Friday, November 30, 2012

Greenwood and Archer by Marlene Banks

Greenwood and Archer
Lift Every Voice; New Edition edition (September 20, 2012)
by
Marlene Banks



Prologue


June 3, 1921

GreenWood District

Tulsa, Oklahoma


The scent of smoke lingered in the air even two days after the horrendous riot. Dazed, many people still wandered around, trying to locate loved ones. It was a time of disbelief that such atrocities happened in their community. Being black in Tulsa had never meant first-class citizenship, but until now it never caused such violent victimization. Murder and mayhem had swept through the successful Negro community of Greenwood District with a deadly and destructive fury. “Why we gotta wear badges?” a black man protested. “Cause that’s the new law,” the irritated police officer snapped. “It ain’t right. After all we been through you is tellin’ us we gotta identify who we is? I always been a free, law-abiding citizen, but when they come in our neighborhood terrorizing us and now tell us we under martial law, it ain’t right!” “Go on and have your employer get you a badge or stay off the streets. That’s the new rule. Now go ahead, boy, before I throw you in jail!” “I ain’t no boy, I’m a man just like you,” he grumbled walking away.

AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

New laws were being put into effect in Tulsa after the riot, not for protecting the victims but to subdue any thought of retaliation against white citizens. “Curfew! What gives them the right to issue a curfew only on Negroes?” Pastor Scoggins demanded from in front of the pulpit. “It’s not right!” Reverend Matthias agreed. “Is it just in the city, or does the county have a curfew too?” Reverend Metcalf asked, troubled. “They told me my taxis have to be off the street by eight at night,” L. D. Johnson said. “That shorts my money to make a decent living. I make a lot of my big fares after dark, and they know it.” “They don’t care about you making a living. They want us to all go broke,” H. T. Wilson declared. “What is the NAACP doing about this?” Reverend Matthias asked, turning to Ethan Freeman.
“It’s just in the township limits so far, but I think they’ll soon change it to include the counties,” Ethan said. “This is the last straw,” Reverend R. A. Whitaker declared as he stood up. “I’m sick of them harassing us when we’re the injured party.” The preacher stepped out into the aisle. “They burned down Mt. Zion Baptist Church because we dared to prepare to protect ourselves and fight back. They murdered innocent human beings and destroyed blocks of valuable property. Then they try to blame us for the riot. I’m sick of their twisting the facts.”

“Enough is enough,” Mr. French said from the rear of the church. The house was full for this covert meeting. The law was cracking down on every move made in Greenwood District. Police patrolled the area, stopping and questioning its citizens at random. What should have been police protection for the residents of Greenwood District became police persecution. “I can’t find my sister,” Georgia Logan said. “They took her out the house, I’m told, and then burned the house down. I can’t find where they took her. She’s sick and in a wheelchair.” “We’ll help search the hospital and the Red Cross with you,” an older woman volunteered. “I already did and she’s not there.” Tears pooled in Georgia’s eyes. “Maybe someone took her in,” Mrs. French suggested. “I need help feeding the survivors and finding them shelter,” Reverend Metcalf announced. You can use this church if you need to, Reverend,” Pastor Scoggins offered.

Clara Hydecker started crying. “They murdered my poor Sam for nothing! What are we going to do? My husband is dead, we have no home and no food, and everything we owned was burned with our house. I have no money and I have four children to feed!” A young man called out, “Yeah, what are we going to do? The law isn’t on our side. What are we going to do?” Billy Ray Matthias stood up. “We’re going to find food and feed as many people as we can. Then we’ll set up temporary shelter as best we can, tents if we have to for the time being. Then we organize a rebuilding plan. What we don’t do is give up. We don’t accept defeat, because that is exactly what they want.” “Yeah, we can rebuild this neighborhood even better than before if we try,” Vic Brown shouted. “Easy for you to say since your house ain’t burned to the ground,” Manny Griswold muttered. Billy Ray walked to the front of the sanctuary his imposing figure matched only by what he said. “The people of Greenwood District cannot give up. We have to get to work helping each other and rebuilding what was destroyed, but before we worry about any of that . . . we need to pray.”

Eagles Pointe County, Oklahoma

September 1922


The race riot of May 31 and June 1, 1921, had turned a once thriving entrepreneurial community into a bloody battlefield. Hatred and terror reigned throughout the evening and into the wee hours of the night. To the beleaguered residents of Greenwood District, morning’s dawn unveiled the full horror of lost lives and property destruction.

