Release Date, September 13, 2015
Praise for Bad Choices Can Be Deadly
“Monica Lynne Foster is an excellent writer. Just excellent. She had my heart racing trying to figure out who was stalking.” – Victoria Christopher Murray, author of Stand Your Ground
Even beautiful, professional, successful women can have relationship drama. And that’s Chanelle Slate. First she catches her boyfriend of 12 years in a compromising position. In their bed. And she makes it clear to him and his new lover how she feels about his betrayal. Then, against heavenly advice, she seeks comfort in the arms of her married colleague… until he decides to work on his marriage and moves out of state with his wife.
By the time the love she’s wanted all of her adult life is finally in front of her, the mistakes, and sins, of her past come back to haunt her. And she quickly learns that it will be impossible for everyone to make it out alive.
I dropped the handle of my suitcase. “What are you doing?” I screamed to my boyfriend of 12 years as he scrambled to cover himself and I picked up my emergency baseball bat by the side of my bed.
“Chanelle! Chanelle! I can explain.”
I swung the bat and lucky for him he ducked, because the whack of the bat put a nice size dent in my headboard. “You can’t possibly explain this!” My eyes had to be betraying me. There was no way I’d just come home from a business trip and found the love of my life in our bed with his personal trainer. His male personal trainer.
“Honest to God, Chanelle, this isn’t what it looks like!” He held his arms out in front of him, in a futile attempt to block the inevitable future swing of my get-even tool.
“Don’t you dare bring God into your sordid mess! It’s exactly what it looks like! How could I have been so stupid to trust you and give you 12 years of my life! 12! Ugh!” I said, as I swung again, missing him, but connecting with my lamp. Then I turned my fury on Rocco. “And you! I welcomed you into my home!”
“It’s not my fault you can’t give him what I can,” the home wrecker taunted me.
“Not now, Rocco,” Michael yelled.
We’d been together long enough for Michael to know what I was capable of doing, and at this moment, I was thinking I could handle a 20-year bid at the state prison. “Get out! Both of you get out!”
They jumped out of the bed without a stitch of clothing and bent down to pick up their pants.
“No! You don’t get to put on clothes,” I continued shouting, while brandishing my bat.
“Chanelle, it’s winter and it’s freezing outside,” my now ex pleaded.
“You say that like I care! You have exactly one second to be out of my house or I swear to God, I’m gonna catch a case. Now go!”
I chased them down the steps and out my front door. Watching them run butt naked and barefoot down the snowy street of my posh subdivision was suddenly comical. And I began laughing. I sat on the porch and laughed until I cried. But the tears of humor quickly turned to tears of pain as the betrayal set in. Pain that what I thought was a solid relationship was really a sham. Pain that I’d wasted years of my life with a man who could never be committed to me. Pain that I was now… alone.
One Month Later
“Michael, what are you doing here?” I said when I opened my door and saw my ex standing on my porch…with his new lover.
“We’re here to give you this,” he said, handing me a piece of paper.
I looked at it trying to make out what I was reading. “What is it?”
“You’ve been served.”
“You heard me.”
“You’re suing me?”
“He’s not,” his lover chimed in, while holding Michael’s hand. “I am.”
“This must be a joke.”
“It’s no joke, missy. I’ll see you in court,” the man stealer said, whipping his neck around as though he had long hair instead of a bald head.
I turned on Michael. “And you’re just going to stand here and let him do this to me? Like I never meant anything to you?” I screamed, waving the paper that cemented his betrayal.
“Chanelle, you burned all of my stuff. Everything I owned. So yeah, I’m behind Rocco on this.”
I thought about the bonfire I’d had right after his breach of trust. He was right. I set everything he had ablaze. Even got a fine from the city because of the fire. But it was worth it when he showed up with the moving truck the following day and I handed him pictures of ashes. It would make more sense if he was suing me. But Rocco? What did I do to him?
I watched Rocco and the man I once loved with everything in me walk down my steps and get into their car. Then I groaned and shut the door on a chapter of my life that was closed forever.
“Hurry up! We’re going to be late!” I said to my best friend, Michele. I loved her like a sister, but she was incredibly slow when we were kids and nothing had changed.
“Where are you going tonight, Auntie Chanelle?” I looked into the eyes of my four-year-old godson Benjamin Jr. and melted, as usual.
