Below, you will see the graphic for the blog’s next featured story:

Grace Trials

THE STORY

If you saw the post about Manuscript Monday, going into extensive detail about why I chose the story I selected, I mentioned a story I wrote called, “Girls of Grace”.

“Grace Trials” is “Girls of Grace” rebranded, revamped, an under-new-construction rewrite. I guess, this will be my revision quest and I’m inviting all of you along for the ride.

In the original “Girls of Grace”, it was about three girls who became friends through church. In all honesty, this story is slightly based on real life, but in totality it really isn’t.

Like, the main character is a little like me. One of her friends is a little like one of my strong-willed friends that battles depression. The main character’s other friend is this super-family-oriented-person who has OCD. All three of them go to a tiny, baptist church where everybody knows everybody.  Me and my two friends, all went to a tiny, baptist church where the three of us formed a friendship. Beyond that, that is as real as the story gets. Okay, most of the story takes place in the city where we all live…

But the main plot points, the scenarios that unfold, and events that take place… never happened to me or my friends in real life… to my knowledge.

This revamp, however, will be wildly different. I started the project in 2012. Seven years later, with the characters well developed and a plot with lots of options, the content will be richer.

SYNOPSIS

Lauren Rae Tyler – 18, Melissa Grace Russell – 21, and Makayla Johnson – 17, are best friends that are closer to each other than sisters. Through all the trials life hurls them into, they rally to be there for one another and see each other overcome their tribulation. But they know they can’t obtain any victories without God’s grace.

Grace Trials may be the name of Lauren’s dad’s ranch and church, but the “Grace Trials” make up the casebook that proves God’s grace is for those who believe and cannot be saved, delivered, or set free without the free grace of God. (Okay, you’re right – the Bible has already done that, and proves so… It’s great!)

DREAM-GOAL

Yes, I want this story turned into a movie too! Executively-produced by Kirk Cameron. Pray with me y’all! (I’d accept working with David AR White too.)

It’s odd that I want to work with him so much… like I’m not a fan girl of his… I don’t really watch a lot of his ministry videos, nor have I seen any of his latest Christian Film Productions.

I just want to work with him. I think it would be cool!

WARNING

This story will feature some hard to swallow material, but the topics shouldn’t be ignored and swept under the rug in the church anymore.

MY REQUEST

If you like it as you read it, share it with someone you think may enjoy it, or benefit from it in someway.

MY HOPE

Is that someone who never had faith before, find faith in Jesus.

Yes, this may be a fictional story, with fictional characters, but the God of the Bible is the only God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life… and in this little piece of fiction, God can save you or someone you’re praying for to be saved!

MANUSCRIPT MONDAY or STORY SUNDAY

At this point, I’m thinking neither, but we’ll see.

Thank you for joining this journey with me.


If you read my post,“Crossing the Finish Line”, then you heard about my story on LITNET called, “A Digital Age Courtship”. If you didn’t read that post or even if you did…

A Digital Age Courtship

The link below takes you directly to that story. ENJOY!

https://litnet.com/en/reader/a-digital-age-courtship-b106691?c=928921&p=1

GWENDOLYN

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She raised her champagne glass amongst her closest friends and said, “Here’s to 18 you ponies, I’m finally free!” The gals, guys, and nons toasted to her declaration by clanging their champagne glasses against each others. Then they sipped on the top dollar champagne Gwendolyn’s points could buy.

The Lounge was the place to hang out for the Synthesizers and the Elect (the unemployed and/or in occupation training for the Private Sector) in New Haven Public. The Night Club sat on the edge of the Public Sector, right at the walled border of the Private Sector. Inside, the walls were gray washed wooden panels. Jade marble floors with various cracks of gold. From the ceiling, hung green and clear glass bottle shaped lights that made it just decent enough to see two feet in front of you.

There was a long, black countertop bar to sit at, with black cushion top stools, on silver poles styled like barber chairs, bolted to the ground. In the center of the club, were black sectional lounge couches and chairs, with glass end tables to set drinks down. In the far back corner, across from the entrance and far from the bar, was a good size dance floor that had strobing, flashing neon lights pulsing to the beat of the music.

Monroe, Gwenie’s fabulous queer male bff, snuggled up beside her at the bar on an adjacent bar stool and asked, “Who will be joining us in the bedroom tonight?”

“What do you mean us?” Gwen smirked sipping on her bubbly treat in a glass.

“We always hook up on your birthday… it’s tradition. But you’re 18 now, so we have to make it interesting. No offense, but I’m bored with just you and me.” Monroe explained.

Eye-ing a male-like brunette at the end of the bar, wearing wire, aviator style eye-glasses. Who Monroe picked out was definitely Gwenie’s type male or female, but Gwenie wasn’t sure who she wanted to take home tonight.

She just broke up with Ness, who was the longest romantic relationship she had. Granted, it was only three months long, but she only had sex with Ness, which is huge because Gwenie didn’t believe in monogamy, but Ness did. They’d still be together if it were up to Gwendylon, but Ness decided at her final ID Synthesis Evaluation she was heterosexual, not bisexual. And although she was madly in love with Gwenie, she wanted to fall in love with a man.

Maybe it was best they broke up. Gwenie was fascinated with the Synthesizer process. As an offspring to a Philosopher and a Healer in the Private Sector, she couldn’t undergo ID Synthesis even though she really wanted to.

It used to be under debate during the Digital Age, Pre-Age-of-Chaos, that gender was psychological. Then they discovered for some people, it was biological. Shortly thereafter, regardless of what science had to say, gender became decision no matter what one’s psychological view of themselves was or what one’s biological make up was. What one decided to be gender wise, whether that was thought, feeling, or biology, that was what one became, and whoever had the money to pay for the process to transition, did.

That’s when everyone got the idea to raise theybies. Parents raised their kids to be gender neutral and let them decide around the age four or five what gender they wanted to be, and then just before puberty, they would begin the process to transition from one gender to the other.

Years later, this led to mass suicides, along with young people dying of sudden heart failure. The hormone therapy the trans kids would take as children, severely damaged their hearts, and later in life they needed heart transplants or they died of sudden heart-attacks. Suicides occurred because they regretted their choices from childhood. They wanted to transition back, but they either didn’t have the money or when they did, they were unsatisfied they still weren’t their gender from birth… they were eunuchs and not intentionally.

Because of this dark history, and because the Private Sector was the future of the Society, the kids were raised the gender they were at birth. Now, if a child was born as both sexes, the child was taken from the parents and placed in a Sanctuary amongst the Protected to undergo ID Synthesis later in life.

Now, Private Sector Kids weren’t discouraged from exploring their sexuality, but there was this expectation, they would get married, and have heirs to carry-on the legacy of their families. For the kids who identified more as gay or as lesbian, usually chose to be bi. They would marry the opposite sex, but would have any type of gender partner on the side. Polygamy was legal, but more of a Public practice than a Private one.

“Ooo, it looks like Mr. Delicious showed up after all.” Monroe said referring to Jon.

Gwenie leaped off the bar stool and stood on her toes waving to Jon outrageously. She called out to Jon. He noticed her and made his way across the high end lounge to greet her.

Quickly, she hugged him lingering a long time. Monroe joined the hug, but Jon jumped when Monroe groped his butt and that made the trio disperse.

“Who are you?!” Jon spun around to face Monroe, “And how do you identify?” He added holding out his hand appearing frazzled from being touched without giving permission.

“Sorry,” Monroe cringed. Lightly shaking Jon’s hands by the fingers, “I’m Monroe, Gwenie’s BFF, and I’m a black queer man, who is a bisexual none.”

“I’m Jon. A-,” and without getting the chance to state how he identified, Monroe interjected.

“A Synthesizer. I know all about you honey.”

Gwenie angrily glared at Monroe.

“And that stink eye is my cue to go. I’m gonna get my pony-butt out of here and go talk to that fine young man over there.” Monroe headed over to the brunette conquest he pointed out to Gwenie earlier.

“I’m sorry about Monroe. He has no boundaries. Both of his parents are Policymakers so he never has to worry about fines or convictions.” Gwenie’s excuse for her friend’s behavior didn’t make things less awkward. She held up her glass to Jon, “Care for some champagne, it’s on me?”

“No thank you.” Jon answered.

Gwenie sat back down a little disappointed. Jon politely took a seat beside her. He added, “I’ve been reading some ancient texts about how sacred the body is and we shouldn’t poison it with gluttony and by drunkardness.” Jon clarified why he said no.

“Have you ever gotten drunk, or high?” Gwenie questioned.

“No.”

“You have had sex though, right?”

“Yes.”

“With more than one person?”

“No.”

“Well, that can change tonight… if you want it to?” And not letting him answer, she grabbed him by both hands and dragged him over to the dance corner. Once they crossed the sound barrier the music blared so loud it was hard to hear one’s thoughts. It was amazing how technology worked nowadays. The entire lounge was quiet so people can hear each other talk, while the dance corner looked like people danced under lights with no music. After crossing the shield that looked like the air in the space you were in, you broke through the sound silencer, and stepped into the party scene.