Thirteen months after the racially motivated riot, Greenwood District still evidenced the assault on its citizens and destruction to its infrastructure. The rebuilding process was under way but would never fully heal the scars of that fateful evening. Gradual development was being made to restore demolished businesses and homes. It was not an easy task, but one that would be completed. The spirit of Greenwood would not tolerate eradication by those consumed with violent intent. Prayers were continually being offered for the people and the neighborhood from Christ-loving citizens of Tulsa, black and white, and across the country as well. Greenwood District would not remain a hollowed-out shell of a community but be raised from the dead by the hand and will of God. The county beyond the city limits had not suffered much of the murderous invasions and fiery attacks. Ranchers in Eagles

CHAPTER ONE




Pointe were busier than ever employing people from Greenwood and providing for the many displaced city dwellers. The most disheartening factor was that after all the wreckage, things had not improved and Tulsa’s caste system was still firmly in place. Amos Grapnel’s beady eyes darted around Cordell Freeman’s ranch as he was leaning against the large weathered barn. Grapnel’s short stature and chubby frame sported a protruding belly and balding head. He sporadically rocked back on his heels to show off the fancy boots he’d recently purchased in Texas. Tom Eberly, a frail gray-haired man who accompanied him, stood slightly bent over leaning on his walking stick as he watched Cord lift a bale of hay. Grapnel pulled out a pipe. “You ought to give it some real thought, boy,” he said reaching for the tobacco pouch in his back pocket.

“Told you, I’m not interested in sellin’,” Cord said, hauling the bale toward the barn.

“Why not? Offering you more than twice what you paid. Can’t beat that for profit.”

“Don’t care about profit. I’m doing good right here and I don’t wanna sell my place, Mr. Grapnel.”

“Don’t be so quick to turn up your nose at a lot of money, boy. You could get another place if you want with what you’ll make, or . . . you could sit on your bank account and move back home with your folks.” Grapnel grinned slyly.

“I done told you I’m not interested,” was Cord’s irritated response.

“Plain pigheaded,” Grapnel grumbled, “just like your father.”

“We might as well go,” Eberly said, shifting his weight impatiently.

“Why are you so attached to this place anyway?” Grapnel continued. “It’s not your family’s land. You’re all alone out here except for those hired workers you got from town. Don’t have no family around here to keep you company. I’d think you’d be glad to be rid of this place seeing you lived here with that no-good wife that hung herself.”

Cord’s head jerked up. Lightning fast he dropped the bail and charged. Before Grapnel could react Cord had him by throat. “I’ll kill you for talkin’ that way about my wife,” he shouted, clamping tightly on the man’s throat. Grapnel’s eyes bugged as he desperately groped at Cord’s hand to get free. Eberly straightened up as best he could hollering, “Let ’em go! You’ll choke the life outta him!” He whacked Cord across the back with his cane twice. “Turn him loose!” The blows didn’t faze Cord. He was crazed with fury. “You come on my land talkin’ against my wife, you lowdown snake! I’ll kill you, so help me, I’ll kill you!” Grapnel’s color was starting to drain. Eberly looked over at Grapnel’s car trying to gauge how fast he could make it to the vehicle and retrieve his friend’s pistol. The sound of fast-moving hooves drew his attention and he turned all the way around. “Cord, let him go,” a frantic female screamed from on top of an impressive palomino. “Let him go, Cord!” A large muscular man ahead of her had already dismounted from a huge brown stallion and was hurrying toward the choking man. Eberly stumbled backward seeing the powerfully built black male rushing toward them. “Stay out of this,” Cord yelled, trying to maintain his grip when the man grabbed his hands, prying them loose from Grapnel’s neck. “Cord, please let him go,” the woman pleaded, bolting toward him after she jumped down from her horse. “They’ll kill you for sure if you do this,” the man warned looking Cord in the eyes. “Is that what you want . . . to die for killing this devil?”

Cord stopped applying pressure but he still had hold of Grapnel. “He should die - him and all his rotten kind. They killed those people in town and the law did nothin’ about it! Not one drop of justice to those murdering dogs. He was part of it, you said so yourself. He tried to kill you, didn’t he? So why shouldn’t he die?”

“You’re right, he was part of it and the law did nothing to him or the rest of them but believe me the Lord will do something. He’ll have His justice for all the evil done in this world.”

“Ain’t waitin’ on the Lord. This polecat needs dealing with now. He belittled my wife and I won’t put up with him or nobody else talkin’ like that about her.”

”Make him turn Amos loose,” Eberly demanded raising his cane in the air again.

“He gotta breathe.”

Cord’s sister, Benny, reached her brother and gently put her hand on his shoulder. “Cord, please, please don’t do this. Let him go. Billy Ray’s right, Jesus will have justice for all the wrongs done to our people, but not this way. They will answer to God, and if we wait it out, justice will be done. There’s been too much killing already; please, no more.”

“I oughta snap his nasty neck.”

“Don’t let this man goad you into tangling with the law, ’cause you’ll lose. That’s all they need is for you to get arrested for killing him then they’ll gladly see you in the electric chair. I couldn’t stand losing my big brother and neither could Momma. Please, please let him go.”

