“Peace Virginia girl. Hope for the best. Believe for the best. Expect the best. Breathe in Peace and exhale angst.” Virginia said to herself then dropped the folders on her desk and answered Vern’s call. “Hello” she said calmly, leaning away from the receiver as she was confronted with a thunderous tirade of… “What the hell took you so damn long to answer the damn phone Virginia?” What… you over there giving the boss man some head under the desk or something? Why don’t you tell that know it all fool, to let you up off of your knees for a minute so you can talk to your HUSBAND? I mean I know that don’t mean a damn thing to your sorry behind, but I’m the one stuck with you till death do us part. Man… I can’t believe I let myself get caught up with a loser like you. But… like it or not I own you woman!” Vern barked into her ear. “What do you want Vern?” Virginia asked in monotone. “What do I want? You better watch your damn tone with me! Oh, so you got a piece of job and now you think you somebody? You really think I’m gone let you talk to me ANY kind of way, you B… CLICK!!!”
The click signaled to Vern that Vgee had hung up on him, again. Vern held the phone away from himself, asking it “What the heck is wrong with these women lately?” and slammed the receiver hard on it’s base. “Eleven forty five!” Vern exclaimed, looking up at the green faced, crystal clock with the inscription “To Virginia Duncan In Grateful Appreciation for your Dedication and Service!” which sat atop the mantle of the fireplace. Then he huffed “Dang…I’m gone be late for my meeting with Don Weston, fooling around with that ditz brained Virginia!” He walked over to the mantle, tipped the clock over, and watched it crash onto, and crack a corner of the ornate emerald tile in front of the fireplace. Vern smiled seeing the crack spread across the special order Italian tile that Virginia had laid down herself, after taking a Handy Ma’am’s class at the local hardware store. As chunks and splinters of the crystal dispersed, he did a quick two step backward, pressed his hand daintily against his mouth, and in a high pitched voice with a nasty smirk puckered his lips saying “Oops…my bad!” “How you like that miss high and mighty? You go and let them losers at work swell your head up by giving you this cheap ass clock like you somebody to be appreciated. You ain’t nothing Virginia.” He hissed at the clock, and left to make his meeting.
“He must be out of his mind if he thinks I’m going to listen to that crap from him at work.” Vgee said as she turned off her cell phone, dropped it back in the bottom of her oversized handbag, and tried once again to focus on her work. “I’ll deal with him when I get home.” She exhaled, resting her head in her hands, trying to ward off the feeling of light-headedness and nausea, which visited her more frequently lately. Virginia hadn’t been to the doctor in almost two years, and dreaded the thought of having to go now. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew deep in her spirit something wasn’t right in her body. She had been feeling kind of run down lately. Even though she could tell by the looseness of her clothes she’d lost some weight, she was too number shy to set foot on a scale just yet. She felt weak and tired all the time. It was harder for her to keep focus and fixed on even the simplest of things lately. In a whisper she prayed “Lord I’m not trying to claim anything, but whatever is wrong with me, I know you alone can fix it. I declare that I’m healed and whole in Jesus Name. Amen.”
Virginia adjusted the monitor on her desk, attempting to return to work, knowing it would be difficult. She couldn’t understand why she still let Vern get to her like that after all this time. She’d been with him her entire adult life, since she was 22. They met back when they were both struggling college students. She now, like a bird of wisdom, observing from a hind sight perch, understood that except for the amazing children they’d made together, their union was like a violent shipwreck. She realized too, that it was time for her to change course and head for a new horizon of hope. The reality of Vern’s constant, apparent and utter disdain for her could not be ignored. What sense, did it make to stay with someone who had nothing but the worst of him to give to her? The kids were all grown up. There were no more babies in the house to worry over. Of course there were the grand kids, but she sent them home at night with their parents, most of the time. When she thought of her precious grand babies, she didn’t want them to suffer under Vern’s wrath which seemed to grow more vicious and bitter day by day.
She couldn’t wait for him to get back on the road again. When Vern was home the only thing he was capable of giving her was a daily dose of evil. Virginia’s eyes filled with tears as the reality and heaviness of her situation momentarily lured her into sea of despair. She reached up to wipe away her tears and knocked over a photo of her and Angel, grinning and hugged up after church the day Angel accepted Christ. Picking it up Vgee looked at her lovely friend and wondered if everything was all right with her. The strange call she’d gotten from Angel before daybreak, asking Vgee to cover for her at work, left her worried and wondering how longsuffering Angel would continue to be, fighting the cause for what seemed a hopeless mission of mercy called “Honey baby.”