Gwenie made sure to dance provocatively with Jon, and he didn’t mind when she groped him in places she had no business doing so. But when she would get close to him, he would back away.

She understood he was her father’s apprentice, and if her father ever caught Jon on top of her naked, Jon could kiss his training goodbye. Though Jon was training to become a Philosopher, he wouldn’t be a member of the Private Sector until he completed his training, accepted onto the Philosophy Panel, and sworn in by the Policymakers. That meant he couldn’t touch Gwenie naked for a while. She actually wasn’t sure how long the process would take. A new Philosopher hasn’t been sworn into the Panel for over 20 years, way before her time.

Jon fled the dance floor and escaped to the bathroom. Gwenie found a couple of other guys to dance with, which one of them or both of them, were going home with her tonight. If she couldn’t have Jon tonight, she was going to have someone like him… well… at least some type of manly male.

KYL

Who was Gwendolyn kidding? She found the best deal. Male in appearance, but still physically a woman. Gwenie couldn’t let her BFF down either. She chose Monroe and the brunette, Kyl, to come home with her for the night. Though Kyl played along with Monroe, it was obvious the whole time he was into Gwenie.

Monroe, wasn’t a cuddler, so he saw himself out after the fun was over. Kyl, however, stayed and snuggled all night.

They stayed up talking for a while. His six month evaluation was in two days, like Jon’s. And all he could talk about was Nix, his best bud from the Sanctuary. Nix was who he lost his virginity to and though he didn’t like having sex as a woman, he loved being with Nix. He didn’t understand why, it confused him.

“That’s because you’re in love with Nix, duh.” Gwenie stated the obvious.

“But Nix could never love me like this and no offensive to him, but I won’t love him as a man. Not my type at all.”

“When do you get hormone therapy?”

“Not until my final evaluation, after I complete ID Synthesis. I have to be confident of my choice.”

“So, you like being with women and you consider yourself straight?”

“I have for the last six months… but every once and while there are some guys that are just gorgeous… I don’t get why we have to live with labels.”

“They tried living without labels before… remember? It led to total chaos!” Gwenie giggled. Kyl joined in the laughter.

“You maybe wouldn’t let me take you out on a date sometime… would you?” Kyl asked staring at her eyes locked on each other as they lied there on the bed facing inward.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to date Synthesizers anymore. My last relationship ended badly… plus… I could see myself falling for you hard…. which I don’t think is bad.” Exhaling, Gwenie sat up bringing her knees to cover her chest. “But my brother Garrison is married to a former Synthesizer and though Bailey is a woman now-,” freaked out Kyl cut Gwenie off as he jolted to sit up.

“Wait, Bailey Angelcrest is your sister-in-law?!” Kyl panickedly asked.

“Yes…”

“Bailey’s my sister!” Kyl hurried out of the bed and quickly got dressed to leave.

“Relax, were not related… no big deal…”

“No, it’s not that… But she might think I hooked up with you on purpose to piss her off.”

Curious, Gwen lied down on her stomach and bent her knees, crossing her ankles in the air, and she asked, “Why would she think you would sleep with her sister-in-law to piss her off?”

“She came to me last month asking me to donate my eggs to her.”

“Freaky! My brother came to be asking if I would be his surrogate last week. Not like any time soon. After I like get married and have my own kid or something. Still not seeing how us having sex conflicts with their plans?”

“It doesn’t… It’s just family is really important to Bailey and if we ever got to a non-talking basis, it would really upset her.”

Gwenie slowly got up and sat on her knees wrapping herself in the blue sheet. “Then how about we don’t date and we don’t hookup again. No one has to know this ever happened.”

“Okay.”

REUNION

Holding hands with their fingers intertwined, Gwenie escorted Kyl to the door. The front door opened unexpectedly as Jon rushed inside, abruptly colliding with the two. Immediately, Kyl expressed immense joy to see Jon and leaped to wrap him in a hug and to kiss him on the cheek. Gwenie observed how Jon wasn’t offended by this man hugging him intimately.

Still lingering in their embrace, Jon mentioned it was very good to see Kyl, but he referred to him as Lore.

“My father isn’t up yet. Why don’t the two of you go to the sitting room and catch up?” Gwenie suggested.

“I have to set up for my session with the Philosopher. I-,” Jon tried to make excuses, but Gwenie took them away.

“I’ll take care of it. I’ll get Helga to bring you some coffee.” Gwenie said glaring at Jon making it clear he would sit with Kyl and catch up.

Reluctantly, Jon handed his army green messenger bag to Gwenie, and he took Kyl by the hand and he led Kyl down the hall to the sitting room.

Gwenie observed how feminine Kyl was with Jon as to where Kyl was quite masculine with her. Maybe Kyl wasn’t male or female, maybe he was gender queer…

KEEPING PROMISES

Upstairs in her father’s study, the largest room in the entire mansion, was filled from the floor to the ceiling with shelves of books. The was also an additional room with hundreds of servers only Philosophers had access to for their studies, and the offsite access portals were carefully guarded in each Philosopher’s home. It was said the world’s history of perspectives on life, was housed in the homes of the current Philosophers. After all, it was their duty to give the Society guidance on how to live life, and to offer a compass of morality to a growing grave gray world.

Gwenie pulled the sacred text out of Jon’s bag that he was assigned to study. Holy Bible. She was shocked her father let it leave the house. At one time, the Holy Bible was the number one sold book in the world, and everything in it was believed to be true or used to understand truths about the human psyche. Two old religions used the Bible or some form of it. Judaism and Christianity. The Qu’ran was written after the Bible, though there used to be debate about that. But Islam was hijacked from Christianity and Judaism, and it was a very different version of God depicted then in the other two religions. Though Judaism didn’t accept Christianity, Christianity was an extension of Judaism. The Bible caused a lot of famous wars throughout the history of humanity.

Gwenie was not supposed to know this much about the Bible. She’s not allowed to touch it, let alone look at it. Every Bible and any variation of it (Judaism and Islam Texts) were destroyed and only one copy of each translation was kept, divided amongst the Philosophers.

She thought it was strange the Bible seemed weathered and used. The edges and corner seemed charred like it was pulled from a fire. That was when Gwenie noticed the Code and Conduct of New Haven Philosophers was in the bag too. That leather bound book was crisp and fresh, looking like new. To play it safe, Gwenie stuck the Bible back in the bag, and, but the book that was clearly her father’s she placed on the desk.

Then she hung his bag on the lone standing, black iron coat rack, by the door. From the closet, she pulled out two yoga mats and laid them on the floor by the fire place. On the mantle, she lit the incense, and told Plexa, the House A.I., to play meditation music and to dim the lights.

As she walked by the coat rack, going to leave, the lights flickered, the music cut off, and the messenger bag fell onto the floor open, allowing the Holy Bible to fling out and to flip open. Pages from the ancient text starred up at Gwenie resting at her feet. Curiosity drew her to take a knee before the ancient book and to peer inside. The words nearly jumped off the page as she read:

God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son to save them. That whosoever should believe in the son, should have everlasting life. For he came to save the world, not to judge it.

Her heart raced extremely fast causing blood to rush to her head, and causing her temples to pulsate. An energy she never felt before, even while mediating, invaded the room. It was different than all the other energies. It was electric, yet warm, and it was peaceful.

What does it mean to be saved? She thought.

Then suddenly she felt like an awful, wretched person who needed to be recused from her filthiness. Though she couldn’t define what it was about her that was dirty, but she felt stained to her soul and she wanted her soul made clean.

Not really understanding why, she whispered, “Son of God, save me. I believe in the son and that he came for me.” Freaked out she covered her mouth with her hands. Then she recalled a memory from her childhood.

A memory of her grandfather, her mother’s father, who was also a Philosopher. One day, he came to visit, just after Gwenie’s sixth birthday. He was arguing with her father about a new policy in this very den. The door was cracked open and she listened from the outside in the hallway with her brother.

Her father got upset and fled the study angrily. Gwenie and Garrison remained hidden to avoid punishment from their father. Garrison ran off to his room once their father made it down the long winding staircase, but Gwenie boldly went inside to see her grandfather.

When the old man noticed her, he hunched over to meet her eye level. She hugged his neck and kissed him on the cheek. She asked him what the fight was about. As he stood back up he sighed, and said, “Well, mankind is trying to erase God, and well, frankly, I don’t want any part of it.”

“Who is God?” Little Gwenie asked.

“When you’re older, the Philosopher’s will tell you God is the Universe or some collective consciousness inside of you. That you are a god and that meditating and spirit guides will help you find life’s answers… But that’s just making the latent power of your soul strong so you can’t hear the Spirit of God to learn the truth.”

Little Gwenie understood nothing the old man meant, but she asked a simple question anyway, “What is the truth?”