Tears filled her eyes. Cord released Grapnel, dumping him on the ground. Grapnel gasped for air, loudly coughing and holding his throat. Eberly limped over to his friend. Cord looked down at his foe with loathing. “I should finish you off,” he threatened. “I don’t care nothin’ ’bout dyin’ in no electric chair. I’d be with Savannah if I did.” He looked at his sister. “But for your sake, just for you and Momma, I won’t.”

“Thank the Lord.” Benny sighed, laying her head on his shoulder. “We love you, Cord, and we need you here with us.” She resented her brother’s devotion to his deceased wife but had learned not to show it. Billy Ray put his hand on Cord’s back.

“You made the right decision, the wise one.”

“He ought to be jailed for attackin’ a white man,” Eberly insisted, pointing his stick at Cord.

“Shut up, old man. Take your no ’count friend and get off my land!”

“Won’t forget this, boy. You wait and see, the law’ll handle your crazy black hide.”

Billy Ray lifted the still coughing victim off the ground. Grapnel couldn’t speak but his expression, a mix of fear and rage did. He jerked away. Billy Ray knew his hateful nemesis would never let this matter drop. Still, he tried to brush the dirt from Grapnel’s clothes as the incensed man rejected his assistance.

“I’m trying to help clean you off,” Billy Ray pointed out.

“Get your big black hands off me, boy,” Grapnel croaked snatching himself free, though barely able to stand.

“I’d as soon see you dead than have you touch me, you big ape.” He walked shakily toward his vehicle with Eberly limping beside him.

“Shoulda let me choke the life out him,” Cord grumbled squinting from the noonday sun.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shattered Silence by Margaret Daley

Shattered Silence
Abingdon Press (September 2012)
by
Margaret Daley



Chapter 1

No one sees me. They walk right by me and don’t even know I am here. I’m invisible. But that’s all going to change today. The woman who has agreed to marry me will be here soon. The world will finally know someone cares about me. It was worth all my savings to bring her across the border. I’m tired of being alone. Being nobody.

I’m getting married. I won’t be invisible anymore—at least she’ll see me.


* * *

Maria Martinez lay flat on the dust-covered wooden planks, her right eye pressed against the hole in the floor of the abandoned house. Pedro won’t find me here. I’ll win this time.

A sneeze welled up in Maria, and she fought to stop it. She couldn’t. Quickly she looked through the small opening to make sure Pedro hadn’t come and heard her. Her older brother al-ways thought he could do everything better than her. Not this time. He’d never think to look here. He’d think she was too afraid to hide here. A rattling behind her sent a shot of fear through her. She went still. Her lungs held her breath and wouldn’t let go.

There’s no such thing as ghosts. He just told me that to scare me. I’m not a baby. I’m eight.

Her words fueled her courage, and she popped up to look over her shoulder. Nothing. Just the wind blowing through the broken window. Maria sank to the floor in relief and took up her post again. Watching through the hole. If Pedro came into the house, she’d be ready to hide. He was not going to find her. For once, she would have the last laugh. He was just two years older, but the way he acted, you’d think he was Papa.

Another sound caught her attention. Down below. Footsteps. She started to hop up and scramble to her hiding place nearby, but a gruff, deep male voice stopped her. Not Pedro. Who?

With her eye glued to the hole again, she waited to see who it was. Another voice—a woman’s—answered the man, then she laughed. A funny laugh—like Pedro when he made fun of her.

“Dumb. Evil eye,” the woman taunted in Spanish.

The man raised his voice, speaking in the same language so fast Maria had a hard time keeping up. Mama insisted on only speaking English at home. Now she wished she was better at Spanish. But she heard some words—the ones he slowed and emphasized, repeating several times in a louder voice a few cuss words that got Papa in trouble if he said them at home. The deep gruff voice ended with, “You will pay.”

The woman laughed again, but the sound died suddenly. “What are you doing?” she said in Spanish.

Maria strained to see the two people. The lady moved into her line of sight as she stepped back, shaking her head, her long brown hair swirling in the air. Maria glimpsed the top of a tan cowboy hat that hid the man’s face from her.

The beautiful lady held up her hands. “No!”

The fear in that one word chilled Maria.

Before she could think of what to do, a gunshot, like she’d heard on TV, blasted the qui-et. The lady jerked back. She glanced down at her chest, then up, remaining upright for a few heartbeats before crumbling to the floor.

Maria froze. Her mind blanked.

The man came closer to the still lady on the floor, her unseeing dark eyes staring right at Maria, pinning her against the wooden planks. She saw the gun as he lifted his arm and aimed it at the woman. He shot her in the stomach then the forehead.

Maria gasped.