“Well, I’ve been invited to a holiday party for my job and your mom is going with me.”
“But it’s January. Christmas is over.”
“You’re very smart, BJ. You’re right. Christmas is over. But sometimes companies celebrate after Christmas.”
He frowned. “That doesn’t make sense.”
He was right again, and I wished the party had been canceled. But it was a tradition in our company to celebrate the holidays in January, whether we wanted to or not. So I said, “It doesn’t make sense to me either. But sometimes grownups have to do things they don’t want to do.”
“Oh…well, who’s going to watch me and read me my bedtime story?”
I smiled at Benjamin, Jr. “Now BJ, who usually reads you your bedtime story when Mommy is gone?”
“So, don’t you think Daddy will read you your story tonight and put you to bed?”
“Yessss, but I want Mommy to do it.”
“You want Mommy to do what?” Michele asked, walking into the family room.
“I want you to read a story to me,” BJ whined.
Now I loved my godson, but I didn’t have time for this. As it was, we were going to be late.
“Sweetie, how about letting Daddy read to you tonight, and I’ll read you a story tomorrow night?” Michele offered.
“Okay, Mommy, if you read me two stories tomorrow night.”
I couldn’t believe they were negotiating, but whatever it took to get us out of here was fine with me.
“It’s a deal. Can Mommy have a kiss?”
Michele bent down and BJ ran into his mother’s arms. She scooped him up and deposited him into his father’s lap. “We should be back around 11:00 honey,” she said, giving Benjamin, Sr. a light kiss on the lips.
“Okay, baby. You two have fun.” He smiled at his wife.
“We will,” she said, gazing back at him.
Benjamin Sr. looked at me. “Don’t get my wife into any trouble. I know how you two can be when you’re together.”
“Whatever, Ben. Michele is the one who’s the bad influence!”
We laughed as Michele grabbed her purse, coat, and keys. And then we left.
Once inside my BMW sedan, Michele turned on Watercolors, the Jazz station on satellite radio, and we drove in silence, each of us lost in our separate thoughts.
“So, are you okay with this?” Michele asked.
“Okay with what?”
“Don’t play with me, Chanelle. This is the first time you’ve gone out since you and Michael broke up. I know you haven’t told anyone about it and people are bound to be curious when you show up with me as your date. So how are you with this?”
“Well, I’m okay. I mean, I have to be. What choice do I have? I thought Michael was my soul mate and I thought we’d be together forever. But that turned out not to be the case. He decided he wanted to spend his life with someone who can give him something I never can. And by the way, his new boyfriend is suing me.”
“You’re kidding! For what?”
“Get this. Frostbite. When I kicked them out of my house. Correction. When I kicked them out of my bed, without clothes, they had to walk to Rocco’s house. I guess his little goodies got too cold and he had to be hospitalized. He’s coming after me for his medical bills.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Let me know the court date and I’ll go with you. And I’m not worried about Rocco. I know you’ll handle him. But you still haven’t really told me if you’re okay with your breakup with Michael.”
Sometimes I hated the fact that she knew me so well.
I took a long pause. “I had a decision to make and I made it. But no, I am not okay. Is that what you want to hear? I thought I’d have a family, a white picket fence, and even a dog at this stage in my life, and I don’t have any of those things. For the first time ever, I am truly by myself. I’ve let my 20’s and half of my 30’s pass me by. And now I have to start over. I’m alone. And I’m scared. I’m in a society where almost everyone is part of a couple and I’m not. I’m on my way to a holiday party for work and you’re my date! I am not okay and yet I have to pretend that I am. And on top of everything else, I got dumped by a guy who was on the down low. And I missed it.” I let out a huge sigh after finishing my soliloquy. “Are you satisfied?”
Michele raised her eyebrows and responded. “Actually, I am, because this is the first time you’ve been honest with me. But, more importantly, it sounds like this is the first time you’ve been honest with yourself. Sweetie, you’ll be okay. God has someone incredible for you. Just be patient. Take this time to get to know you all over again.”
“I hear ya. It’s just…” I paused. I felt the tears welling up and threatening to spill over and now was not the time. “It’s just, I’m really, really scared to be by myself. And I’m more scared to start dating again.”
“That’s natural. You shouldn’t even be thinking about dating yet.”
“But if I don’t date, then how will I meet the man that God has for me?”
“You’ll meet him when you’re whole. When the time is right,” Michele answered.