“That there is one way to God and it isn’t within yourself. His name is Jesus, He is the Son of God, and when you believe in Him, He saves your soul. Until you know Jesus, you’re a Sinner… a dirty person not clean enough to spend forever with God. But because God loved us, and still loves all us dirty people, he sent Jesus to save us. And when we believe in Jesus, we aren’t judged to die, we are gifted eternal life, which is a life beyond this one.”

“Oh…” Gwenie tried her best to get it.

Surprisingly swiftly, her grandfather picked her up off the ground and rested her on his hip. He looked at her face to face, “If you ever read the truth, and the Spirit of God shows up, trust your heart and believe in Jesus. You may lose your life here, but you’ll gain your life forever, and trust me Gwenie, it’s worth it. Promise me you’ll do your best to trust and believe when the Holy Spirit invites you to know God through Jesus?”

Connecting with her present reality she realized what was happening. As her heart said yes to the truth, yes to the Son of God, and yes to the Spirit of God, the all encompassing energy went from around her to being inside of her, and how dirty she felt on the inside disappeared and she felt clean.

A euphoria better than an orgasm on molly flushed her whole being and a giant sense of peace filled her soul to the core. She had never felt like this in her entire existence! She wanted to tell everyone about this Son of God from the Holy Bible, when a still small voice said, “Not yet… you must fulfill your ministry before you can tell anyone you believe.”

And she wasn’t creeped out by this voice. She knew that she knew that she knew it was the voice of God. Hurriedly, she picked up the Bible and stuffed it back in Jon’s bag and rehung it on the rack.

The meditation music started playing again and she left the room.

Jon looked like a happy little kid on Xmas Morning. He took Gwenie by the arms in the hall and shook her excitedly, as he exclaimed, “Lore wants to stay friends! We’re meeting up at the Lounge tonight to be wing-buddies!”

Gwenie brushed his arms away by swooping her forearms in a circular motion. “Do you even know what wing-buddies are?”

“We share me wings and drinks… I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ve just been pray-,” Jon suddenly fell silent. He stuttered to finish his thought, “I me- I go- I do- I- I-…” he sighed.

Gwenie patted him on the stomach and said, “Enjoy some wings on me, I got a feeling you won’t soar as a wing-buddy. Your game is weak.” As she walked away she brushed her pointer finger from his stomach to his back and followed her instinct to trace a fish-like symbol of his left shoulder behind his heart. “You’re all set up in the study,” she added.

Quickly, he turned to face her and his eyes bugged out, “You’re a be- be-,” he stuttered again.

Gwenie put her pointer finger over her lips and hushed him to keep their secret. That was her way of telling him she believed in Jesus. She didn’t know why it was important to him, but she just knew that it was. She winked at him as she spun away from Jon.

The Philosopher came out of his room, separate from the Healer, dressed in loose soft tan pants, and a white V-neck T-shirt. His graying black hair put up in a man bun. His gray and white beard long like Santa Claus’s full. As usual he was barefoot with teal nail polish on his toes. He wore beaded bracelets that matched the burnt orange prayer beads around his neck.

As Gwenie passed her father by, she stopped to hug him and to kiss him on the lips. He said good morning to her and wished her a happy day. When he saw Jon in the hallway, he snapped in his sassy, effeminate voice for Jon to meet him in the study.


Note from the Author

Soon I’ll post a video about what happened between Part 1 and Part 2 that isn’t written to read.

I’ll confess…I brought Jesus into this faster than I originally planned.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment or to send me a message. I kindly ask you keep it as positive as possible though, yet still being honestly you.

See you for part three next week!


 

…10 Years Forward…


“Homecoming”

I’m honored to do Genie’s hair. Brings back memories of doing hair while Derek and I were both in college. He was finishing up his Bachelor’s in Religious Studies and I was getting my Master’s in Education. I worked at a high end salon, so I was racking in a lot of dough. Derek was working two jobs on top of going to school. And when I wasn’t at the salon, I was taking care of our girls… we barely saw each other.

But now, I work at Brink as a Math Teacher and Derek works at a Christian School as a Chaplain. He still works at warehouse some nights and on the weekends, but we’re not crazy busy like we used to be. He’s currently working on his Masters and wants to get his Doctorate eventually. I’m amazed at where we are!

“Wha-la!” I say spritzing her tight, pulled back bun with hairspray to hold it in place all night. I really didn’t do anything fancy.

She stands up and gives me the mightiest hug for the skinniest girl. Then she holds my shoulders and looks me in the eye, “I had a dream you and Derek had a baby boy.”

With an eye roll, “Derek and I are happy with both our girls… we don’t need anymore kids.”

We really couldn’t afford that right now.

“I’m just saying… he’s adorable! He looks like Papa Trick.”

Julie is pasty white with straight black hair and hazel eyes. Priscilla has straight red hair and ice blue eyes with freckles. She’s trying to tell me Derek and I are going to have a kid with brown skin and curly hair? HA!

“What are you smoking?” I joke.

“I know this is hard to accept but accept it!” She says keeping her cheery smile. She takes her navy-blue ball gown off its rack that helped it hang on the door of her closet. The bell of the gown embellished with faux diamonds and pearly-looking jewels. The sleeves of the gown matching blue but also see-through.

“I’ll wait for you downstairs with everyone else.” I say as I leave.

I was prepared to go through the whole safe sex talk. I know that makes me a little hypocritical as a Christian… but I think it’s better to have that conversation, but Genie’s pretty on fire for God… which I know we’re all prone to falling and sinning at times, but her heart desires what God wants for her life. At least I’m pretty sure, if her heart isn’t in that place, she is a GREAT actress.

In the foyer, Bobby lectures Oliver, Genie’s date, about when to be back and all the things father’s lecture their daughter’s date about. I picture Derek doing the same thing in like seven years when Julie goes to her first school dance. O my God! That’s only seven years away… I feel OLD. Okay, I’m only 26, but I have a 9-year-old! All my friends are just getting married and starting to have kids…

Xzavia, Bobby’s wife, has Albany on the home video-chat system. She’s away at college in Columbus, OH… That’s so far away from us, but we’ll see her at Christmas.

I purposely step in the line of sight to steal the attention.

Albany: Savvy!

Me: Hey Al!

Albany: I miss you.

Me: I miss you more! I can’t wait for Christmas… why aren’t you coming home for Thanksgiving again?

Albany: I’m going to spend it with Philip’s family. They’re right here in town.

Me: Aw… I forgot you have a serious boyfriend. Stop growing up! Just stop!!!

Albany: Whatever! You can take it.

Me: No, I can’t… (I get all teary-eyed.)

Albany: Are you crying? Are you finally pregnant again?

Me: Did Genie tell you about her dream?

Albany: No, we were praying for our families in class last month and I had a vision of you having a boy. He looks like your dad, just a lighter version. His curls are so gorgeous. You’ll finally have a kid that looks like you.

Me: (Trying not to be offended I say🙂 Julie and Priscilla look like me! We have the same eyes and noses.

Albany: Whatever, your son is gorgeous! I can’t wait until you find out your pregnant.

Me: D and I are done having kids!

From the top of the stairs, Genie yells, “No, you’re not!”

Looking at Albany on the hand held  video-chat sphere, Xzavia comes to my rescue, “Stop pestering her. Prophecy can change according to obedience, are you sure you were released to share that with Savvy right now?”

Albany: (wincing from shame) Oops. Sorry Savvy. I love you.

Clearing her throat loudly and theatrically fake, Genie directs everyone’s attention to her. We applaud her and tell her how beautiful she is as she descends the stairs. She walks up to Oliver, who nervously tells her how pretty she is. He puts the red rose corsage he brought on her right wrist.

In front of the door, she stands locking elbows with Oliver. Oliver’s black bowl-cut hair is slicked with a lot of moose to stay in place. He wears a gray suit with a navy-blue bow tie and a burgundy dress shirt. They smile for photos. I don’t get why Genie died her beautiful blonde hair jet black, but she wanted a different look. I never pictured Genie dating a Native American, but they look cute together. I for sure thought she would date a Mexican with her love of Mexican culture.

I remember when she was tiny playing princess in Bobby’s living room! I can’t handle this!!!

After pictures, I swoop in and hug her not wanting to let her leave. I whisper in her ear, “Guard your heart…” She totally knows what I mean by that.

Derek is the youth pastor at church, that we all go to together, and he preached a sermon about sexuality and purity. He preached when we guard our hearts we’re holding dear all the promises of God, and when we trust God and follow in His precepts, when we receive God’s promises it gives glory to God and prevents us from damaging our souls or hurting others. He emphasized sex out of marriage compromises our relationship with God. Because we’re designed for marriage and only meant to have sex within marriage, doing it outside of marriage damages our heart, but within marriage sex ignites our hearts and helps us build healthy concepts of commitment, love, and intimacy. I wish I heard a sermon like that as a teenager… Even though Derek and I didn’t have sex until our wedding night, this night ten years ago, which was like 4 months after Julie was born… I think Derek and I would have just had a smoother first year of marriage, if we heard the message he preached on “Guarding Our Hearts” at Genie’s age…

“Can you let go now? I don’t want to show up after all the fun is over.” She says loudly.