The man must have whirled away. Suddenly he wasn’t in her line of vision. She bolted to her feet as the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the stairs echoed down the hallway.

Terror locked a vise about Maria and held her in place.

Then her gaze latched onto her hiding place—one she’d found when she’d first come to the house. She’d laughed out loud that her brother would never find her there. Now she wasn’t so sure it was perfect.

But the approaching footfalls prodded her into action. She had no other choice. She clambered toward the couch as quietly as she could. She ripped the seat cushion off and squeezed herself into the small place someone must have used before. The pounding of her heartbeat in her ears drowned out the sound of his footsteps.

The man threw open a door at the end of the hall. The slam of it against the wall startled Maria as she set the cushion over her like a shield a knight used in a movie she’d seen. When he’d stormed a castle, hundreds of arrows rained down on him. He had survived. Could she?

The scent of mold and dust threatened to set off her sneezing. She held her hand over her mouth and nose praying that would stop her from making any sound.

As the man’s footsteps came nearer, her heartbeat reverberated against her skull, again overriding all other sounds. Surely he could hear it. Find her.

Please, Lord, help me. Mama said You protect children.

But not her prayers or her fear calmed her thundering heartbeats. The racket grew louder inside her chest and clamored in her ears. Her head spun. She uncovered her mouth to try and breathe deeply. She couldn’t get enough air.

The door opened, crashing against the wall.

She flinched, hoping the seat cushion hadn’t moved.

Please. Please, Lord. I’ll be good.

The footsteps approached the center of the room.

Lightheaded, Maria closed her eyes as if that would hide her from the bad man. Some-thing scurried over her leg. Something big. A rat? The urge to flee her hiding place robbed her of any thoughts. She curled herself into the tightest ball she could and prayed, her chest rising and falling so rapidly. The darkness continued to swirl behind her closed eyelids.

An eternity passed. A brush of whiskers reinforced her fright. She tensed, expecting any second the cushion being plucked off her hiding place or sharp teeth sinking into her. A warm gush between her legs and the odor of pee heightened her terror. He would smell it and . . .

I’m going to die. Mama . . .

Friday, November 23, 2012

Free From Guilt by Pat Simmons

Free From Guilt
Lift Every Voice; New Edition edition (September 20, 2012)
by
Pat Simmons

Prologue

Cameron Daniel Jamieson wasn’t going down like his brothers and cousins in the romance department. No woman in the world would get him to a prayer altar as a prerequisite for the wedding altar.

Absolutely, he wanted to get married, and he somewhat was on the prowl for a wife. His criterion was she had to be the one his heart refused to let get away. Furthermore, he had a major stipulation. Cameron didn’t believe in mixing religion with politics—at the workplace or in relationships—and definitely not outside of the church walls. That was nonnegotiable.

He did a quick sweep of his relatives gathered in the dressing room of the small St. Louis, Missouri, church. Cameron noted the common thread among the men. Their wives had dug their stilettos into the ground, refusing a diamond ring, unless their Jamieson men humbled themselves to Christ first. How ridiculous was that? Yet, that’s exactly what happened to them.

His cousin Aaron “Ace” and Ace’s wife, Talise Jamieson, were moments away from renewing their wedding vows in an elaborate ceremony. A few months earlier, the couple had married a mere three weeks before their precious daughter was born.

This was a happy ending to their tumultuous courtship. Cameron paused in his thinking. He guessed there were always exceptions to any rule. Maybe, if it wasn’t for Jesus intervening in the couple’s troubled relationship, he wouldn’t be standing there about to witness the renewal of their wedding vows today.

Nonetheless, Cameron took credit for introducing Talise and Ace, even though they eventually split on bad terms. Later, when he learned that a future illegitimate Jamieson child was at stake, Cameron didn’t hesitate to intervene in his cousin’s business. He refused to lose any connections to his ancestral tree.

Once Ace got his act together and proposed, Talise had two stipulations to her holdout of saying yes. First, she didn’t want to be pregnant in a wedding dress. Second, her sister, who was serving in the Persian Gulf, had to be present. Today, Talise had her wishes fulfilled. Women and their demands could really put a strain on a brother.

Oddly, the “groom” was nervously pacing the floor.
“Chill, dude. You’re already married. It’s not like Talise is going to leave you standing at the altar.” Cameron taunted his cousin, who was more like a third brother to him.

“Today is all about my baby. You have no idea how important this is to her. Everything has to be perfect,” Ace replied. With a thoughtful pause, he stared down at Talise’s wedding rings and his band. Now cupped in his palm, those very treasures had been on their fingers a day earlier.

At that moment, Ace’s s cell phone rang and ended the discussion. When he answered, the photographer snapped a picture. Listening to the one-sided conversation, Cameron sensed something wasn’t going as planned.