I rolled my eyes. “Leave it to a happily married woman to have some lame response like that.”
“Hey, you know as well as I do, that Ben and I weren’t always in a good space. We had to work like hell to stay together.”
I thought about what she said. She and Ben had been together forever, but there was a time, earlier in their marriage, when he’d had a severe gambling problem. Michele had threatened to divorce him if he didn’t clean up his act. He knew she was serious and checked into a gambler’s rehab program. Thankfully, it worked and with counseling and prayer, their marriage was stronger than it had ever been. But I didn’t see the same fairy tale ending in my future, so I said, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. I don’t wanna talk about this anymore, and besides that, we’re here.” I pulled up to the front of the hotel and waited for the valet to open my door. He handed me a ticket and Michele and I went inside to the grand ballroom.
The room was breathtaking with its white cathedral ceilings and 4-tiered crystal chandeliers sprinkled throughout. Each table was covered in cream linen with fine china place settings and tabletop poinsettias as centerpieces. Red, white, and gold floral arrangements were placed on either side of the dance floor, the bar, and the dessert tables. All the chairs were wrapped in red cloth with bows tied behind the chair backs. The DJ on the stage was playing soft holiday dinner music, and a handful of couples were already enjoying themselves on the dance floor.
“Good evening, may I take your coats for you?” the host asked, while looking at me.
“Thank you.” I slid my burgundy full-length mink with the fox trim from my shoulders and into the waiting hands of the host. Michele, the animal activist of our group, did the same with her full-length faux black mink. Another host escorted us to our table.
As we walked, I knew we were drawing attention. Not that I was conceited, but I knew that I was blessed. I was used to standing out in a crowd and tonight was no exception. I had on a deep burgundy floor length evening gown that crisscrossed in the back and had a plunging neckline. The strappy heels and matching purse of the same color completed my outfit. And my hair, which usually fell below my shoulders, was worn in an up do with a few tendrils left out to frame my face.
Michele was doing her thing in a black dress that barely skimmed her knees and hugged her curves. With her hair cascading down her back in big full curls, she strutted in her 6-inch Louboutin’s as though they were flats.
As we reached our table, I noticed Sean and my stomach did a somersault. If there was any man who could help me get over Michael, it was Sean. But he was married, which made him off limits.
Sean was a marketing consultant for our company, a technology business that had survived the tech nosedive. We were thriving and a great deal of our success was due to the work of Sean’s firm. They’d done an outstanding job of helping us market our products and position us as an industry leader. Anytime we had a company function, Sean was invited. He was around so much that sometimes we forgot he wasn’t an actual employee.
Though we worked together, I’d never checked him out. But since my breakup, I’d been paying closer attention and I liked what I saw. Except for the fact that he had a Mrs.
But oooh, he was gorgeous! Milk chocolate brown and 6 feet of solid muscle. And he had to wear at least a size 13 shoe. Hmmm… I wondered if there was any correlation… I had to admonish myself for the thought. I found myself having these thoughts often and it was bothering me. I knew better and yet…
Anyway, we arrived at our table and allowed the host to pull out our chairs. Sean was such a gentleman that he stood until we were comfortably seated. Since we were the only four at the table, I put my thoughts in check. “Hi Sean. Hi Cynthia. It’s lovely to see you this evening,” I said, engaging in the dinner chitchat that I loathed. “I’d like to introduce you to my best friend, Michele.” I made the introductions and smiled politely.
Michele extended her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” the Mrs. said. Something about her demeanor had always disturbed me. Cynthia then turned her attention to me. “So, where’s Michael this evening?”
She continued to remind me why I didn’t like her. But rather than tap dance around the issue, I addressed it, so we could move on. “Actually, Cynthia, we are not together anymore.” Because he’s banging his trainer, I thought.
“Awww…that’s too bad,” she feigned sympathy. “He was so sweet. What did you do to run him away?”
My eyes narrowed and I clinched my teeth. I couldn’t believe she’d said that! Judging by the crimson color that had settled in his cheeks, neither could Sean. He opened his mouth to speak, but I beat him to it. “You’re right. Michael is a very sweet man, which is why we are able to remain friends,” I lied. “But sometimes two people can outgrow each other.”
Before the conversation had a chance to continue, Benson Jeffries, the firm’s CEO, and his wife Phoebe, arrived at the table.