I release her drying my tears on my sleeve.

“Oh, Happy Anniversary! Why are you hear and not with your husband?” Genie wonders.

“He had to work… we’re gonna celebrate next weekend. Thank you.”

Bobby embraces me on the left and Xzavia embraces me on the right, as we stand outside by the door and watch the young couple get in Oliver’s mustang and drive away to one of the best nights of their high school career.

“Belated Happy Anniversary”

Half awake I feel a warm light appear in front of my face. The smell of pine firewood hits my nose and I perk up suddenly opening my eyes. To my wonderful surprise, it’s Derek holding a new candle of my favorite sent to my nose. I look at the alarm clock and it’s 4:13 am. He must have just gotten in.

“Happy Anniversary… Have I told you lately… I love you so much.” He set the candle down on my night stand and kisses me.

He breaks away and goes to stand up, but I hold him by the head, “Are you coming to bed?”

“I’m all sweaty and musky from lifting packages all night. Don’t you want me to shower first?”

“You can shower afterwards.” I kiss him back.

He pulls away to gain clarity, “You mean I’m actually getting lucky tonight?”

“So, you don’t want to then?” I tease.

Quickly, he stands up and whips off his shirt and then leaps over me and lands on his side of the bed. His long locks cover his face like a curtain. I turn over and I hover his head. I wipe the hair out of his eyes, strand by strand. For a good while, we just smile and stare at each other. He doesn’t look that different than he did 10 years ago. He’s a little thicker. I remember after military school for two years he had a six pack but now it’s a pouch… I’m very grateful he isn’t going bald like his dad…

But beyond his looks, I’m so in love with who he is on the inside now. I love the man of God he is. I love the father he is to our girls. I love the type of son he is to his parents. The type of brother he is to his siblings and to mine. I love the kind of neighbor he is to everyone around us. I love how he treats me like I’m his queen, but he leads me like a king. I love him more than I did yesterday. And yesterday, I loved him a lot because he picked up an extra shift at work to earn more money for our family vacation next June.

He lifts his head to kiss me, but I back up.

“What? You changed your mind?”

“Genie, Albany, and Xzavia have had visions of us having another baby… and I know we can’t really afford that right now?”

“Well, I wasn’t planning on going unprotected tonight.”

Yeah, we’re that couple that still uses condemns… Birth control makes me sick… we tried many different kinds but I’m one of the women in the world that gets terribly sick under hormone manipulation… and neither one of us like the idea of getting fixed… I’m usually pretty good about tracking my ovulation and make sure we avoid making love on the days I ovulate to be extra safe, but I don’t know… I kind of want another baby.

“You don’t have to tonight… if you think we can manage the expenses as they come up…”

“Oh, we can handle anything together. Are you sure?”

“Yeah…” I say right as I kiss him.

“The AMAs”

Tyler Swipe, who some how transformed into a pop star after rising to fame as a teen country star, announces who the New Artist of the Year is, “Kaylie Johnson!”

Julie and Priscilla leap off the couch and start jumping radically all over the floor. Julie does a somersault in between the coffee table and the TV yelling, “SHE DID IT!”

“Aunt Kaylie won! Aunt Kaylie FREAKING WON!” Cillie shouts exuberantly.

I’m like crying… This is the moment she’s been working for the past ten years. She moved to Nashville after high school. She would call me after every rejection, every fallen-through deal, and every disappointment for encouragement and prayer. When she took the huge risk to transition from a Christian artist to a Secular artist, she got a lot of criticism from our circle of Christian friends. But last September, her album dropped and beat out some of the top artists in the country. Her single “Love & Freedom” still sits at number one. Her album is the most downloaded across all platforms. Over half the songs on her album have been featured on TV shows, and in films…

Kaylie wears a stunning red dress, he long hair in a fancy fishtail braid, with sparkles and jewels woven in. She hugs the songtress Tyler Swipe and accepts her AMA.

Crying joyfully, she wipes her tears, “O dear Jesus my Messiah… I don’t have any words… but… Thank you! Thank you God, thank you to my producers Lauren and Ed, to all the musicians who played on this album… thank you to Neill, my husband… I love you honey… Oh, and I have to thank my bestie- Savvy! I’m so grateful for this and I would not be hear today if I did not trust the path God sent me down. My glory is God’s glory. Oh- and thank you Julie and Cillie, your prayers got me through- now go to bed!”

The girls freak out they got mentioned on national TV.

God’s goodness can be overwhelmingly beautiful.

“Cash Moneymaker, Future NBA ALL-STAR”

“Let’s go defense!” I blare at the top of my lungs.

“Cash Money!” Trick hollers.

It’s nice that we’re all here. Derek, my girls, Bobby, Genie, and Xzavia, Netty, and Deshaun, and Arnie and Jessica. Trick too, my dad, who is the best. I still can’t bring myself to call him dad like Netty and Arnie, but he’s cool with me calling him Trick. So… after Julie was born, I did start writing him letters, but even after he got out of prison we didn’t connect until my grandma, his mom, got sick. Julie was five and Priscilla was three. Julie has always been close to my grandma since she was born, so over the last week of her life we camped out at the hospital and Julie bonded with my dad right away. I knew there was no way to avoid him anymore.

Cash takes after his dad. He has a beautiful set of curls and yet, he shaves them all off to sport a bald look… He’s so tall for 13… 6’0”! College scouts are already recruiting him. He plays varsity for the high school he’ll be attending next year as point guard. Last week an analyst on ESPN brought him up and says he’s the second coming of Kobe Bryant…

Watching him on the court dazzles us.

One-minute left in the 4th quarter, we’re down by two points, and the other team has the ball. Cash didn’t play most of the game because he hasn’t been listening to the coach. He’s in right now, because he’s the best player defensively and offensively. He’s also the number one stealer in the region right now.

Sure enough, Cash steals the ball from the opposite team’s point guard. He drives to the hoop. On his way up for a lay-up he gets fouled, but he still makes the basket. He makes the extra point putting the team ahead by one.

 The clock slowly whines down, between the fouls and the time outs and the free throw shots, from both sides.

Ten seconds to go, we’re down by two, our ball. Full court pressure after the ball gets passed in to Cash. Cash spins around his defenders and rushes to the top of the key at the three-point line, he pops his shot off and it goes in putting us up by one!!! Yes.

They put full court pressure on the other team and the clock runs out before they cross over to their side of the court. We WON!

The whole family high-fives and hugs as we cheer about the victory. Cash leaves his teammates to join in our family hug. We don’t care that he smells and is drenched in sweat. We put him in the center of us and smother him with love!

This is one portrait of family I never pictured. I wanted a close family like this my entire life, since I was a little girl. We are far from perfect. We fight a lot and get on each other nerves, but there’s no doubt any of us love each other. We are all alcohol and drug free. We spend every holiday together. We get together once a month and we take giant family vacations together. We attend the same church. We live in the same city, and whether we’re blood or not, because we’re family, we’re there for each other, no matter what… All things are possible with God.

And my nephew will make it to the NBA if my prayers have anything to with it!

As we release Cash to go back to his team, Trick announces, “Pizza on me at Mama’s EVERYBODY!”

Trick does really well financially. He wrote a book about his life and his conversion to Christ while he was prison. He goes around the world sharing his testimony and preaching the gospel. And last month he just sold his book’s rights to Pureflix so they can make a movie about his life. Makes me wonder if I should write a story about my life… no one would believe I’m not on drugs, not a smoker, and not an alcoholic. That I’m a teen mom that lives in upper-middle class with a Master’s Degree. That I’m married to my childhood sweetheart. That I survived rape, kept and raised my rapist’s baby, and put my rapist behind bars… No one would believe my story.

“I Miss You”

Ten years ago today, a time of tremendous gloom

I sat in your hospital room

I witnessed you rededicate your soul to the One

Who bled, died, and rose again for you- the Son

Messiah Jesus- our glorious savior

Who won your heart through a painful cross labor

I’m at peace knowing you’re in paradise

I can’t imagine the glory you know and the size

Of the smile on your face

In that wonderful place

I have so many unfulfilled wishes really

I wish you got to hold Julie and Cillie

I wish you were there when Derek and I said I do

I wish I could hold you and kiss you and tell you I love you

I don’t really remember telling you that

And even though you put me through a lot of crap

I’m so grateful we had that best time together

For your finale in life, that it was better

Than our ugly beginning

I know you know in life now I’m winning

But with all my blessings- it doesn’t change this fact

I MISS YOU. I MISS YOU. I MISS YOU.

