La’Charity and Jaleel had been taken in for smoke inhalation.

It turns out that Nakiya’s jealous streak had erupted into a full-fledged vivid green ocean of fury. Unfortunately, she’d decided to unleash her frustrations upon La’Charity by starting a small fire in the wicker hamper of the room they shared. She even tied the sleeping child’s hands to the bed railing with old belt straps in hopes that La’Charity would die before anyone could get to her. If a quick thinking Jaleel hadn’t retrieved the electric kitchen knife from downstairs to finally cut the seven-year-old free from the tight leather restraints, they’d both be dead because he was not leaving the house without Marcos’ child.

Fortunately, Marjorie and the rest of the kids had followed their fire evacuation plan and were already on the front lawn anxiously waiting for Jaleel and La’Charity to make it to safety. It pained and highly distressed Marjorie that Nakiya didn’t even seem sorry for what she’d done as she stood with arms folded defiantly across her chest and a hard glare in her eyes while parts of their house burned.

No one had any clue as to how Nakiya could have tied those straps that tight. Nor could they figure out how she got matches this time since Marjorie and Jaleel were always so careful to keep such things out of her reach considering the child’s background.

First of all, Nakiya was a premature baby from a mother that was addicted to crack cocaine. Although she’d soared over her health problems, her behavioral problems had proved to be too much for her elderly grandmother who’d taken her in after her mother eventually abandoned her at the age of six. Not only had Nakiya set fire to the grandmother’s home because she wasn’t allowed to have her way about a new bicycle she wanted (which they couldn’t afford), she was the reason Mrs. Jonavon broke her hip and was now walking with a limp. Nakiya’s grandmother had slipped and fallen in an effort to get her out of harm’s way before the apartment they lived in went up in flames.

Afterwards, the courts decided that Mrs. Jonavon was unable to keep the child and since no one else in the impoverished Jonavon family stepped up as substitutes, Nakiya was put in foster care. She eventually was routed to the Ireland home since they were known to take in children with physical or behavioral challenges.

Because Nakiya made such great personal strives in the two years they had her, Jaleel and Marjorie decided to adopt her as their own. However, in the year that La’Charity (another female child and also the youngest child now) had been with them, Nakiya’s behavior had faltered from time to time and now it appeared to have plummeted to the bottom of the barrel. Now the Ireland family was faced with having to deal with deep-rooted emotional issues which they had never encountered before in a child or in an adult.

Praying all the way there, Chasity rushed to the hospital in the black limo that Marcos sent for her from a limousine service that Jaleel’s older brother owned. As soon as she entered the quiet hospital room, tears fell from her eyes when she saw her precious little girl hooked up to all kinds of menacing equipment. Jaleel was in the room next door with similar equipment attached to him. Marjorie was alternating between trying to be there for her husband and going to see Nakiya, who was being evaluated in another part of the hospital while the rest of the kids were with Jaleel’s parents. Marcos had stayed in the room with La’Charity, refusing to leave her side. It seemed as if the whole Ireland/Valdez family was split up because of one person’s erroneous, misguided deeds.

“My baby,” Chasity whispered in anguish, coming closing to the sleeping child. She completely ignored the silent, worried-looking man sitting by the bed as she’d done on other occasions, no matter how pleasantly he tried to be towards her.

But Marcos refused to be ignored tonight. Especially after being haunted every night following that kiss they’d shared and especially now that their daughter was lying in bed trying to get over the effects of smoke inhalation.

Our baby will come stay with me after she gets out of the hospital,” Marcos whispered, looking at Chasity with bloodshot eyes from where he’d been crying tears of anger, frustration, and relief only minutes prior to her arrival. That late call from Marjorie was not one that he ever wanted repeated in his life. The tight knot of anxiety that that phone call had produced in his gut was only just now starting to loosen up.

Now having Chasity’s full attention, Marcos went on. “Margie, Jaleel, and I all agreed that until Nakiya gets the help she needs, it’s better to keep the two girls apart. They spoke of it being just on a temporary basis, but I’m thinking of something more permanent by obtaining full custody now that La’Charity’s true paternity has been determined.”