“Jesus…oh Jesus, I need your peace that passes all understanding right now and always. You LORD, are the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. You are King of Kings, and LORD of Lords. You are the only Wise God. You’re my Mighty Counselor, my Prince of Peace. You God are my Abba, my Daddy. Lord I need you right now. Dear Father, I lift up Angel, Honey baby, my family and myself to you right now in the Name of Jesus Christ. You alone are our Jehovah Shalom, our complete and perfect peace that covers us and passes all understanding. We need you now LORD. Please Father send your help speedily. I thank you God in advance for answering my prayer, in Jesus Name, Amen.” Virginia prayed, and believed, as her tears flowed freely, washing away the tension from her face.
“Aw shoot.” Virginia sniffed, wiping away tears that dripped from the back of her hands and wouldn’t let up. “Please God, not another crying spell, not a t work.” “Dog gone it! Why can’t I stop crying?” She asked herself. Vgee dug in her purse for a tissue to wipe away the tears. After drying her eyes, she blew her nose and saw the blood again. “It’s nothing. It’s nothing.” She said to herself. Thinking about it, she realized “I’m simply tired and hormonal.” The miserable, debilitating combination of extreme exhaustion, and peri-menopause were no joke to Virginia. She also recognized that the week and a half that Vern had been home was wearing on her hard. He worked overtime to make sure she didn’t get much sleep. It reminded her of the days when she was at home full time doing the stair step baby dance. The dance where, there was a baby keeping time in her womb, one straddling her hip, and another couple swinging from and clinging to her legs. After a long harried day of caring for the kids, Vern insisted on his mandatory Vern time.
Vern time usually consisted of a daily course of Virginia bashing, verbally and physically, as Virginia pulled off his smelly boots and socks. She had to sit on the floor, after she’d served him dinner in his hand-me-down lounger, and massage his smelly feet for at least twenty minutes. He would sit in his easy chair with a dinner plate on his lap, growling obscenities at her and the kids, while bits of partially chewed food landed in her face and hair. He really got off on systematically beating down her spirit all day with nagging anxious phone calls dictating what she’d better have done by the time he got home. Then, worn and exhausted, after what seemed an endless day of attending to her motherly and household duties, he would signal her with a look it was time for sex. She had to be showered and naked on the bed then wait until he was ready to begin. There was very little affection to their intimate time together: no deep kissing, or much touching even. Virginia was breast-feeding two babies at the time, and he would also suckle at her breast, only because he liked the taste of her milk he said. But usually, foreplay was not a part of Vern’s sexual repertoire with her. He did this to make sure that Virginia understood to expect no passion or tenderness from him. Just point your toes to the opposite corners of the ceiling and respond on cue to his self- gratifying, off beat rhythms, as any “real” woman or good wife was meant to do. A few minutes later when he was done, she had to shower, with the door open at Vern’s insistence, so she could listen to his ramblings about the dumb, lazy co-workers who backed up to their paychecks at work.
“A monkey could do most of their jobs,” he would say, and they had nerve enough to try to tell him something? ” They ain’t working me like a friggin Hebrew slave. Believe that. Screw them all!” Vern insisted, ” If they do it the way I see it, the work don’t have to be so hard. Them stupid fools make it harder than it needs to be.” Then, “Virginia, it don’t take nobody that long to wash they behind. Get yo ass out of that shower, running up my water bill. I’m the one who’s at work all day dealing with them jackasses, just to pay the bills around here, while you sit on your ass all day, playing with them damn kids.” Vern would complain. As the memories came and went, Virginia shook her head, smiled sadly, and thanked God that she had made it through those long ago, tough, painful days. Vern had been especially difficult last night though, she thought. She didn’t get to sleep until around two thirty in the morning. He kept fussing, cussing and making clumsy attempts of seductions and come-on’s, saying “Gimme a kiss woman; You look pretty today for some reason; You look like you need some… I’m just trying to do you a favor and give you what you need, it’s been awhile since we…you know girl.” until she finally gave in. She hated to do it, but felt it necessary just to get some peace and sleep.