“Truth Prevails”

I stare at the letter from Kurt. He got sentenced for 15 years but he’s up for parole due to good behavior. He claims to have found Christ and his letter is filled with a long-winded apology. He wants me to be a character witness for him at his hearing! I believe he’s changed, but I don’t want to help him get out sooner. He wants to meet Julie too.

Now, we’ve told Julie that Derek isn’t her birth father. We told her that Kurt was and that he wasn’t a very good man and he was in prison for something bad that he did. We did not tell her about the horrendous act that led to her conception. We’re waiting until she’s older and more mature to handle that reality. We’re not lying to her, we’re just withholding part of the truth.

For the past year, I’ve allowed Julie and Kurt to exchange letters, but Julie’s never expressed she wants to meet him. She’s never referred to Kurt as her father. She tells her best friend Stacey that Kurt her is sperm donor dad. She came up with that take all on her own, after she watched a PBS special about IVF and egg and sperm donating in America, and how laxed our restrictions are on how often people can donate their genetic material. She may be 9, but at times she’s like 30.

I don’t know what to do… I don’t think I can handle this right now. Christmas is coming up, Derek and I just found out we’re pregnant for a third time- I really don’t why I let my sisters manipulate me into this pregnancy, and I have the classrooms from hell this year!

God, what do I do?

GO.

I laugh.

Julie walks past me and sits down at the kitchen table, and she set her backpack on the tabletop. Cillie follows her lead and sits next to her. They pull their school iPads out and log in to start their homework.

I snap out of it and put the letter in the junk drawer.

“What do you both want for a snack, before dinner?”

“A peanut butter and banana sandwich.” Julie asks.

“That’s weird!” Cillie says sassily to her big sis. “I just want PB&J mommy,” in a sweet girl tone to me.

That was Kurt’s favorite snack…

“Have you ever had a peanut butter and banana sandwich, Julie?”

“No, but Daddy Kurt says it’s is favorite snack and he misses it.”

“How come Julie has two daddies and I just have one? Paulie has two daddies too, but they live together, but he doesn’t have a mommy… that must suck.”

“Cillie, watch your mouth.”

I try to process Julie calling Kurt dad and wanting to eat a snack like him as I gather the ingredients. It’s so much easier to talk about forgiveness and moving forward when you don’t have to face the person who hurt you… I mean, I know I don’t have to worry. He has to register as a sex offender and he can never be alone with Julie, but I can’t stop my heart from racing with panic…

DON’T BE AFRAID.

Yeah, I don’t have to be afraid.

“Ooo! There are beautiful angels surrounding you mommy!” Cillie exclaims. She’s a seer. She sees angels all the time and she’s been getting visions about her baby brother like crazy. She told us his name the other day, Rodney, which before then we couldn’t choose between that name or River for a boy and Delany or Laney for another girl. We’re very private when discussing baby names not revealing the name until the seven month, but with prophetic kids and family members you can’t keep anything secret.

“Yeah, mom, God sent His messengers to help you be okay with Daddy Kurt’s letter. So are you okay with going to see him?” Julie wonders…

The mail was in the house, waiting on the kitchen island counter when I got in the door… The girls came in after me and there’s no way Julie could know about the letter let alone know what it was about…

Okay God… I will go… I’ll speak on his behalf but God… just keep me sane and my girls safe…

Both my girls get up and race over to me. They hug me as I start crying.

“It’s okay mommy.” Cillie says.

“You don’t have to go if it’s too hard.” Julie says.

Laughter tickles our hearts and as I crouch low we just keep laughing in the Holy Ghost. They smother me in kisses on my cheeks. Then Julie hands me the kitchen hand towel to wipe my tears.

“I’m okay… How did I get blessed with the best girls?!”

“Because God is too good!” They shout in sync.

…Back to the Present…


“God is Too Good”

I want to write a poem but I can’t really settle on rhyme and meter… But just thinking about God’s goodness, blows my mind… I went to church with Derek and Kaylie last week and I learned why awful things happen to people.

We live in a fallen world and we all have free will, because God loves everyone unconditionally, He will not override anyone’s freewill. Unless we submit our will to pursue after His will, is when He’ll interfere in our affairs and impact the earth because He gave authority of the Earth to us.

When we have relationship with God and we live our lives for Him, we build the Kingdom on the Earth. Through loving people like He loves us is how we change our world and bring people to Him. We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to listen and to trust Him and have faith everything we go through has a purpose that will make God’s Kingdom bigger. As believers we are one big family and our job is to add to the family God has designed and to build a home for God on the earth.

I have to forgive the jerk, Kurt- I have to forgive Kurt… Because Jesus died for all of us, he deserves forgiveness. I have no idea how I can forgive him… but I know with God… anything is possible.

I think last night I had like a vision of my future… Ten years from now… I don’t remember anything but the names of my kids… I think… nope… I don’t remember. I have immense peace! Whatever life throws at me, God is with me, and He will never leave me or forsake me!

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me.

And I must be this way because Netty’s been praying for me… probably Derek’s prayers too… And well Kaylie’s as well… who cares! Jesus is the best friend I’ve ever had… greater than Derek and Kaylie put together.

I don’t hate my life anymore. I’m sad my mother is dying. I’m sad I don’t know my dad. But I got this hope, knowing everything is going to get better. I have a purpose now. And that purpose is living life with God, after all He made humanity because He wanted to enjoy community with us (Rev. 4:11).

I think I’m going to write a book about my life… or at least blog about it… so if anyone suffered like I did or do… they know there’s real hope. Not the kind of hope where you wish for things to be better, but with hope that confidently knows something better is COMING!


Author’s Note

Originally, “Bussing It” was going to be 12 parts. But I cut it short, when I incorporated the flash-forward, I felt like it offered enough to showcase the direction Savvy was going to take with her life.

I was seriously thinking about Savvy putting her first child in adoption, but I decided against that. I felt like a stronger story of forgiveness prevailing that way. But I’m pro-adoption…

This story is the first Story Sunday where I have campaigned like crazy on social media and the first series where I was very adamant about being consistent. I only broke once by failing to post a part one week, but life happened and I didn’t plan enough to make up for it.

I’ve had this idea since 2012. There’s many different versions on my flash drives. The only part I used from those other versions are the characters and the stories that Savvy told her little sisters. In one version, I was going to have Savvy grow up to be a famous children’s author and I think based on this version, we can see she definitely followed some path of writing in life, but I left it very open-ended as to where that goes.

In all the other versions but this one, Savvy and Derek were going to break up and he was going to die in  a car accident and or a drug overdose. But I really fell in love with this idea of the two of them forever and never separating until death from a ripe old age.

Originally, she was going to be pregnant by Derek and not Kurt. Originally Kurt was really sweet and Bobby was the child molester, but somehow those roles changed and I’m okay with that.

As usual I have people getting saved in my story because salvation is the best and I love seeing the power of that even in a fictional context. I think I’ve used the power of conversion too much. For the next one, we’ll have a series with already saved people!

Thank you so much for reading this serious. If you loved reading it, feel free to share it with someone you think would enjoy reading it!

If you have any questions for me, drop them in the comments section, and I will respond as soon as I can.

I know Disney uses the slogan “Dare to Dream”… and I don’t know how long they’ve been using that, but I thought of the for story title back in 2013/2014, and I feel like I came up with it first… but I have no proof and I very well could be wrong. But I dare you to dream and to never give up on your dream, you have that dream for a reason, and you are meant to fulfill it. God will show you how to do it the best way! And if God crushes your dream, he has something better in mind because He knows you the best!

Best regards,

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“My Boys”

Cash sleeps peacefully in his car seat in the back. I can’t avoid looking in the review mirror to watch him sleep. His mop of maroon red hair reminds me of Patrick, dear old dad. For a second, I wonder how he holds up in prison.

Arnie talks just above a whisper not to wake Cash Moneymaker up. That name, right? I’m surprised the hospital let them walk out of with an infant named CASH MONEYMAKER.

“Thanks for coming to dinner with us tonight. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen my favorite little sister-cousin.”

I hate it when he calls me that… An abhorrent reminder of our terrible family tree.

“Yeah. It was nice. It’s a bummer Jessica couldn’t join us.”

Arnie sighs as he slowly rolls to a stop at a red light. “You know why she couldn’t join us?” He questions with hand gesture air quotes. I’m not sure if he’s really asking or being rhetorical… He continues without my response. “She’s out with her girls… enjoying her youth while she’s young! She don’t cook, clean, or take care of Cash. I do all that. She never picks up her phone. She gets in late at night. If I didn’t work overtime, we wouldn’t be making ends meet because she doesn’t chip in with her check at all… Jessica couldn’t join us because she’s a ghost!”

That sounds rough.

The light turns green and he looks back at Cash through the review mirror as he drives forward.

“I was going to break up with Jessica the night she told me she was pregnant; did you know that?”

I quietly shake my head no and moan subtly, “Nah-ah.”

“You know I only married her thinking about what my mom might of wanted… did you know dad didn’t marry my mom until after I was born? Netty was the only one born in wedlock…” He chuckles. “They of course told everyone they were married when they moved in together, but they weren’t yet.” He adds.