Chasity’s face fell in disappointment. Her eyes glossed over from the pain at being left out of such an important decision. “But…why didn’t they ask me to do it? Margie knows how much I want La’Charity with me.” She tried to keep her voice low out of respect for the sleeping child in their midst, but rising emotions were causing her voice to sound shrill.

“Let’s talk in the family room down the hall,” Marcos suggested in a low tone as he stood up from the royal blue visitor’s chair and ushered Chasity back out of the room before she burst into a full-fledged wail.

Neither Marcos nor Chasity were aware that the child in the bed was not as out of it as she appeared. In fact, La’Charity’s little mind was rapidly putting together what she’d just heard and adding it to a comment that Nakiya had hissed at her earlier tonight right before she left the coughing girl tied to her bed in the smoke-filled room.

Contaminated by the slime of sickening jealousy, Nakiya had stood over La’Charity’s oak twin bed with a wet blue cloth over her own mouth and nose and angrily whispered, ‘Why couldn’t Uncle Marcos be my daddy instead of yours?”

Then the calculating little girl had run out of the room and down the hallway to wake everyone else up since she still wanted them to live. Nakiya had subtly removed the upstairs smoke alarm batteries earlier in the week in an effort to build up enough undetected smoke to kill La’Charity alone. Although the disturbed child’s plan had been clever and well thought out for someone her age, it had fortunately failed.

While La’Charity was putting those things together in her mind, Chasity reluctantly followed Marcos out of the room, not wanting to leave her child for a second. She had no idea that he shared that sentiment and that that was why he hadn’t personally come to pick her up earlier. In fact, the only reason he was leaving La’Charity alone now was because the doctors assured him that she was out of the woods and would recover just fine.

In the private room, Marcos finally answered Chasity’s question, but it was not the answer that she was looking for, nor was it the answer that she wanted as they stood facing one another in the middle of the room. Both of them were too tense to sit down right now and Chasity’s eyes had only just dried from the short walk down the hallway when before they had looked as if she was about to cry a river.

“Margie and Jaleel agreed to let La’Charity come live with me for several reasons. One, because Nakiya’s situation requires that she have time to get the kind of help that she really needs. She probably won’t be able to recover as well or as quickly with our daughter still in the house with her. Two, because if we don’t get La’Charity out of that house, Sheena’s brother is going to use tonight’s incident as a basis to finally gain custody.”

At Chasity’s anxious look of surprise, he explained more. “Margie and Jaleel have been dealing with an ongoing custody battle ever since Lemuel Boston realized that his sister changed her will right before her death and left everything to the person who would gain custody of her daughter. Because the money goes wherever the child goes, the greedy fellow has tried to do everything in his power to overturn that will. In fact, because of Lemuel’s constant legal pursuits, the Deweys’ personal funds have somehow been frozen so that nobody can get to them. Fortunately, Sheena’s newspaper had a silent partner and the business went to him since it was not affected by the will.”

Marcos conveniently left out the fact that he was the silent partner since that information was meant to stay between him and the Deweys and would remain a secret, despite Sheena and Patrick’s deaths.

“I had no idea.” Chasity began to pace the white tiled floor, still feeling too wound up to sit and now she couldn’t even stand still.

Marcos nodded, following her movements with his eyes. “Of course, my sister and her husband were never in it for the money and have continued to provide for La’Charity out of their own funds, even after I started giving them child support two weeks ago. With Jaleel’s column being in syndication and with all the freelance stuff he does, my brother-in-law can adequately take care of his family and allow Margie to be that full-time stay-at-home mother she always wanted to be. In addition, my sister is as frugal as they come and won’t allow them to go over budget unless it’s something that can really benefit the whole family.”

Chasity paused and looked at him, still trying to take everything in. “I would have never known that Margie was so frugal. She has such quality stuff in her house and all the kids are always so well-dressed,” she said, speaking her thoughts aloud.