“She did what? You’ve got to be kidding me!” Ace roared. After listening a few minutes longer, his voice softened. “It’ll be okay, love,” he consoled. Then exhaling, he finished the conversation, “I’ll see you in a few. I love you, babe.”

“Something is not okay. What’s going on?” Cameron, along with the other groomsmen, was ready to spring into action.

“It’s Talise’s stepmother, Donna,” Ace responded. With a quick glance around the room, he checked to see if his father-in-law had returned from the men’s room.

“She’s in the bridal chamber giving Tay all kinds of grief. Among other things, she’s complaining about why she had to wear pink instead of white. You’d think it was her wedding day. If that’s not enough, the woman’s harping on why we couldn’t renew our vows in Talise’s hometown
of Richmond. Her parents still live there, but my wife hasn’t lived there in years.”

Cameron knew Ace didn’t hold his tongue if anyone upset his wife. This was supposed to be a joyful occasion.

“The final straw was when Donna demanded to be escorted down the aisle as part of the wedding party. Thank God, Grandma BB stepped in and put the woman in her place.”

“Yikes.” Cameron stuffed his hands in his pockets. It was a known fact that Talise did not refer to Donna as her stepmother. After the death of her mother, the best Talise could manage was to claim the woman as her father’s new wife.

“Yikes is right. Grandma BB shoved Donna out the door with a warning. Unless Donna wanted to go home with a limp, she’d better not even try to put her big toe in the center aisle.”

Cameron barked out a laugh. He would never get use to the antics of Mrs. Beatrice Tilly Beacon, better known as Grandma BB. Ace shook his head. “We’d better keep an eye on her, or Grandma BB will be fighting in church.”

“Stranger things have happened,” Cameron mumbled, recalling the notorious behavior of the woman who has claimed to be seventy-something for years. Interestingly enough, she vehemently maintains her status as part of the family–even though she doesn’t have a drop of Jamieson blood. The childless widow takes her role as grandma seriously.

The photographer snapped a few more shots and walked out just as Talise’s father entered the room. “Wait until you see her. She’s beautiful and happy.” Frederick grinned and shook hands with Ace. “Keep her that way and there won’t be any problems.”

After that statement, Parke, Cameron’s oldest brother, suggested they pray. Linking hands, the men bowed their heads.

“Father, in the Name of Jesus, we come before Your throne of grace. We worship You today for this opportunity to witness the love between husband and wife. I ask that You bless my cousin’s marriage and bless his life in this Christian journey. Most of all, Father, bless their precious daughter.”
]
Parke paused, before adding, “And, Lord Jesus, please bless every married man and their households represented here today. Help us never to fail You as the strong Christian men You created us to be, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.”

A series of Amens echoed around the circle. One by one, the men patted Ace on the back. Frederick, the proud father-in-law, had the first honor.

Ace tilted his head. “Ah, it appears there’s one man standing in this room who isn’t hitched. Cameron, you’re the lone ranger.”

“Not for long. Even the Bible says it’s not good for man to be alone. With thirty-two knocking on my door, who am I to argue with God?”

“You argue with us about God all the time,” Parke reminded him. “Why stop now?”

“Trust me,” Cameron said with a wink. “I don’t need God’s help on this. I’m fully capable of choosing my own woman. Her body and beauty have to attract me, her intellect has to mesmerize me, her ambition must impress me, and a strong sense of family ties will keep me.”

“She’s taken.” The echoes went around the room, as each Jamieson claimed they had already married that woman.

Cameron confidently asserted, “There’s one more, and she won’t get away.”


Chapter One


Gabrielle Dupree, and her sidekick since college, Denise Rayford, quickly squeezed into the church pew. The processional was about to start any minute. It had been one delay after another. Their flight from the East Coast was late, their rental car wasn’t ready, and then they made a wrong turn. It was amazing they’d made it on time.

Talise and Gabrielle had become extremely close when they worked together at an airline in Boston. Before she relocated to St. Louis, Talise had come to depend on Gabrielle as her confidant for friendship, advice, and prayer.

As a result, Gabrielle wouldn’t have missed Talise’s big day for anything. Denise, on the other hand, had her own agenda for attending the ceremony. Her sole purpose was to verify if she was related to the wedding party. It was a long, complicated story that still confused her.
If Gabrielle could have rearranged her work schedule to be there days earlier, she would have been a bridesmaid along with the others. Still, Talise wanted to include her in the wedding pictures and ordered her to wear pink.

About two-hundred guests packed the sanctuary. Besides the many floral arrangements positioned throughout, silver and pink satin bows adorned the ends of each pew. Suddenly, the lights dimmed and candles flickered.

Romantic was the only word Gabrielle could utter to describe the setting. Minutes later, a minister led a group of five tall, buffed, and jaw-dropping handsome groomsmen to the altar. She had to exhale over the awesome spectacle. Particularly noting the one with a shaved head and a goatee, Gabrielle thought, Wow, bald never looked so good on a man.