It’s weird. Our father had children with a set of sisters… Aunt Betty got breast cancer, fought it for three years, and died right before Arnie’s 16th birthday. Arnie and Netty went to go live with dad’s mom- Grandma Patricia. Aunt Betty never kept Arnie and Netty away from Grandma Pat, but Jewel never lets me see her. Maybe if I ask, I could go see her.

“Not to change the subject,” and by not trying to I totally am trying to, “how is Grandma Pat?”

“Good. Really good. She asked about you last week, I told her all the cool things you have going on and I left out all the drama- like the baby, D, and Aunt Jewel dying.”

“I get I disappointed everyone by getting pregnant as a teen too, but ironically, they baby, D, and my mom are the three main things giving me hope.”

“You really gonna marry D? Just because he knocked you up?”

“No… I mean sort of… I mean, D and I are going to get married one day any way, but due to this, we’re moving up our timeline.”

“You should put the baby up for adoption.” He says bluntly as he turns onto the street that leads to Bobby’s house.

“Well, tonight was great up until right now! Not everyone is like you, okay? D, is not you. D and I are nothing like you and Jess. I’ve been in love with D since we first met as kids. My love for him only gets stronger over the years. I love him more now than I did before I was pregnant. You have no idea the lengths he would go for me, how much he has already sacrificed for me, and how much more he is giving up for my sake. Sometimes, I think he’s too good for me, but I’m wired to love him, and if I don’t have to live without him, I won’t. Marriage wasn’t even on my mind, but he proposed to me. He got his parents blessing, he got my mom’s okay, and our families are surprisingly behind us. Life is always going to be hard, much of it will suck, but its not so much about where you’re going in life, but who is on the bus with you, bussing it through life with you. Derek is with me. Only death will separate us.”

The minute Arnie stops in front of Bobby’s house. I get out and slam the car door. Cash wakes up crying. As much as it sucks to disturb Cash from a peaceful slumber, I get satisfaction in charging away from Arnie with the final say in my court.

“Going Once, Going Twice… Sold?”

I stand amazed. I marvel at the beautiful, jungle styled nursey at Netty’s and Deshaun’s that used to be the office, across from the room I stayed in…

“We want you and the baby to stay with us.” Deshaun says.

That’s surprising.

“For as long as you need. We want school to come first to you.” Netty adds.

“You can focus on school and motherhood…” Deshaun falls silent.

“And if motherhood proves to be too challenging, we would be willing to take custody for you.” Netty shares the true motive of the baby room. They want my baby.

I take a deep breath in. I exhale as I count backwards from ten in my head. For some reason, this sweet offer pisses me off. Why do people think I can’t handle school and motherhood? Doing homework and raising kids isn’t a challenge for me. I did that with my sisters. They came out of my mother’s womb with me as their full-time caretaker. I was seven, went I was putting bottles of baby formula together and changing Albany’s diapers. When Jewel and Bobby were busy partying all weekend, I took care of the three of us.

And as a kid, even though I missed a lot of school, I never fell behind making honor roll every year until high school, where my grade went down for a lack of attendance. One teacher accused me of cheating, saying I couldn’t pass my tests if I wasn’t in class learning the material. Well, that one teacher was wrong! Obviously. Therefore, I left and I went to Brink.

“Thank you… this is really sweet… but I have to decline your offer.”

“We’re not going to offer something like this later.” Deshaun says firmly.

“That’s okay. D and I got this.” I say, proudly holding my bulging belly.

They chime in about how were too young to get married. I laugh because Netty married Deshaun when she turned 18 and he’s five years older than her. They started courting when she was 17 and half, but they were friends since she was 11 and he was 16. He was her youth leader in middle school and in high school. Granted, they didn’t kiss until their wedding day, but he groomed her to be his wife. And they are lecturing me about getting married too young… I can’t!

My phone pings with a fresh incoming text. It’s from Kaylie. She’s here to pick me up.

“I really appreciate this offer. I feel super loved, but I don’t need to take it. I can handle D, school, and the baby. I have to go, my ride is here.”

“The Darkness Gets Exposed”

Sliding into her car like a whale balloon, I sort of forgot we had a nasty fight. Remembering the last thing I said to her makes me want to climb right out. Why is she picking me up?

“Thanks for coming…” I say.

“I’m sorry.” Kaylie says turning off her ignition and pulling out her keys. “I had no business trying to force a huge life decision on you like that… I was wrong about that dream anyhow.”

Now I’m curious. As I struggle to put my seat belt on, I ask her what the dream did mean.

“Well… I think I know what the dream was about…” Kaylie admits nervously.

“I’m sorry too.”

“I get why you said what you said though… if I’m right about the dream…”

“What do you mean?”

She proceeds to tell me about her dream. She sees a dark figure looming over me at night while I sleep.  She seems me crying in Derek’s arms. I’m without clothes but he isn’t. She saw me give birth to a girl. She knows what I name the baby, but she won’t tell me.

She sees me place my baby girl in the arms of a light skin black man, he could be mixed. He has a maroon red afro, a matching goatee, and he dresses like he’s stuck in the 70s- paisley patterns and orange and yellow colors. He stood next to a woman with porcelain white skin and bright red hair. She had the most gorgeous aqua eyes. She wore clothes like she was in the 80s.

Then she sees the dark figure follow me as I age. Derek tries to help me, but I never let him. Before Kaylie saw anything else, she woke up.

“So based on that you think I give the baby to a couple that looks like my Grandpa Marion and Grandma Pat? How do you know I’m having a girl?”

“I know you’re having a girl because my dream from God said so… and yeah, I thought you were supposed to give your baby to a biracial couple, but I got it all wrong. The man is your dad, and the woman is your grandma, and after your daughter is born, you’re going to reconnect with them. But the dark figure… Kurt hurt you, didn’t he… he’s really the baby’s father, not D, isn’t he?”

I break down and cry. The burden of keeping that secret from everyone I love and care about hurts. Holding in such a filthy, dirty secret weighs on my heart. The more I cry… the lighter I feel. Like somehow, I’m letting go of all the darkness that shackles me.

Kaylie rubs my back… It’s soothing… Kaylie leans over and hugs me as she cries with me. Sometimes, it’s a relief to have someone sit with you, hold you, and grieve with you. Nothing needs to be said. No one needs to tell what to do to get past your pain. People who do that aren’t strong enough to bear the pain with you. But the person daring enough to empathize with you, and to labor in sorrow with you… that’s a true friend…

But how could she know the sex of the baby? I haven’t told anyone. Not even my sister. How could she know about the jerk? Just my mom and Derek know and neither of them would tell a soul. I’m a fool to ask when I know her answer. She’ll say that God told her through the dream…

I pat her on the back for I’m all cried out. She pulls back and sits back in her driver’s seat. We wipe our wet faces with our fingers. I rub my snot on my forearm like a little kid… not the most sanitary thing to do. Taking in a deep breath, I try to get back to normal… Finally, I ask something that really bothers me about God, “Why does God let awful things happen to good people?”

“Because He loves everyone.” She says…

We start laughing hysterically. I don’t know why, but the laughter perks up my downcast soul like a shot of a pure high straight through my whole body and mind. I seriously feel like we smoked some seriously good weed, but better! It’s like it’s a sunny, warm summer day, and I’m being hugged by everyone I love at once, while staring at the night sky. Those are my three most wonderful types of things in the world and this moment feels like all three of those things are happening right now. There’s a literal warmth coursing through my body. There is this energy, this presence all around us.

“I love you Savannah.”

“I love you Kaylie.”

Kaylie stops laughing, “I didn’t say anything.”

I stop laughing. I look at Kaylie and she looks back at me.

“I love you Savannah.” I hear softly but I don’t see Kaylie’s mouth move.

I check the backseat to see if Derek is with us, but he’s not. I want to freak out and panic, but I can’t. I have too much joy.

“A warm sunny, summer day… A starry night… Hugs from your favorite people like Genie and Albany, and Derek, and Arnie, and Cash, and Netty and me…” I hear and see Kaylie say. She adds, “God loves you very much Savannah. He has a plan for you and for your baby. The final days with your mother will be the best of times you’ve ever had with Jewel. Your father is getting out of prison soon and you’re going to get a letter in the mail from him, Netty will deliver it to you. Write him back. And don’t be afraid of the truth, expose the darkness and you will get justice. Turn Kurt in. Don’t wait any longer…”

There’s no doubt in my mind anymore. God is real.

“God”

All my life I didn’t understand

Who I was and especially the Great I Am

It didn’t matter how much everybody talked

I didn’t see what they saw that gave them their faith walk

So many times, I wanted to believe

But with all my terrible garbage I couldn’t perceive

Then something crazy happened to set me free

God audibly spoke to me

Now all I got on my mind is that God is real

He is real. He is real. He is real.