“Chanelle, it’s great to see you!” Mr. Jeffries took my hand and put it to his lips.
He was such a charmer. He tried insisting that I call him Benson, but given that he was about 40 years my senior, I couldn’t do it. “Hello, Mr. Jeffries.”
After the second round of introductions, we had non-eventful conversation throughout dinner. Cynthia didn’t say anything else rude, which was surprising. Immediately following dinner, she received a phone call and excused herself. Michele also left the table to check on BJ, and the Jeffries hit the dance floor, which left Sean and me.
“Dinner was great,” Sean said.
“I thought so too!” I replied, sounding like the nerd who was complimented by the high school jock.
“So, how’s the new proposal coming?”
“Pretty good.” I was working on a proposal for a multi-million dollar account that we were pitching in the upcoming weeks. Sean had been giving me some suggestions, for which I was grateful. “I’m pulling together the final projections, which are a little harder to develop than I had anticipated.” If I landed this account, I was sure to make partner.
“Well, let me know if I can be of any more assistance. From what I’ve seen, I think you’re on the right track.”
“Thanks. If you truly mean that, then I’d love for you to take a look at the final presentation before I present it to Mr. Jeffries.”
“I really mean it. I’ll review it for you,” Sean offered.
Just then, Cynthia returned to our table. “Honey, I have to leave. An emergency came up at the hospital and I need to be there.”
I wondered what kind of emergency came up at a pet hospital that the on-call vet couldn’t handle. Or maybe she was the on-call vet.
“Can’t Dave handle it?” Sean asked. “I thought he was on-call tonight?” That answered that question.
“Oh…well… he’s really not equipped.” Was that light mist on her forehead perspiration? I wondered as she continued. “I’d feel better if I were there.”
“O…K…” He didn’t seem to be buying her story either. “Let me get our coats.”
“Oh, no. Don’t bother. I’ll take a taxi.”
“Why? Don’t you want me to take you? Especially if you’re in a hurry.”
I wondered how she was going to answer. I wished I’d had some popcorn, because this show was getting good.
“I-I-I know this is work for you. I’ll be fine.”
“Well, then at least take the car. I’ll catch a taxi.”
After a brief hesitation, she finally relented. “Okay. I don’t have time to argue with you.” She kissed him on the cheek and scurried out the door.
Wow, was all I could think. And if he believed her story, then I had a bridge I’d build and sell him.
After she left, the air around us was a little tense: I diverted my eyes, not wanting to look at Sean.
Across the room, Michele was in the corner still on the phone. She was smiling and twirling her hair. Ben must have been reminding her how good it was to be married. I knew she would be ready to get home soon, and though I was happy for her, I had to admit that I was a little envious.
“So, would you like to dance?” Sean politely asked, cutting right through my thoughts.
I was stunned by his question, so it took me a second to answer. They were playing the Isley Brother’s “Spend the Night,” which happened to be one of my favorites.
“Sure,” I said as nonchalantly as I could, hoping he couldn’t tell that I was shaking slightly.
My heart went from 0 to 60 as he took my hand and led me to the dance floor. I kept telling myself to get it together. This was a dance with a friend. A married friend. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Once we stepped onto the floor, he wrapped his strong arms around me and I leaned against his chest. I inhaled the scent of his masculine cologne and closed my eyes, doing my best to pretend that it was okay for me to be here dancing with him. And I had to pretend hard because I knew better. I was really going to have to repent tonight. But in the meantime, I let myself surrender to the moment.
We didn’t talk, we simply danced. And we danced. And we danced. Then the DJ picked up the pace and played some classic Motown. We started doing some of the old school dances like the “Twist” and “Mashed Potatoes”, which made us and those around us laugh. “You’re really a good dancer.” He had to practically shout over the music.
“So are you.”
“Don’t laugh, but my mother made me take lessons when I was a kid and I really got into it.”
“So did mine. I took lessons from the time I could walk until 12th grade.”
I’d completely forgotten that Michele was my date until she approached us. “Hey, Twinkle Toes, I hate to bust your groove, but I told my husband I would be home by 11:00 and it’s 11:30. I have my own groove that I’d like to get started, if you know what I mean.”
I knew exactly what she meant and I was jealous. Arrgh, I hated the single life!
“Okay. Let me finish out this song and then we’ll go,” I answered.
“Cool. I’ll get our coats.”