Vgee had the disgusting routine down pat, knowing that a few moans, groans, some wiggles and shakes, would end the miserable ordeal quickly. When she finally did get into a good sleep, the phone rang and it was Angel. Vern woke up long enough to sarcastically ask, “Who is that…your man from the job? You don’t have to pretend that’s, that trifling loser Angel. I know that was some crusty Negro on the phone.” Vern belched out rolling over, burying his face into the pillow. He tried to will himself back into his dream of making love to Patty. “Ahh,” thoughts of his beloved, log legged Patty, filled him with excitement. Except lately, Patty seemed distant, which didn’t help his disposition any, and dear Virginia became the unknowing recipient of his sexual frustration. He wanted to say more about the early morning phone harassment, but he wasn’t going to interrupt anymore or his “Patty cake” time, fooling around with Virginia. Vgee thought to her self “What a way to start the day” after she was done talking with Angel. She placed the phone back on the nightstand and held her head between her hands, to fight off a bout of dizziness. She couldn’t know that she wasn’t the only one Angel had reached out and touched with a pre dawn phone call this morning.
A few minutes later across town, Iselda Conman, wife of James, nudged his shoulder with the back of her hand trying to pass him the cordless phone at four o’clock in the morning. “Passtor” she muttered sarcastically, in a hoarse raspy voice “James get up and answer this phone. It’s Angel, something’s going on with Honey baby… again.” “What? What time is it? Who did you say it was?” he said groggy, irritated and struggling with the bed covers to a seated position. “It’s Angel about Honey baby.” covering the mouthpiece with her fingers she added” Wake your ass up and deal with this” she answered him, shoving the phone into his waiting hand. Fully awake now, he shot her an angry look, which she returned, adding a pissed off smirk, and a sistah girl head twist to the nonverbal exchange. First Lady Iselda Conman of The New Way Believers Church was so tired of the middle of the night/early morning calls by distressed female parishioners, congregants, saints, and church members whatever you want to call them. This was the third time so far this month that her home life had been disturbed by someone else’s ’emergency’. Iselda noticed James shift his attention before answering the phone. Following the direction of his gaze, there standing in the doorway was their ten-year-old daughter Divinia. Dressed in a Smiling Kitten pajama set, wearing a concerned expression on her lovely face, she padded over to her parents bed, and fell into Iselda’s doting arms.
“Hold up. Wait. Slow down Angel and tell me again now, where did you say you and Honey baby are?” James said getting up from the bed, looking over to Iselda with his eyebrows raised, appreciating the beauty of her mildly scarred face, without the pancake make up she usually packed on by the bucket load, in spite of his protests. He shook his head and let out a deep sigh. Iselda rolled her eyes, tightening her embrace of her beloved child, who was focused with rapt attention on her daddy, waiting for the next tidbit of info about sister Honey baby from her church youth group. With the phone pinched between his ear and shoulder, he stepped into his trousers and out of the bedroom. He caught the worried curiosity in Divinia’s eyes, and he wasn’t going to allow her to be stressed by Janette’s latest mishap. Slipping out into the dimness of the hallway, James closed the door behind him heading for the kitchen. He needed a drink.
Angel took in a deep breath, pressing her self further into the car seat. She cut her eyes with disgust when she looked at the distraught, disheveled Honey baby, and punched the steering wheel with a side fist. “Sorry Pastor, my nerves got the better of me. I was saying that I really need your help. I had no one else to call, and I can’t do this by myself.” she choked out, weeping once again. Janette sat beside her trembling and staring off into space. Her mind was adrift in turbulent, nauseous waves of confusion. The drug haze that had her in free float, earlier, crashed and left her paranoid and scared to death.
James sat on a kitchen stool sipping the aged Cognac his brother Jeffery had given him. He listened patiently to Angel weave another tale of Honey baby’s misadventures, amazed at how his plans were falling into place with no great effort on his part. When Angel began to cry, he took another sip of his drink then, in a voice as smooth as the delicious Cognac sliding down his throat he said “Angel, baby I’ll be right there. Tell me where you are again, I’m on my way.” When he hung up the phone, he downed the last sip of his drink, and rinsed the glass; He didn’t want to hear about it later from Iselda. “The Lawd sho do provide.” He said in an over exaggerated attempt at a deep southern accent. He smiled, setting off for the bathroom to freshen up and slap on some cologne. The shoulder Angel would be crying on this morning, needed to smell good.