I feel like I’m falling in love all over again, but it’s stronger

I feel like I’m worth it, like life is worth living much longer

Jesus- died for me

Holy Spirit- sealed me with this revelation

Now I know G-O-D as FATHER

I don’t know much about dads because I never really had one

There’s this peace I have that somehow, I got this

God, I love you

Thank you for loving me

The poem doesn’t have a solid meter or rhyme

But it’s what’s in my heart this time (SMH-blah!)

“Surprise, Surprise. Promises, Promises.”

Right now, I should be in the middle of Botany, confused out of my mind, instead Kim is and jotting notes for the two of us. I wait with Alexis at the airport for Derek.

I can’t believe we’re still together. All day I’ve felt like I’m in daze. Maybe, I’m in a coma and Derek isn’t coming in real life, just in my dreamscape… Then again, if I was dreaming I sure as heck wouldn’t be pregnant with the Jerk’s child, it would be Derek’s baby.

Alexis flips through a celebrity gossip magazine she has with her as I just sit rubbing my baby bump. I feel like the baby finds it soothing, but I do it mostly because it makes me feel calm.

“Poor Gina…” Alexis sighs referring to the famous Broadway Starlet.

“I don’t think she’s that bad off… I think it’s good she asked for help after a mental breakdown… That takes courage.” I say.

“Oh I agree, but the media just won’t stop talking about it. She doesn’t owe the public any explanations. She has every right to keep her life private.” Holding up the article about Gina, “They interviewed a friend of a friend of her cousin about her breakdown… the person wasn’t even there when it happened.”

“But yet, you’re reading the GUIDE TO THE STARS and supporting their exploitation of celebrities.”

Defensively, Alexis says, “I didn’t buy this, a co-worker gave it to me. I don’t buy stuff like this.”

I just let silence make things awkward between us. I scroll through my social media, which I haven’t done in a while, and notice about 75 comments on my post announcing my pregnancy. A lot of love from people with some drama from people who say I’m trapped in poverty now. I wonder how people would react if I confessed I would have rather aborted my baby… And the weird part is, it’s not because I don’t love my baby, but every night when I go to sleep I’m reminded of what that monster did. In my sleep, I’m haunted by what he did to me, some nights I can’t stay asleep. What will it be like, when the baby is here?

“I thought you both would be more excited to see me…” I hear Derek say as I sense his presence approach me.

I leap up as fast as I can and I spring into his reaching arms for me. I hug him tightly like my life depends on holding onto him. He smells a lot different. Instead of teenage male body spray that borderline mimics the fragrance of teenage girl body spray, he smells like he wears a grown man’s cologne.

Marveling at how his man mane is gone and he now sports a crew cut fade, I just stare at him. He even stands up straight with a posture like a soldier and his biceps actually have some muscle tone. He sort of reminds me of the jerk, I hate it more than I love it, but I love him.

I go to kiss him on the lips and he turns his head and makes me kiss his cheek. He takes my hand and intertwines our fingers. Then he gives me a soft peck on the back of a held hand.

“I missed you so much baby!” Derek says rubbing the back of my hand.

Did we enter the Twilight Zone and cross over into the 50s of America… How come he won’t kiss me like a normal teenage boy? If this has to do with Jesus, I’m gonna curse and I don’t swear.

Without asking, he cups the outside of my womb. The baby does move and then he retracts his hand a little freaked out.

“That feels weird…” He retorts.

“Imagine how it feels for me.” I say.

Alexis stands looking at us. I’m curious why we’re not leaving. I watch Derek give his mother a look and she slightly tilts her head forward, giving him a similar look back. Derek lets go of my hand and reaches into his blue, straight jean pants. I still can get over how he’s dressed. His red T-shirt is tucked in and he’s wearing a belt. Out his pocket, he holds a red ring box in his hand. As she opens the box as he gets down on one knee.

What is happening right now?! Is he proposing and Alexis knew about this? OMG, why is he proposing? Can we even get married? We’re teenagers!

“Savannah Lorene Moneymaker, will you marry me?”

Everyone in the waiting area stares at us, waiting to see what I’m going to do. If I say yes, and we get married, financially it will be a little easier, won’t it? Or will I get more money from the state being single? I really need to look into that… I know I want to marry Derek one day. I cannot picture my life without him. I don’t want to live life without him…

“Yes… I’ll marry you…” I say crying. I don’t like that I’m in tears, but I can’t help it.

He gently slides the modest diamond ring onto the proper finger and stands up to embrace me. He kisses me on the forehead and he shouts excitedly that I said yes. The crowd happily applauds for us.

This is definitely a surprise.

“Light and Dark Don’t Mix, Spiritually”

Kaylie’s silence worries me. I thought she would be happy for me and Derek. I hold my hand out so she can look at the ring, but she ignores it as she gets off her bed and crosses over to her closet on the other side. She slides her shutter closet doors open and the upper half of her body disappear behind a wall of her hanging clothes. She backs up and turns around holding a worn out shoe box. She comes back and sits down up against her cherry wood headboard. She pulls the lid off and the inside is cluttered with note cards, flooded pieces of paper, and pictures- polaroid pics, 4 x 6s, and a few wallet size pics too. Before she opens her mouth I know its her Trevor Box… I have an ALL-THINGS-DEREK-BOX too.

“Trevor will forever be my first love… but he’s not saved… he’s no good for me. Light and Dark don’t mix, and as hard as it was, I had to break it off with him for good.” Kaylie whines from her self-righteous soapbox.

I don’t need to hear this preachy stuff from her. I rock back for momentum and then I slowing roll off her bed. “You know,” I say, turning to put my tude in her direction. “I thought you would appreciate how Derek called my mom and got her blessing before he popped the question. That he secured a job through one of his dad’s friends before he came back. How Alexis and him are going to convert the garage into an apartment for us until we finish school… But no, your religion has to come before me… Moses wasn’t married to a Jew… she was from Media- not even his own kin. And Hosea married an unclean prostitute!” I pause for a second not sure why I brought the Bible into this… That’s what happens living with Netty and being forced to attend church twice a week. Plus, her and Dashuan talk about the Bible and their faith all the time at dinner- it consumes the conversation.

“I expected this from my sister, but not from you. And I don’t care if Jesus is a better friend to you than me right now… Knowing Him doesn’t give you license to tell people what to do with their life!” I yell.

Wow, I rarely yell, but hitting the 2nd trimester my emotions stay on high, in every single mode… And I can’t control it…

“It’s just I had a dream and I think it was about placing the baby in adoption…” She blurts.

“SO WHAT! I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care! I don’t have to follow God like you. I wish I could be as lucky as you and have this kid die in my WOMB!” And now I shut up.

Kaylie hangs her head as she trembles crying. Everything in me just wants to hold her and apologize until I really do die.

“I’m sorry…”

Not even looking at me, “Just get out…” Kaylie manages to say.

“The South Side-Again”

I like moving homes while being pregnant. I’m not really expected to do anything. Mom and I sit on the couch and we tell Bobby, Derek, the girls, and Bobby’s friends where to put things.

I guess Jewel and Bobby started talking right when she found out she was sick. He’s been seeing the girls every Sunday, since I moved back, and taking them to church. He no longer denies Genie is his. He can’t really, she looks like he spit her out.

The plan as of right now is that all of us live together until I marry Derek. Then I’ll go live with him and Alexis. Bobby has an extra truck that he’s letting Derek use, therefore, he can pick me up and take me to and from school.

I don’t remember a lot about Bobby, but I really hope living with him will be pleasant and as drama free as possible.

This post will be short. If it is sweet, that is for you to decide. In 2015, one of the most amazing things happened to me. I went to an amazing Christian college and God rocked my world in a way I only dreamt about. While going to school, for work-study I got to live the promise of an answered prayer… I got to work in Christian Television.

In the beginning, I was an assistant to an assistant, which made my job really chill and fun. I never had to face the pressure. But then, my second year of college, my supervisor moved away and I took her place. I also stepped into the role of dorm leadership, and I wasn’t good at doing both, but by the grace of God I made it through and I found myself graduating at the end of my second year (it was a two year junior college) and the TV Department of the church the college was connected to offered me a job. I didn’t take it because I decided to do a third year, to earn a second degree, I moved up in ranks in dorm leadership, and the TV Department got a new boss.

I lived in constant fear feeling like I wasn’t a good enough student, employee, or dorm leader. I dealt with spiritual warfare on a level I never faced before. If you don’t believe demons mess with Christians… let me tell you, I’m a Christian that battled demons!

I’m a person that likes to handle things alone, so I didn’t really tell anyone what I was going through but a handful of people.

I allowed my struggles to become so big, I became a poor student, a poor employee, and a poor dorm leader. And instead of placing all my hope in Jesus, I placed all my hope in people and things and especially my job. I overworked trying to get a job in the TV Department after I graduated again. I even stayed and did an internship, trying to earn a place at a church I convinced myself God wanted me to be there. Maybe He did or maybe He didn’t, all I know is that got more comfortable doing my thing than asking God what to do and trusting Him to do His thing my life.