After Michele walked off, I said to Sean, “I had a great time.”
“Me too.” He looked like he didn’t want the night to end, and I had to admit that I didn’t either, so I asked him, “Do you want a ride home?”
“Thanks, but I don’t want to be a bother.”
“It’s no bother. Really.”
“Well, if you’re sure, then thanks.” We said our goodbyes, then he received his coat from the coat check and the three of us headed to the valet to wait for my car. After giving me his address, which I plugged into the car navigation system, we chatted on our way to his home since he was the first to be dropped off.
When we stopped in front of his house, he said, “Thanks for the ride. Have a good night, ladies.”
“You too,” we said in unison.
He exited the car and walked up the steps. I waited until he was in the house before driving off. Then I waited to hear Michele’s mouth. And she didn’t disappoint me.
“We’ll talk about this tomorrow. Right now, I have my husband on the brain and I can’t wait to get home.”
“I don’t want to talk about this.” And I didn’t. I honestly didn’t.
“I know, but we’re going to anyway,” Michele replied. We arrived at her house a few moments later. “Thanks, I had fun.”
“Thanks for going with me,” I responded.
As Michele opened the door and swung her legs out, she turned back to me and said, “Chanelle, be careful. You’re playing a dangerous game.”
“I know,” was all I could say.
“I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you.”
“Love you too,” I said to her before she closed the door. As I drove off, I hoped and prayed that thoughts of Sean would not invade my sleep. But I knew they would.
“Hello?” I grumbled, sounding like I’d swallowed Kermit the Frog.
“Good morning, Sunshine!” Michele said, calling me by my childhood nickname. “Are you still in bed?”
“What do you think? And why are you so perky?” I kept my head under the covers and hoped this would be a brief conversation so I could go back to sleep.
“I don’t see how you can sleep so late. It’s almost 9:00. I’ve been up for hours. I’ve even been to the grocery store.”
I feigned excitement. “Wow! So you’re superwoman. Big deal.”
“My, my. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”
“That’s my point. I’m not trying to be awake yet. I’ve got one more hour of sleep before I have to get ready for church. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to Morris Chestnut.”
“I can’t believe you. How you can have these dreams and then go to church?”
“It gives me something to repent about. See you in a couple of hours. Bye.” I hung up before Michele had a chance to say anything else.
I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed for sleep to come back to me, but it was useless. I was awake. Reluctantly, I rolled out of bed. I went to the balcony door off the side of my bedroom and pulled back the curtains to let in the daylight. I cracked the door about an inch and felt the crisp winter air.
With a sudden burst of energy, I went downstairs to the kitchen and brewed a fresh pot of Kona coffee. As my coffee percolated, I walked into my family room and popped in my yoga DVD. After a quick workout, I enjoyed my coffee and a bagel, then headed upstairs to get dressed.
I was ready in under 40 minutes and called Michele as I walked out to my attached three-car garage. “Hey girl, you guys doin’ the family thing or you want a ride?”
“Yeah, swing by. Ben went to early service since he has to be at work at noon today. Two employees called in, so he’s got to cover their routes.”
“No problem. See you in a few.” I hopped into the driver’s seat of my burnt orange Range Rover and backed out of the garage. Whenever I picked up my godson or my niece, I drove my Rover. They said it was the coolest ride ever.
As I pulled up to Michele’s house, BJ came running out. “Auntie! Auntie!”
“Hey baby! Where’s Mommy?”
“She forgot her purse so she went back to get it.” He opened the back door, sat in his car seat that I kept in his spot, and fastened his seatbelt without any help. He was already four and growing into a big boy right before my eyes.
“Hey, girl,” Michele said, checking BJ’s harness then closing his door before getting into the passenger seat.
“Andrea, your favorite sister. She said she called you but you didn’t answer. Rachel needs a ride to church this morning.”
“Rachel is her daughter. Why can’t she take her?” My sister did this kind of stuff all the time. I checked my phone and there were no missed calls.
“She’s not feeling well, so she isn’t going this morning.”
“Mm-hmm. I wonder if Dante has anything to do with how she’s feeling.” Dante was my sister’s on-again, off-again, good for nothing baby’s daddy. They’d been together for 18 years! The only good thing that had come from their relationship was my niece.
“She didn’t say. All she said was that Rachel needed a ride and could you pick her up.”