Honey baby, sat beside Angel rocking and moaning. “Wake up Percy. You gotta wake up!” she mumbled as the rocking increased. She began shaking her head violently screaming “Percy, please be alright!” Angel unhooked her seat belt, turned to Janette, reared back and slapped her across the face with a force that caused Honey baby to lurch forward slamming her cheek on the dashboard. ” Shut your stupid ass up!” Angel hissed. “Keep still, and be the hell quiet Honey baby!” Stunned into silence, Honey baby gently cupped her stinging cheek in her hand and sat back quietly. Angel reached down in the side pocket of her car door for the hand sanitizer she kept there. She reached across Honey baby’s heaving bosom into the glove box for the fast food napkins she saved. Taking off her jacket, she began to wipe down the front of her tee shirt. The speckles of vomit from trying to revive putrid Percy clung to her clothes, the acrid smell making her nauseous. She took another swig of the mouthwash she kept in her purse, swished and spat it out of the car window. The thought of her mouth on Percy’s during her CPR efforts, and him throwing up all over her, made her want to slap the piss out of Honey baby again.
“Percy,” Angel moaned, as she thought of him, alone in the richly furnished downtown Dallas loft. She and Honey baby had left him lying there, on an authentic Persian rug, in a nasty puddle of his own piss and puke. They sat outside in her car a half a block down, waiting for an ambulance, and Pastor Conman to arrive. Angel was worried and scared. When Honey baby called her hysterical at three twenty something in the morning, she jumped from the bed and flew to her aid. When she arrived at the marijuana-smelling loft, she found Honey baby pacing back and forth mumbling incoherently amidst an array of multi colored, half empty liquor bottles strewn about. In the middle of the floor lay Percy, half naked on his side, with one leg draped over a chocolate brown leather ottoman. The overindulged little white boy Janette had been running around with had stopped breathing. Vomit covered the lower half of his face and neck, spilling into his ears and shoulder length sandy blonde hair. She dropped her purse and went into action like a seasoned professional.
Angel fell to her knees next to Percy, placed two fingers on his neck feeling a faint pulse, as she bent over him and confirmed he wasn’t breathing. She grabbed his musty Tee shirt from a nearby chair and wiped his face. She scooped his mouth out, laid him on his back and began CPR. She worked hard to bring his bony body back to some stability from what looked like an overdose. When he finally did respond, he was breathing shallowly, and spewing the contents of his gut all over her. She turned his head to the side, gently lifted his thigh and shoulder, and carefully rolled him onto his abdomen, to let the vomit drain and keep him from choking. Before she could try to control her own body’s reaction, last nights Alfredo Fettuccine flew past her teeth and mingled with the nastiness from Percy. Honey baby witnessing the gross scene, threw Angel a damp kitchen towel from the sink. Angel did a quick swipe of her face and chest and slung the towel at Honey baby’s head, barely missing her face but catching her neck. Janette snatched it and was about to lob it back, but thought better of it when Angel stood up and started toward her.
“Start wiping any place you think you touched Honey baby.” Janette looked at Angel questioning and confused. “Wipe away your fingerprints stupid. Snap out of it! Whatever you touched wipe it down!” Janette smeared a fancy glass table top with the rank towel, shooting Angel a smug defiant look as she picked up some marijuana joints and colorful pills, stuffing them into her pants pocket. “Fine.” Angel said, “I’m out of here. You deal with this mess by your self now smart ass.” turning to walk away. Stricken and desperate Honey baby cried, “No please Angie. Wait I’m sorry. Imma do it right!” Janette begged, dropping to her knees, pulling at Angels sweatpants. “I promise to do it right. Don’t leave me Angie. Please?” Angel threw her head back, rolled her eyes to the ceiling and said “Look Janette, this is some serious stuff you’ve gotten yourself into, girl. This boy could have died. Here you are under age, surrounded by liquor bottles, drug paraphernalia, and high as the dang sky. Do you want to go to juvie again, or even jail Honey baby?” Terror and tears filled Janette’s lovely eyes. She shook her head no, and stood to her feet. She headed to the kitchen for cleaning supplies and did as Angel instructed.