With a laser-like focus on the back of the church, the groom stood erect by the minister.

Denise nudged her. Gabrielle was breathless with awe. “The darker ones are almost carbon copies of my brother.”

“Really?” Gabrielle said casually. “I have no complaints about God’s handiwork. They are all fine. My girl has good taste,” Gabrielle whispered to her friend, whom she had dubbed the “wedding crasher.”

Denise was under the impression Talise’s husband and brother-in law could be her half-brothers—all because of the last name Jamieson. There must be thousands of Jamiesons in the world. Still, Denise was on a mission to track down and unite the eleven children her deceased
father, Samuel, had spawned in his younger years.

“But, are you sure?” Gabrielle looked around to see if anyone nearby was eavesdropping. She had never met any of Denise’s brothers, only her older sister.

“Now what?”
Frowning, Gabrielle leaned closer. “What do you mean, ‘now what’? You’re the one who masterminded this scheme.”

“I know. When you said your friend was marrying Aaron Jamieson from Boston, I cross-referenced his name with the information I’ve gathered. There were too many coincidences for me to ignore. But how do you approach someone who is possibly your sibling and say, ‘We have the same no-good daddy. I thought we should meet and get to know each other’?”

This was all Gabrielle’s fault. Somewhat regretfully, she had mentioned an invitation to a Jamieson wedding. When Denise asked her if she was taking a date along, Gabrielle responded no. She had yet to understand why there was an unspoken rule about attending nuptials alone. Yet, she didn’t think having one of her brothers to escort her was necessary. All of that gave Denise a perfect opportunity to invite herself.

Gabrielle glanced around at some of the guests. Many were coupled off. A few seemed to be in hushed intimate conversations. Love was thick in the air. She sighed. It had been awhile since a man who put the Lord first in his life had come her way. Being the romantic that she was, Gabrielle believed just witnessing the ceremony would renew her hope that true love was still possible for single Christian women.

As the music shifted to the wedding march, guests turned their attention to the back of the church where the double doors slowly opened. As though she were the main attraction, an elderly woman stood smiling and then slightly bowed her head. With what appeared to be a death grip on her usher’s arm, the woman began her slow, unsteady walk. Watching her proudly holding her chin high, one would have thought it was a runway performance.

Murmurs increased with her every step. As the distinguished matron neared her pew, Gabrielle blinked. Although elegantly dressed, she raised a brow at the woman’s peculiar choice of footwear. Two-tone burgundy-and-white Stacy Adams shoes seemed to swallow up her delicate feet. The shoestrings were replaced with pink satin ribbons that complemented her rose-colored evening gown. Eccentric was the only word to describe her.

“Who dressed her?” Denise whispered.

“I think she did. I believe that’s Grandma BB. Talise told me about her. The woman is a force to be reckoned with.”

“I’ll remember that if she’s related on the Jamieson side.”
Next, as a memorial to Talise’s deceased mother, a female usher slowly walked down the aisle, carrying a single white candle with a pink bow around the base. She paused at the altar and then proceeded to light a large candelabrum nearby.

Waiting in the wings was Talise’s mother-in-law. Sandra stood regally in a pink satin dress that wrapped around her slender but shapely figure. No one would believe she was in her mid-fifties.

Watching her walk down the aisle, Gabrielle hoped she had a body like Sandra’s when she hit fifty. The stately woman’s legs rivaled Tina Turner’s. Talise told her it was a long story why her mother-in-law had never married.

Oohs and ahhs could be heard as Sandra moved in step with the music, cradling Talise and Ace’s infant daughter in her arms. Ten-week old Lauren was also adorned in a long, pink satin dress and bonnet. She looked more like a porcelain doll than a baby.

“Wow.” Gabrielle sighed, as she followed the graceful glide. Her eyes misted in happiness that her friend had found the love of her life, even if Ace had to beg for her forgiveness. Talise called him a jerk during most of her pregnancy.

“Do you think I should say something?” Denise asked, breaking into her reverie.

“Huh?” She blinked, not appreciating the interruption of her thoughts. “What? I don’t know. This is a festive occasion. If they don’t already know about you, then I don’t think now is the time. Saying something that might dampen the mood, I’m sure, will not go over well. You’re only supposed to be an observer, remember? Not an interloper.”

Gabrielle placed her finger to her lips. “Shhh. I’m trying to get caught up, surrounded by all this love.”

After the five bridesmaids and the flower girl made their entrances, two musicians rose to their feet and blew their trumpets. Throughout the chapel, the guests also stood. Beaming with a proud look, Talise’s father escorted his ecstatic daughter down the aisle. From the expression on her face, one would never know that she had been married already for more than two months.

