6 – Dare You Try – [The Byzantine Souls Saga]

After 14 Years of Marriage

“This is so heartbreaking…” Donnie Martinez of Vibe News began to announce, “Frontrunner of Byzantine Souls, Rachel Noelle Hernández-Sparks, and Pastor of Water and Life Church, Keith Sparks, are officially divorced after 14 years of marriage. Neither would comment as to why the couple decided to throw in the towel.

“The public record states the two had irreconcilable differences. Not that I want to add to the rumor mill to make it spin a little faster, but I would think it has a little to do with Rachel’s bouts of infidelity during their matrimony.

“Rachel’s second child, Santiago, belongs to then stagehand, Franco Baptista… The world was shocked Pastor Keith remained married to the rockstar… since according to the Bible, he is allowed to divorce over adultery.

“But the couple stuck together, and a few years later, Rachel had her third child, and Pastor Keith’s first, Serafina… And when that angel was born, Rachel finally shared with the world her long-term battle with bipolar disorder, which was partly why she strayed from her husband twice, when she didn’t have her disorder under control.

“Knowing Pastor Keith’s heart, we now see why he graciously gave her more tries to make it right.

“Pastor Keith has obtained full custody of Serafina, while Rachel holds visitations rights. Santiago will stay with his mother, Rachel.”

14 Years Before the Divorce

Keith held his cell to Rachel’s face, an image peering into a hotel room, capturing Rachel kissing Franco, the stagehand from the tour.

“Explain this…” Keith said taking a deep breath in and out, forcing himself to remain calm. He tossed his cell onto their bed.

“I stopped taking my meds on tour…” Rachel said keeping her eyes locked on the teal, green, and gold paisley carpet in their bedroom. She couldn’t stomach to look at her husband.

“So you’re saying you did this during a manic high moment…?” Keith questioned, keeping his back turned to her.

“I don’t know… either that or because I was high…”

Keith spun to face his wife, completely confused, “You were doing drugs on the road again?”

“I’m sorry…” Rachel huffed as tears flooded her eyes. “It didn’t mean anything…” She whined truthfully confessing.

“Maybe you need more help… Like rehab…” Keith sighed, turning his back to her again.

“I’ll go to rehab…” Rachel agreed. Moved by a desperation to prevent Keith from packing his bags and leaving, she pulled on the courage that arose in her gut, and raised her gaze. She lunged toward her husband and she hugged him from behind. She rested the side of her face against his back. “I [bleeped] up. Please don’t leave me…”

She closed her eyes wishfully hoping her husband heard her plea. She knew she didn’t deserve her husband. She feared constantly he would find a reason to leave her. Though he never pressured her to be the perfect wife, she felt like she needed to be that for him. She could never repay the grace and the mercy he gave her every day. Granted, he was far from perfect himself, but compared to him. She was the devil and he was the saint.

Softly, Keith rubbed her forearms with his hands. In the silence, wrapped together, they cried… And after a little while, when they both had nothing left to cry… Keith turned to face her.

He took her by the hands. They both bravely locked eyes.

“Oh my beautiful bride…” Keith said, “I love you…” he said holding her face in his hands.

Though Rachel cheated over a month ago, and rumors broke out of her affair the day she traveled back to the states, there was no proof of the affair. Rachel was going to tell Keith the truth, but he refused to believe the rumors. When he confronted her the first time, he was filled with such confidence that she didn’t cheat, she feared if she told the truth he would walk out. Therefore, she stayed silent… For a moment, she held onto hope she would never have to confess the truth.

Keith kissed Rachel on the lips, but she didn’t kiss him back. There was more to talk about…

Taking a step back, Keith asked, “Until this, things have been going pretty good. I’ve seen you taking your meds. I see you have talk therapy back on your calendar… I don’t want you to check into rehab, but if you feel you need to do that… then we’ll get that for you, but I just want my wife back… I want a night where the outside world doesn’t impact our house.” He took her hands again and caressed her backhands with his thumbs. “I’m sorry for being angry and bitter about you choosing to go on the road. I should have never ignored a single call from you. Please, forgive me…”

Rachel nodded her head… “I did try to call you that night… twice…” Tearing up again, Rachel retracted her hands from Keith’s grasp and went to sit down. She thought sitting down would calm the butterflies in her stomach and her urge to throw up.