When she was satisfied that Percy was stable, even though he was still incoherent, Angel dialed 911, informed them of his condition without giving her name, and wiped away all the evidence she could think of that her and Honey baby had been there. Angel checked again to make sure Percy was still breathing, “Good enough!” she said then snatched Janette, and got the heck on up the street. She called Pastor Conman to see if he could help get Honey baby as far away as possible from the whole messed up situation. Angel was tired. She conceded that Honey baby had not just stepped, tapped, or danced on, but had disintegrated her last nerve. She was “Too Through” with her this time.
Hot salty tears burned Honey baby’s eyes as she strained to look through the windshield at the paramedics carry Percy’s limp, fragile body, out on a stretcher to the back of the open waiting ambulance. Angel’s attention was focused in the opposite direction. Looking through her rearview mirror she saw headlights pull up behind them, and blink off. She finally exhaled long and slow after realizing the tall lean muscular man exiting the car and coming toward them wasn’t a cop, it was James. Angel flung open her car door, rushed out and fell into his arms. He made a face, and held his breath, chuckling at the irony of the moment. There he was bathed in expensive cologne to make an unforgettable impression on her, she, on the other hand, smelled like the bottom of an alcoholic’s belly. After squeezing out the last agonizing remnants of a hard cry Angel took in a deep breath and began coughing. The smell of Pastor’s cologne was too strong for her taste.
It was five thirty seven Angel noted on the dashboard clock of her car. She was alone for the first time this morning since Janette called pulling her away from a deliciously naughty dream. The fantasy of her and Devlin together embarking on exciting sexual adventures, made her smile. Her rational mind though, told her “There is something about him that is off and not quite right.” For all that Angel had experienced in her young life, she was usually pretty good at reading folks intentions. Her inner voice told her that Devlin was a whoremonger. Period. She knew it, but he was so damn fine. She took great pride in the fact that she had him working diligently to get and keep her attention. The rest of the Secretarial staff at Dawson, were straight up hating on her for having him do it. So what? Nobody told them to pop off their panties at his first “Hello.” So, here she was Monday morning, the day after she and Devlin had been to church together. She had already called Vgee to let her know she would be in late, and to cover for her. Angel switched on her right side blinker and proceeded to follow Pastor James’ car onto the Denton exit. Honey baby was in the car with Pastor on their way to The Clergyman’s Cottage, a bed and breakfast inn, frequented by out of town Preachers, owned by James, Iselda and Jeffery Conman.
“Yeah it’s me again, we’ll be there about fifteen or twenty minutes. Do you have everything ready for us?” Okay, and tell Delilah I don’t want to have to wait for her. We’ve got to move on this. Tell Dottie I want the Brie omelet, mango squeeze with blueberries in place of the strawberries, and bacon. Alright, see you in a few.” James put his cell phone back into his jacket pocket looking over at Janette, who sat pressed up against the car door, with her eyes closed. “You don’t have to act like you’re asleep Honey baby, I know what’s going on. Open your eyes and talk to me. Now tell me everything you drank, smoked and swallowed last night. And you better not lie to me” James said reaching into his pants pocket. Embarrassed, Janette did as she was told avoiding direct eye contact with the Preacher.” I just had a wine cooler last night. That’s all. She lied. “Don’t make me stop this car and beat your lying ass Janette!” The cold cruel way he said it made the hair stand up on the back of Honey baby’s neck. “Um okay, Percy made me smoke some weed and take a pill with a “E” on it. That’s it, that’s all I had last night. I promise Pastor.” James reached over, nudging her arm, saying, “Here take these, they’ll help you to relax.” Then handed her two little blue pills. Janette wanted to protest but knew by the stern look on his face it wasn’t a request, but a command. “I can’t swallow pills without something to drink.” She tried to stall, but he had already reached into the backseat and came up with a bottle of water, handed it to her saying, “This’ll help to get em down nice and smooth. Drink up!”