Marcos smiled. “I said she’s frugal, not cheap. My sister goes to designer outlet stores, buys in bulk, visits yard sales and reupholsters her own furniture. In fact, Margie’s frugalness is just one of the reasons I decided to use part of my inheritance to establish trust funds for all of the kids when my father died six months ago. The other reasons are because it would make Margie and Jaleel’s situation look even better in the court’s eyes and it would put some good use to the money that had eventually contributed to my father’s demise.” Marcos’ eyes took on a quick look of anguish at that last statement.

Taking note of the pain in his eyes, Chasity extended her right hand towards him in compassion. “I’m truly sorry about your father, Marcos. I know how much you loved him,” she said, touching his left arm and allowing her hand to rest there in comfort for a moment.

Chasity could only assume that Pablo Valdez’s drinking problem had not only returned, but had finally gotten the best of him. This was especially sad to hear since Pablo had overcome so many other things in his life, the biggest being poverty.

Marcos’ father had been what people called a self-made millionaire. While doing yard work for rich people and while maintaining the lawns of several exclusive golf courses, Pablo listened attentively to the conversations around him, taking careful mental notes. When they talked about buying certain stocks, he pooled together his limited funds and bought those same stocks. When the wealthy businessmen talked about selling certain stocks, Pablo sold his shares as well. Soon he had amassed a small fortune, all while still living at home with his six brothers and two sisters.

While his siblings were so busy trying to become more Americanized by buying the latest things in fashion, music, and cars, Pablo was secretly buying pieces of America. One house led to two and soon he had an impressive real estate portfolio, even taking over some of the properties of the businessmen he’d secretly learned from. That kind of business strategy soon caused Pablo to be labeled among his peers as ‘The Conquistador’ and thus sparked the name of his real estate conglomerate.

Fortunately, Pablo also had a benevolent side to him and leased out a few of his residential properties to relatives. Of course his parents got to live in their new house for free and even carried the deed to the large property. After Pablo died, he left a home to each of his siblings while leaving the bulk of his fortune to his only child. By doing this, the deceased Mr. Valdez hoped that Marcos would be a better steward over the money than his other relatives would have been or that he’d even been in the last few years of his life when his funds had primarily been used to finance his addiction. Unfortunately, that addictive behavior eventually extended to drugs as well as booze before the end came.

Although relishing Chasity’s comforting touch, Marcos’ mind remained focused on another painful part of his life as he recalled how defeated his father looked the last time he saw him alive. Pablo seemed to have given completely up on life and had talked gloomily about death being a welcomed friend, despite his son’s attempts to cheer him up. Marcos even called his mother up and flew her to Texas to try to lift his father’s spirits. Unfortunately, too many years had passed and Quantia’s presence and words of apology did not come in enough time to make a big difference in Pablo’s physical health. However, it did heal him emotionally and it finally gave him peace about the circumstances surrounding their breakup that had dogged him for years.

“Thanks for your words of comfort, Chasity. I did love my father, despite his faults and shortcomings. Fortunately, he went quietly in his sleep and for that I’m grateful,” Marcos said as he emerged from his deep musings with a somber look upon his face.

He loved his father, despite his faults and shortcomings, Chasity mused, allowing Marcos’ words to echo in her head as she discreetly removed her hand from his arm. She loved her father, too, but Boise’s shortcomings had cost her La’Charity and thus it was hard for Chasity to show him the same level of affection that she once had.

Marcos then cleared his throat and got back to the subject at hand. “But the final reason Margie and Jaleel decided to let me have La’Charity is because in the courts’ eyes, I will appear as the more stable parent since you’ve only recently found a job and still don’t have a permanent residence yet.” He paused and added apologetically, “Plus, although you are La’Charity’s birth mother, you are still relatively a stranger to our daughter and she might not feel comfortable living with you alone just yet.”