But Gabrielle had witnessed firsthand Talise’s heartaches that came before the bliss. Standing on the sidelines, she had cheered the couple on. She was a true believer that love would find its way. Unfortunately, it hadn’t made it to her yet.

With Talise’s move to St. Louis, Gabrielle felt the void. As close friends, they had become inseparable. Often complimented on their beauty, there was no competition between them. Now staring at Talise in yards of tulle and satin, Gabrielle doubted if she would ever duplicate that spectacular look if God blessed her with a mate.

Turning her attention to Ace’s face, Gabrielle sighed at the tender loving way the man was looking at Talise. Her mind captured another wow moment to pen in her handbook of romance. It was one of those silly notions she had started as a teenager when she began writing fanciful ideas in a spiral notebook.

Gabrielle loved weddings. It didn’t matter if she was a guest or part of the bridal party. It was the atmosphere, the romance, the gaiety, the peace-on-earth feeling that always engulfed her.

She withheld a chuckle. Gabrielle was the only girl in a family of three brothers, and none of them were married. Since her brothers welcomed her to the thirties club last month—she wondered what her siblings were waiting on. For her, it was definitely the perfect God-fearing man.

Her main requirement in a mate was that he had to be a practicing Christian man, not a Sunday morning pew warmer . . . Add to that description, the love of her life must be highly romantic . . . Okay, for her future children’s sake, she definitely needed to add good looks.

Ace’s eyes sparkled as he locked on Talise’s every movement. Even when Lauren whimpered in his mother’s arms, he never took his attention away from his bride. When Talise was close enough, Ace stepped forward and reached for her hand. Lovingly, he escorted her to the altar.

Admittedly, Talise’s pregnancy was the reason behind their hasty nuptials a couple of months ago. The couple’s initial vows had taken place in a pastor’s office back in Boston. However, there was no doubt in Gabrielle’s mind that Ace loved her friend. God blessed them in a mighty way after they repented for their sins and followed the Lord’s complete plan for their salvation, which includes: repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. From now on, they have the power to live godly.

Unexpectedly, Ace knelt before Talise and looked up into her glowing face. Gabrielle thought she would faint from his public display of seduction and admiration. She strained to hear every word of their renewed vows.

“Baby, you gave me everything when I met you. You’re beautiful, you love God, and you love me. I promise to cherish you—”

“Hey,” Denise whispered, nudging her again, “he even sounds a little like—”

Gritting her teeth, Gabrielle shushed Denise. Bringing her along was definitely a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Too Far To Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue

Too Far To Say Far Enough
David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2012)
by
Nancy Rue



***Chapter 1***

Every Monday morning I quit.

Before I even crawled out of bed, sometimes even before I clawed all the way from dreams to the mental pile of stuff I was going to have to try to make a dent in, if it was Monday, I said, out loud so there could be no misunderstanding: “God, you’re going to have to find somebody else to be your prophet, because I’m done. You got a recovery group I can get into?”

Sometimes I’d imagine such a group—a place where I could sit in a circle with other people who were in way over their spiritual heads and say, “Hi. I’m Allison, and I’m a recovering prophet.”

Seriously. The women of Sacrament House could nobly go to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and Prostitutes Anonymous (okay, I made that one up), and begin to see them¬selves healing. Ninety meetings in ninety days was a requirement for them.

But there was no Prophets Anonymous. There was no recov¬ery from being one—although at times I would have given up my Harley to escape it—and there was nothing anonymous about it. I knew. I’d tried that.

That particular Monday, however, I skipped quitting. I didn’t even give a nod to the stack of not-yet-done stuff teetering just beyond my reach, waiting for one more thing to topple it over. Because that late-August Monday, almost exactly one year since I’d caught twelve-year-old Desmond Sanborn trying to steal my house key, I was standing in front of a judge, about to adopt the boy.
It was enough to make the whole precarious pile disappear.

The Honorable Charles Walton Atwell the Third swept his eyes, decidedly reminiscent of a basset hound’s, over the crowd gathered in the gallery behind Desmond and me. Normally a transaction such as this would have taken place in his chambers, but there was nothing normal about our group. We had everything from a social worker, two attorneys, and a real estate broker to a row of recovering ladies of the evening and another of HOG members in sleeveless T-shirts, holding their motorcycle helmets respect¬fully under their arms. One elongated look at the motley cloud of witnesses overflowing his office, and Judge Atwell had ordered us all into the courtroom. Desmond gave that his signature stamp of approval by high-fiving said judge and saying, “Good choice, Mr. Your Honor, sir.”