Michele hated to get involved when it came to Andrea, who was five years older than us, but she acted like she was ten years younger. I swear my sister was allergic to responsibility.
“What choice do I have? Call her and let her know we’re on our way.”
“I already told her you would do it.”
I smacked my lips. “What if I’d said no?”
“In the 11 years that Rachel has been on this earth, have you ever said no?” Michele challenged.
“Yeah, yeah. That child is my weakness. So anyway, how was your evening?” I asked, changing the subject.
Michele’s grin broke into a wide smile as memories of her night came rushing back to her. “Girrlll…that brotha is gifted. And he’s like the energizer bunny. He just kept going and going and going and going. And he went all night. I don’t know what got into him.”
“I do. It was that dress. You were a hottie!”
“Whatever!” she said, giving me a playful push.
“I’m serious. You were workin’ it. He was drooling before you even left the house.”
“He went all out. He turned our bedroom into a romantic retreat. He must have put BJ to bed right after we left.” She stopped talking long enough to glance back at her son, who had become one with the DVD he was watching on the TV that I’d installed in the back of the headrest. “Anyway, he had jasmine-scented candles everywhere in the bedroom and he even had the tub filled with water and baby oil and get this, he had rose petals floating across the top.”
“Yes!” Michele continued. I looked over at her and though her body was in the passenger seat, her mind had clearly returned to last night. “From the front of the tub to the back were dozens of rose petals. And you know what was playing in the background.
“Not the Isley Brothers?
“You know it. Spend the Night. That did it. When I walked into the bedroom he was laying on the bed with that silk robe I bought him in Japan. He slid off the bed and came to me and kissed me like he did when we first started dating.”
“Keep talkin’.” I prompted her.
Michele recapped the rest of her evening and shared details that only best friends could talk about. “When he told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, I cried. He kissed away my tears and the rest was history…” Michele’s eyes misted a little.
“Awww… that was so sweet. I’m stuck on him putting rose petals in the bathtub.”
“Girlll, it was the most unbelievable experience we’ve ever had. Although, today he’s picking up a bottle of drain cleaner because the rose petals clogged the tub. Oops.”
We both laughed. It was sad that my love life had to be lived through Michele, but it was all I had for the moment.
“But enough about my evening. What was up with you? You and Sean must have been on the dance floor for almost an hour straight.”
“Chele, I don’t know what’s going on. But when Sean and I started working together on the latest marketing plan, something was different. We had a few late nights and a Saturday when we worked out of my home office. And we started talking about things besides work. We connected in a way that we hadn’t done before. I didn’t mean for that to happen; it just did.”
“Mm-hmm. Have either of you said anything about this connection?”
“Not in so many words. I mean, there’s this undercurrent when we’re in the same room, but I think it would be a mistake to talk about it.”
Michele had turned in her seat so she could look at me. I was glad I needed to keep my eyes on the road. “As long as neither of us says anything, we can pretend it’s not real and nothing has to change. I won’t feel like the sinner who’s damned to hell and he’ll still be considered a faithful husband. Once the words are out, one of us may feel obligated to move this to another level. And I’m not even sure what “this” is. I mean, we work together! I don’t want people calling me a home wrecker. Especially when I think about what just happened to me. And what about my witness for God? It’s bad enough Michael and I lived together for three years. I can’t be known as an adulterer.” Just the thought made me cringe.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be more concerned with what people at work would think than what God would think.”
“I wish I could correct you, but the truth is, God is more forgiving than people. He would be disappointed in me, but at least He knows what I’m going through, and He would forgive me. The people at work wouldn’t. I’m a Senior VP, soon to be partner, and I can’t risk losing that for a fling. When you get right down to it, I’m only feeling all hot and bothered because Michael is gone.”
“Is that the only reason?”
“It’s the only reason I’m willing to acknowledge. If Michael was still around and acting right and still interested in what a woman has to offer, Sean wouldn’t be a thought.”
Michele pursed her lips. “Really?”
“You don’t believe me?”
“Actually, I don’t.”
“Because you and Sean have always had chemistry. But after what went down with you and Michael, I think you opened yourself up to Sean. Especially since you and I both know you don’t like to be alone.”