Within seconds, Chasity’s eyes had welled back up with tears and they soon began to roll down her cheeks in fat streaks. Life just seemed so unfair sometimes. She understood all of the reasons the Irelands had gone to Marcos for help instead of her, but it still stung like a swarm of angry yellow jackets out to kill its prey. Chasity wanted to be first in line to obtain custody of her daughter. The fact that she wasn’t caused her shoulders to slump with discouragement and an ache started to settle in her left leg, as if it had just been freshly pierced with the offending glass from yesteryear. As a result, Chasity looked around for the nearest chair, lest she fall down.

Seeing her legs wobble unsteadily, Marcos immediately rushed to Chasity’s side and helped her into the mauve-colored chair. Then he sat on the right side armrest and draped a comforting arm across her shoulders. At the first heave of her sorrow, he drew her silently sobbing figure into his arms.

“Please don’t cry, Chasity,” Marcos said, seeming to feel her pain inside of his own body. Oh how it grieved him to hear her in such anguish, so much so that his soul demanded that he try to do something to relieve her pain. Immediately!

As Chasity continued to cry against him, Marcos’ mind rapidly churned with possibilities. Yes, he relished how easily she’d gone into his arms just now and how good she felt in his embrace. And yes, a small part of him wanted to remove the lime-colored two-piece lounge set she’d quickly dressed in before coming to the hospital and make sweet love to her. However, Marcos knew that now was not the time for such things. He also knew that whatever he did now had to be for the best of everyone involved.

With what he deemed to be a brilliant idea, the resolute man got down on both knees in front of Chasity and looked up into her tearstained face with serious ebony eyes. “Like Margie, I also know how bad you want La’Charity to be with you and I think I have a solution that will please us all.” Then Marcos swallowed hard over the emotional lump in his throat and asked, “Will you be my wife, Chasity?”

Chasity started shaking all over. Her tears ceased, but her honey eyes grew almost as wide as saucers with panic. No! No! No! her mind screamed, still finding it hard to believe that he’d even asked her that.

Before Chasity could answer in the negative, Marcos quickly added, “As my wife, you’ll have full access to our daughter twenty-four hours a day and you’ll help us keep La’Charity with people that truly love her for her and not her money.”

“I…b…but won’t Lemuel try to convince the courts that we’re only doing it for the money, too?” Chasity did not want to be Marcos’ wife no matter how good it would look in the court system, no matter how attracted she still was to him. In fact, if she wasn’t so worried about her child right now, she would probably be pulsating with want at this very moment over the simple white t-shirt and fitting blue jeans that Marcos wore tonight. Blue jeans that emphasized his strong muscular legs and thighs.

“He might try, but the fact that we’re La’Charity’s biological parents, will be married, living in a stable home, and share a mutual love for our daughter’s welfare should dispel that theory relatively easy. Plus, once the judge gets a copy of the plans for the foster care and adoption foundation my sister and I will be starting with an equitable portion of the Dewey money once it’s unfrozen, he or she will see that we are the better stewards of the child and the inheritance.”

That reminds me. I need to call the P.I., Marcos mused, wondering if the private investigator he kept on retainer had any new leads on Lemuel Boston’s questionable activities. The more Marcos learned about Sheena’s brother, the more determined he became to protect his daughter from the greedy man.

Chasity just sat there in silence, thinking that this had to be the third worst day of her life, the first being the day she was told that her mother died and the second being the day she gave up her child. This can’t be the only way I can get my daughter back, Lord, she lamented, wondering if the rest of her life would always be this unpredictable, this so subject to change for the worse at any given moment.

Then not seeing any other solution to the situation, Chasity slowly nodded her answer, too choked up to say the word, ‘yes’.

As soon as Chasity nodded her consent, Marcos’ mind quickly began to calculate how soon he could bring this whole ceremony to pass. Not only was he anxious to remove La’Charity from a volatile situation, he was also anxious to thoroughly claim Chasity as his wife.

Yes, this works out best for everyone, Marcos mused, getting up from his knees and sitting next to his beloved again. I can’t wait to take my two special ladies to meet my family in Texas.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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