This was the first time she would be late to work since she was hired at Dawson Inc. Angel became angry again at Honey baby for jacking up her routine. She stunk of Percy puke, and couldn’t wait to take a shower. As her mind danced from one concern to another, the image of Honey baby so shaken and distraught, softened her heart and she was once again back at Bernard and Nannette’s house trying to console Honey baby, TT and little Kate. It was the first day all four of the girls had to endure Bernard’s awful chastity check together. Fifteen-year-old Angel had just come inside trying to slip through the screen door as quietly as possible. She and Reggie B. the 19 year old from up the street, had just finished consummating their official couple status in the back bedroom of his Granny’s house. Getting it on in the house while Granny was there proved a daunting task for the young lovers. “Reggie!” Granny called out from the kitchen, “Is that you baby?” “Yes Ma’am.” Reggie answered. “What took you so long boy? Did you get my chili powder from the store child?” “Yes Ma’am.” He said, savoring the deliciously seasoned smells of good home cooking, as he set the grocery bag on the kitchen table and pulled out the change from his pocket, to count it out into her waiting hand along with the receipt. Granny didn’t play with her money. All had to be accounted for.
Reggie nervously counted the change into Granny’s hand, spilling a few coins on the floor. “What’s wrong with you boy? You got to go to the bathroom or something? Why you dropping my money? Shoot Reggie, now you’ve got to start all over.” Granny insisted. Reggie grimaced, sighed deeply and began a recount into Granny’s patient outstretched hand. Reggie couldn’t tell Granny that he was anxious to get to fine ass Angelina Arceneaux, who waited out back beneath the bedroom window for him to let her in. When he was done counting, he dashed out of the kitchen, heading to the back of the house, with Granny shouting after him “Stop running in my house boy. You know you too old to wait until the last minute to go pee!”
When Reggie stepped in the back bedroom, he ran over to the window, carefully opening it, so the grinding squeak wouldn’t cause Granny to come back there. He banged his head hard on the window and cussed under his breath, he was so anxious to get next to Angel. He leaned out ready to whisper her name, when he saw Angel one arm around her waist, and a hand cupped to her mouth, doubled over laughing at him. “Angelina!” Reggie said as loud as he could in an aggravated whisper. She looked up, and noticing his annoyed furrowed brow, stood defiantly, with her hands on her hips, asking, “What is wrong with your face Negro?” Reggie realizing he might be throwing away a chance at bliss, quickly adjusted his attitude with a twinkle in his eye and a sly grin, answered “Nothing baby, I just can’t wait to get you up here, that’s all.” “Humph,” Angel replied, cocking her head, and pursing her lips, then said “That’s what I thought it better be!”
Thinking back on that day those few years ago that seemed like another lifetime, made Angel wonder if in her entire life she’d ever known a moment of selfish innocence. The beauty of her surroundings called her back to the present, as she followed Pastor’s car onto a winding, tree lined, gravel road. Dawn was now taking its bow, before the warm glow of a beautifully looming morning sun that streaked through the trees in golden flecks. They were coming upon a large white ornately decked out mansion. “Is this the much revered Clergyman’s Cottage I’ve heard so much about? Oomph, cottage my behind, the brochures don’t even do it proper justice. This bad boy is banging!” Angel marveled, eyeing the four humongous white columns that stood like proud sentinels to welcome visitors. As they drove around back, to park her jaw dropped at the scenic splendor and grandeur that surrounded them. All around and especially behind the Cottage, nature expressed her beauty. She was arrayed like royalty, or like Angel’s boy Wayne would say, Nature was ” Stunting like her Daddy!”
They parked their cars, and James blew his horn. Before Angel could step out of her car, Sister Delilah from church was there, in a gorgeous floral sundress, opening her car door with a glowing smile. “Morning Sister Angel, if you follow me in, I’ve got a relaxing bubble bath and a fresh set of clothes waiting for you. Sister Dottie will fix you anything you want to eat. Just let me know what you like, and she’ll have it ready when you’re done freshening up.” The alluring scent of jasmine and bacon engulfed Angel as she exited the car speechless. How did Sis Delilah know she would need a bath and some grub? She looked over at Pastor and a clumsy looking Honey baby who was immediately whisked away by Sister Aphrodite. James gave a sneaky tap to Aphrodite’s bottom, watching her walk away he said, “Get it ready.” Aphrodite turned slightly, then smiled and nodded. “What the feezy is going on up in here?” Angel thought to herself, as she followed Delilah, into the awe inspiring Clergyman’s Cottage.
To be continued…
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