Judge Atwell now dragged his ancient face down with his hand and went into a pause as lengthy as his chin. I remembered that about him. You could practically go out for a cappuccino during one of those conversational gaps. Beside me, Desmond shifted his negligible weight from one lanky leg to the other. I put a cautionary hand on his shoulder and prayed he wouldn’t blurt out, “Mr. Your Honor, sir, you takin’ a nap up in there?”

Finally His Honor nodded gravely at Chief, who stood look¬ing even taller than his six-foot-plus on the other side of Desmond. I suspected that judicial gaze was as much about Chief’s graying ponytail as it was about the solemnity of the occasion. He must have been satisfied with the fact that at least Chief was clad in Brooks Brothers all the way down to his black wing tips, because he said, “Mr. Ellington, you may proceed.”

“Who’s Mr. Ellington?” Desmond whispered to me. His version of sotto voce was like sandpaper on a two-by-four.

“Do you have a question, son?” the judge said.

“I was just askin’ who’s Mr. Ellington,” Desmond said.

“That would be your attorney.” Judge Atwell moved his head in slo-mo to regard Chief. “I assume you’ve introduced yourself to your client.”

I could see the spray of tiny lines at the corner of Chief’s eyes crinkling, but he nodded with the proper sobriety.

“Oh, you talkin’ ’bout Mr. Chief,” Desmond said. “No, he intro¬duced hisself to me a long time ago. We go way back.”

“I’m relieved to hear it.”

The judge indulged in another snail-caliber pause and then nodded once more at Chief. Behind us, I heard Jasmine’s nervous giggle, followed by Mercedes’s unmistakable shushing. Like most of the Sacrament House Sisters, they were both virtually allergic to all things judicial. Mercedes wasn’t going to take a chance on being escorted to a cell.

“Your Honor,” Chief said, using the courtroom voice that made people involuntarily improve their postures, “I introduce Allison Chamberlain to the court.”

His Honor and I nodded at each other. I was no stranger to the man or his courtroom.

“Ms. Chamberlain, would you state your name?” Chief said.

“Allison Eugenia Chamberlain,” I said, and then squeezed the lifeblood out of Desmond’s shoulder. Even though we’d rehearsed this so he wouldn’t go into convulsions of hysteria over my middle name, I couldn’t trust him not to at least snicker. He remained snicker-less.

“And do you verify that you have appeared today to adopt this child, Desmond Edwin Sanborn, born August 26, 1999?”

“I do,” I said.

“Do you know any cause that would legally prohibit this adoption?”

I knew none whatsoever, although everybody and their sister had tried to make one up. “No, I do not,” I said.

“The rights of Desmond Sanborn’s biological parents have been terminated?”

I couldn’t help cringing at that one. His mother herself had been terminated. As for his father, the monster had never had any rights as far as I was concerned.

“Yes,” I said.

But I still stopped breathing and sneaked a look at the judge. Chief had assured me this was all a formality, that there was no way anybody was going to protest the adoption at this point. Still, I’d been blindsided on this before.

Judge Atwell nodded as if his head was too heavy for his neck, and I allowed myself a breath. According to Chief, one more ques¬tion and I would be Desmond’s mother.

“Ms. Chamberlain,” Chief said. “Would you please tell the court why you want to adopt this child?”

I felt more than saw the sudden slant of Desmond’s huge brown eyes, made browner by his cinnamon-shaded, half-African face. During our rehearsals I had threatened to come out with, “Because who else is going to put up with him?” or “I’ve invested too much in groceries for the kid to kick him out now.” I never had told Desmond exactly what I was really going to say, and at that moment I still didn’t know myself. I’d rejected “Because his mother wanted this,” and “Because I want him to survive to adulthood.” Even though both were true, nei¬ther was adequate, and if I said, “Because I love this boy more than I have ever loved anyone in my life,” I would have, to use Desmond’s words, “gotten all emo.” I had assured him there would be no emo. As for telling him I had been nudged by God … Judge Atwell and I had been down that road before.

Evidently endless pauses were the sole privilege of His Honor. He squinted down at me from the bench and said, “Not having sec¬ond thoughts are you, Ms. Chamberlain?”

“No, sir,” I said. “I just can’t seem to find the words.”

“Now that is a surprise.”

I looked at Desmond, who despite his new, manly cut-close¬to-the-scalp haircut and the tiniest of hairs sprouting on his chin, seemed suddenly as vulnerable as a four-year-old. Then I did what I’d learned to do in situations of the utmost importance: I opened my mouth and let God come through.

“I want to adopt this young man because he’s been given to me to love,” I said. “And to love him is a privilege.”

Yeah. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The little-boy Desmond popped away, and my adolescent Desmond slipped cleanly back into place and presented a fist for me to knock mine against. Somebody, probably one of the HOGs, whistled through his fingers. Judge Atwell banged his gavel, though not much louder than Mercedes’s “Y’all got to hush up now. We ’bout to get throwed out.”