“I felt so ignored and I thought you hated me so much that you were filing for divorce or something and that when I got home we would be over… I kept thinking about how I kept [bleep]ing up all the time. I felt so guilty for ditching you when you needed me, but I couldn’t stand being around you. Every time I looked at your face I just saw Skye and my heart shattered again and again. I needed space to mourn her. Plus, I was stressed out… we needed the money from that tour…” Rachel let things off her chest as streams of tears rolled down her face.

Keith sat beside her on the bed, “What do you mean we needed the money?”

Wiping her tears with the back of her wrist, Rachel said, “Between what I owed the label and our bills, we were 40 million dollars in the hole…but the tour got us in the black… and my ties with the label are done. The band doesn’t have to resign with them, if we don’t want to… anyhow,” Rachel rubbed her nose to wipe it dry, but it was futile. She just soaked her fingertips with wet, clear snot… “I just chose to get what I needed to provide for our family… and that was getting away on tour….” Rachel explained.

“You went off your meds because you couldn’t perform as well, huh?” Keith realized.

“Yeah…” Rachel confirmed. She gulped forcing herself to hold onto courage… “And I need to go off my meds again, that’s why I added talk therapy back to my calendar.”

“If we’re good financially… can’t you give music a break?” Keith asked angrily as he stood up, crossing his arm. He breathed heavily. Rachel knew he was trying to not express the volume of his rage entirely.

“I’m pregnant.”

Clenching the top of his hair Keith screamed loudly bulging the veins in his neck. Rachel got up, reaching out to him, but he put his hands up backing away from her.

“Don’t touch me,” he said huffing and speaking just above a whisper. As subtle tears glossed his eyes, he added, “I’m going to forgive you…”

He pivoted on one foot and walked out of the room. Rachel flopped back on to the bed. She curled into the fetal position and cried. She hated herself. She wanted to beat herself up. She wanted to cut up her arms. She wanted to drown herself in the tub. She wanted to die. As she cried she thought of hundreds of different ways to kill herself.

When she decided an overdose on a cocktail of her meds was the best way to go, she sat up. She picked up Keith’s cell phone, she bypassed the facial recognition and typed his numeral passcode… which was her birth month and birth day. She went into his camera and recorded a video…

“I can’t do this anymore… I’m not good enough for your love. I never will be… Take good care of Storm… I love you… And I know I’ll probably be in hell… But um… I hope I get to see you on the other side one day… But I can’t handle life anymore. It’s too much… I just need to die. I can’t be a burden to anyone… especially you… anymore… I love you…” Rachel set his phone back down on the bed as she got up.

She stood near her bed, facing the open door of the master bathroom. She had one thought, “God… if you are real, and you are the God of the Bible, and the only God in the universe, and if you love me, have Keith barge in here and holler purple ice cream…

The moment she took a step forward, the bedroom door flung open, and Keith charged into the room yelling, “Purple ice scream, purple ice cream, purple ice cream!”

Weak in the knees, Rachel collapsed, but Keith caught her, and they came to their knees together on the floor. He embraced her strongly and his hug brought deep relief to her soul. More importantly she radically comprehended that the God she was raised to believe in was real and that He never left her. Even when she chose to walk away from Him because she didn’t get what she wanted as a kid. Like she was free to reject God, her parents were free to not be together. Her mother was free to keep her away from her dad. Her mom was free to choose sickness and depression over believing God and getting healed. God never violates free will. He won’t always validate the choices people make with their free will, and He will always give people a chance to partake in His ways by following His lead.

10 Years Before Divorce

Rachel stood in the threshold of baby Serafina’s room. She watched Keith gently place her in the crib, sleeping peacefully. She just turned 5 months today.

For some reason, they didn’t worry and fret over Santi, he reminded them of a little Storm all over again…

But Serafina could be Skye’s twin… not a single day passed without Rachel checking in on her every hour. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, Rachel will tip toe to her room and check to see that breath in her body makes her little pot belly rise and fall, like a healthy baby girl.

Trying to find a sense of normal with life was tough…

Keith pushed for Franco to be actively involved in Santi’s life. Mr. Baptista left the road as a stagehand and works for the label as a sound mixer. And three days a week Santi went to Franco’s apartment to do life with him. The stranger part was that Santi called Keith— daddy and Franco— Frankie… neither gentlemen would lead Santi to say otherwise.