My silence prompted her to continue. “There are a lot of qualities in Sean that you find attractive, but sweetie, he’s married. And even if he were truly available to you, you still haven’t given yourself time to heal. You were in a 12-year relationship with Michael. Practically married, but you never got the ring. You cooked, cleaned, and did everything a wife is expected to do. And you took care of him when he lost his job three years ago and never got another one. You let him move in with you and sponge off you. You saw potential in him, that didn’t exist. And he repaid you by cheating on you. With a dude. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a pretty clear sign that there really wasn’t ever a future for the two of you. Personally, I’m glad you didn’t marry him and he’s out of your life.”
Everything she said was the truth. And it was a truth I didn’t want talk about. But she kept on beating that darn dead horse. “I know you, Chanelle. I know that you are still hurting. And you’re vulnerable. And not only do I know it, but let’s go spiritual. The devil knows it too. Did he tempt Eve with a lemon? No. He got her with an apple. Something she liked. Sean’s your apple.”
I was so ready for this conversation to end. “Humph. Technically, the Bible didn’t say it was an apple, but I hear ya. And you’re right. About everything. Sean is a big red delicious apple, hand-picked only for me and I want to take a bite. A big bite. And even though I know better, just thinking about that apple makes my mouth water.” I wished to God that what I was saying wasn’t true. But it was.
“Hurry up and let’s get your lusty butt to church. You need Jesus!”
“Don’t we all?” We both laughed. I picked up Rachel and we headed to church to get the spiritual cleansing I so desperately needed.
“Let the church say ‘amen’,” Pastor Sharpe commanded from the pulpit.
“Amen,” the congregation responded.
“I said let the church say ‘amen’!”
“Thank you, Lord. You may be seated.”
We took our seats and the servant of God began her morning message. “Good morning, Church.”
“1 Corinthians 10:13 says ‘No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it’. Today, I want to talk to you about temptation. And not just any temptation, but lustful temptation.”
“Ooh, Pastor, preach it!” someone in the back pew bellowed.
“There’s a devil out there, Saints. And he wants your families. He wants your marriages. And you have to be strong. You have to resist the temptation.”
“Yes,” someone else shouted.
I struggled to sit still as the message began to hit very close to home. I kept my head glued to my Bible, afraid that if she caught my eye she’d know the thoughts I’d been having.
“When satan sets out to destroy you, he’s gonna use something he knows you like. He’s gonna wait until you are at your weakest point and then he’s gonna STRIKE! But you have a weapon, Saints. And that weapon is Jesus!”
More agreement from the Amen corner and I just wanted everyone to be quiet so she could finish her message. But she took her time and spent a solid hour, quoting scripture after scripture, about the value of resisting temptation and that the wages of sin was death. This was the first Sunday in years that I wished I’d slept in and missed. After service, I stood in the meet and greet line and shook her hand, expecting her to give me the cursory, “Thank you for coming” handshake. But she didn’t. Instead, she held my hand and then covered it with her other hand and looked me in my eyes. “Good morning, Sister Chanelle.”
“Good morning, Reverend.”
“How are you doing today?” she asked, knowing that God had told her I was struggling with my emotions.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Um, yes, yes, I’m sure.”
“You know God loves you, right?” she asked, not blinking once as she stared straight through to the core of my soul.
“He’s telling me to tell you, not to do it. Whatever it is you’re contemplating, He said: It won’t end well.”
I stammered, “I, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do. And I’m not asking you to tell me what’s going on. But I’m here for you if you need me. And more importantly, God is here for you if you want to talk to Him about whatever it is you’re dealing with.”
“Uh, thank you, Pastor, but I’m fine.”
I slowly slid my now damp hand from between hers.
“Be blessed, Sister Chanelle.”
“You too, Pastor.” I quickly walked away as she moved on to greet Rachel.
“Auntie, what was that all about?” Rachel asked me as we walked back to our vehicle.
“Uh, I’m not sure, Rach.”
“She seemed to be warning you about something,” Rachel persisted.
I was still shaken by my awkward conversation with my Pastor. I was not about to have a repeat with an 11-year old. “Let it go. I don’t know what she was talking about. Now, do you want to grab something to eat before I take you home?”
My normally precocious niece would have stayed on me until I gave her an answer that satisfied her. But today, she cut me some slack. “Okay. Can we go to Chipotle?”
“You got it,” I said, as we reached the Rover and got inside. We waited for Michele and BJ. Then the four of us headed to Rachel’s favorite restaurant and I tried to pretend that I hadn’t just received a warning directly from the Throne.