To stay sane… Rachel was on hiatus from music. Skeeter’s band disbanded and to stand in Rachel’s stead, Skeeter was temporarily the front runner for Byzantine Souls. Back when Rachel and Skeeter dated, he couldn’t sing for nothing, but being with Heidi must have changed things… he had a decent voice now.

Of course, music wasn’t out entirely… Rachel started writing worship music and leading worship at Keith’s church… America was eating up Rachel’s Kanye-West-Type-of-Conversion… though she never swore off secular music.

Life was good… until Rachel was convinced Keith was cheating on her… with his admin assistant. They finished each other’s sentences. They spent long nights together “prepping sermons”. They texted each other all the time and shared gifs, memes, videos, and jokes. On some dates, she would call with a ministry work emergency and Keith would ditch Rachel to run to her aid. And though she was supposed to stay away from Keith’s phone… she read their text messages to each other. He was going to her for advice all the time. He talked to her about how he was feeling. Every time Rachel tried to get him to open up, he shot her down. And when Rachel finally had him all to herself, they couldn’t feel more like strangers…

Rachel got pregnant on purpose hoping Keith having a baby with her would bring them closer together… but it hadn’t. In the beginning, it made things uglier. He questioned if the child was his… He made Rachel get a paternity test to confirm he was the father. Granted, Rachel had a child with another man while being married… but the Keith she knew wouldn’t allow himself to get so mistrusting if he didn’t have someone in his ear giving him a reason not to trust Rachel… it was his admin assistant…Mirvina…

5 Years Before Divorce

The sun shining brightly on her face woke her up. She stretched, naked underneath the covers. She rolled over sensing she wasn’t alone. He didn’t desert her and leave after all. Last night, they fought like old times. The destroyed the hotel room. The said awful, unforgivable things to each other. Then, they had great make up sex and fell asleep.

Seeing his bare back made Rachel smile ear to ear. He didn’t leave. He stayed…

She tried to remember why they fought… right… because he learned the truth… Storm was really his son. That she lied to him. He missed 18 years of his son’s entire life.

He rolled on his back and his beard nearly reached his belly button.

Reality hit her though… she shouldn’t have slept with Skeeter… She may have still loved him, but she was married. She was happy. She couldn’t break up her family and dive back into a relationship doomed to fail with Skeeter.

Storm knew Keith wasn’t his father biologically, but he made peace that he wold never know who his dad was… if he found out Uncle Skeeter was his dad all along, he would never forgive Rachel…

Sleeping with Skeeter on this last night of the reunion tour was a mistake. Now, she had to figure out how to keep it all under wraps…

2 Years Before Divorce

Abruptly, Rachel woke up at 3 am in the morning. She noticed Keith wasn’t in bed beside her. Something didn’t feel right. She noticed a note left on his pillow. She sat up telling the lights to turn on in the room. Biting her thumb nail, she read the note from Keith…

I appreciate you telling me the truth… I must admit that I hurt, you wait three years later to tell me you cheated on me for a second time… and you only told me, to get ahead of Skeeter revealing it in his second novel… I know I’m not perfect. That my emotional affair with Mirvina was wrong… but I am a man and I can only handle so much… I cannot do this anymore… I will always love you, but out of respect for myself, I cannot be married to you anymore…

Rachel’s worst fear came true. Refusing to believe he was really gone, she got up and checked his dresser and his closet… the clothes he wore majority of the time were gone…

1 Year Before Divorce

Serafina and Santi finished up milkshakes as they waited for Keith to come pick them up for the weekend. Though Keith had no legal rights to Santi, Santi still wanted to spend time with the man he called father. On Keith’s weekends with Serafina, Santi went too.

Instead of Keith, walking into the diner at 4 pm on the dot, it was Mirvina… He clearly began to move on…

Six Months Before Divorce

In a last ditch effort to save her marriage. Rachel released a song, based on a poem, she wrote the night Keith left her.

The song was nominated for 3 Mega American Music Awards. Though fans loved the begging ballad, Keith never reached out to Rachel.


Next Week on 12.29.2019-

come back for Part 7!

T - BSS - BG -REdo

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