At the end of internship, I got to stay in the dorms a month longer. I found a place to live, I moved my things over there, and I bought a one way ticket home believing I would be able to drive back with a car. The longest I planned to be away was three weeks. Due to things out of my control, weeks became longer, and I was informed via email the church was not going to hire me in their TV Department.

Sure, I was wrecked. I went from hopeful to hopeless in seconds and I feared my dreams weren’t going to come true without working at that place and living in that city.

Now, I could have gone back and found a job elsewhere and volunteered at the church to stay connected until that had a job there, but I still didn’t have a car.

After talking to a friend and praying, I felt the Lord leading me to give up my place in the city this ministry was at, and thank GOD I had friends to help move my stuff somewhere else. As I did this, I realized I made that city and that ministry an idol and put all my expectations in the wrong the place.

My expectations should always be in the Lord, and my HOPE should always be in Jesus, but I was so unhappy in my profession. Yes, I loved making Christian TV, but not from behind the scenes sitting at a desk… I wanted to be in front of the screen or at the very least, directing…

I also formed some bad habits not good for my walk with Jesus. I lived in fear, doubt, and unbelief. I had bitterness and unforgiveness toward other people. I didn’t pray and fast as nearly as much as I needed to, and I told little white lies a little too much. I also had a hard time submitting to delegated authority and I did not do my job with integrity or excellence and by integrity, I mean I would leave early with unfinished projects and I would show up late often. Not that bad in the eyes of man, but not appropriate. As far as excellence goes, I was too stressed all the time to do anything well or I would pretend to know how to do something when I really didn’t know how to do it at all.

Who wants to live like that? When I did pray, I prayed asking God if I could just volunteer there and work somewhere else, because I would walk in the office depressed. It was one giant reminder I wasn’t pursuing or living my dreams.

I know God allowed that door to be closed because my heart wasn’t in the right place. I trusted that ministry to get me where only God can take me. And in that place, I wasn’t doing life intimately with God anymore. He had to pull the cord and make me cry out for Him to hold me again.

Ironically, the week I found out I wouldn’t be hired onto to staff,  was the week the pastor of the ministry was ministering how God was taking away our idols. I love how God works, He has such a great sense of humor.

As of right now, I do believe I’ll go back to that city, and I’ll be involved with that church somehow, but until then, I’m letting God stay in His rightful place in my heart and in my life, above all and above everything (I know that’s redundant but I love how it sounds).

Much Love

Bri,

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“Dinner 38”

              Netty firmly believes the family that dines together, stays together. Eating dinner at the table isn’t up for debate and absences from dinner is only excusable when sick, out of town, at work, or invited to someone else’s house for dinner. I’ve been to 37 dinners since living with Netty and Deshaun. Tonight makes the 38th dining experience.

              “At the next visit, we’ll know the sex of the baby. We should have been able to find out today, but the technician couldn’t get a clear view… but everything else looks really good.” Netty says passing Deshaun the serving bowl of sautéed green beans.

              Dishing out a hearty scoop onto his light blue plate, Netty’s favorite set of dishware, Deshaun asks me, “What do you want, a boy or a girl?”

              I hate that question. I hate that I’m pregnant. I hate that I dream about having a little girl and treating her like precious gold. I hate that I’m afraid she’ll look exactly like the jerk and I’ll detest her existence and treat her like the scum of the earth.

              “A boy.” I lie.

              “Really?” Netty seems surprised.

              “A boy, you want a little D running around?” Deshuan hands me the bowl of green beans.

              The whiff of the veggies makes me super nauseous. Normally, I love veggies, but lately I only want wings and rice. I take a little bit because Netty will lecture me about how bad it is to eating according to cravings and not a well-balanced diet.

              “I just want a healthy baby.” I say honestly. “Maybe, we shouldn’t bother finding out the sex. Letting it be a surprise could be fun.”

              Netty nearly choked on her meatloaf at that thought. Netty plans everything to a tee. Knowing the gender will help plan for the baby shower, how to decorate the nursery, and how to pray for the kid’s destiny. Gulping her food, she says, “Well, if that’s what you want… okay…”

              That must be the opposite of how she feels on the inside.

              “What does D want, huh?” Deshaun wonders.

              “Um…” I can’t lie about this one. Netty confronted me in the car, on our way home from the doctor’s visit, asking me if I told Derek yet. I told her the truth, that I didn’t. I almost broke down and told her about the jerk, but I can’t. “I don’t know.” I shrug my shoulders.

              Deshaun chuckles when he concludes Derek knows nothing about the baby. He sighs as he bites the food off his fork. Though his mouth is closed, we can hear him smack his food as he chews. It’s super annoying. The baby flutters and kicks me as I eat the meatloaf. This baby is a total carnivore.

              Deshaun takes a swig of his beer from the green bottle. He sets his beer down on the table and after he swishes his gulp down, he asks me, “You plan on raising this baby on your own?”

              “I don’t even know if I want the baby, so I until I know what I want to do, I don’t see the point in telling him.”

              “He’s the father, he should know about his child.”

              “D’s no more ready to be a father than I’m ready to be a mother.”

              “You should have thought about that before being careless and getting knocked up.” Deshaun snaps.

              Crying, unable to hold them back, I plea, “May I be excused.” I wipe my suddenly runny nose.

              “You need to finish eating.” Netty mothers me.

              “I’m done. I feel sick anyhow.” Guilt like a brick hits me. I’m a horrible sister for lying to Netty and Deshaun. I’m a terrible girlfriend from hiding this pregnancy from Derek. I’m an awful person. “May I be excused please.”

              “Yes, you may.” Netty says.

              I wish I could just leave my dishes behind, but that isn’t earning my keep.

              While I rinse my plate in the kitchen, I overhear Deshaun rant how unfair I’m being to Derek. Netty defends me a little bit, but she backs off the more heated Deshaun gets.

              In my room, I lie on my side, like a good pregnant woman, and I wish I just knew what to do. I wish I could stop crying, but I can’t.

“Post Trevor”

Kaylie’s been a doll. To spare me from the horrors of bus travel as a pregnant woman. She picks me up whenever. I text her my location and she pops up there as soon as she can get there.

I’m surprised at how well she’s coping. She broke up with Trevor before she miscarried, but I really thought she would go running back to him after she lost the baby, but that’s not the case. I also thought she’d be in utter despair. Netty confessed to me the other night she’s had two miscarriages and she still grieves the losses. However, Kaylie’s thriving in school. Her dark brown hair chases her crimson hair away as time goes on. She brings her guitar to school and plays in the park before and after school. In Social Studies when we talk about politics she boldly tackles the topic arguing from a biblical viewpoint.

I sort of have no idea what happened to my second best friend. She continues to be a different person. When she smiles, it doesn’t seem fake. When she sings, her voice brings a peace. When she laughs, she makes me laugh.

In class and in the hallways, when Trevor tries to talk to her, she kindly says she doesn’t want to talk to him. But when we’re alone, she says nothing bad about him. She wishes nothing bad upon him. Kaylie has become a saint. Kaylie’s life post Trevor is great!

I wonder, would I fair in life so well post Derek?

“GPAs”

College GPA: 3.9

College Algebra: A-

College Writing I: A

High School, Junior Year GPA: 3.89

“FaceTime w/ Derek”

DEREK’S long locks are gone. He sports a clean cut, close fade. He looks well.

Derek: I miss you so much babe.

Savvy: I miss you too.

Though SAVVY is burning up under a pile of covers, she makes sure to hide her bulging belly.

Derek: So my mom picked up a lot of extra shifts, because a lot of nurses took the holiday off, so… she isn’t coming out for Christmas after all.

Savvy: That sucks hon, I’m sorry to hear that.

Derek: No, this may be a good thing. Maybe my dad will let me go visit my mom and then I can see you.

Panicking, SAVVY blurts-

Savvy: NO!

Derek: (confused) No?

Savvy: Like I miss you like crazy. I really do. But you look really good… I can’t really remember the last time you looked so good, so happy…

Bashfully, DEREK smiles as his cheeks flush red.

Derek: I am happy. I’m really happy. Do you know why?

Savvy: Why?

SAVVY waited for him to be romantic and to say something along the lines of seeing her face, but what he said surprised her and made her angry.

Derek: Jesus the Messiah.

Savvy: (rolling her eyes) Really?

Derek: Yeah, like um, last week, before I got released for Winter Break… in our last chapel service I accepted Christ Jesus and invited Him into my heart… Like I have no doubts anymore God is real.  I don’t have nightmares anymore. I don’t want to get high anymore… and um… (whispering) I don’t think about sex all the time or look at porn anymore. (Returning to normal volume) And I don’t feel alone anymore… I have this peace constantly that doesn’t make sense. God is SO AWESOME.

Savvy: I’m happy for you… I’m happy that you’re doing so well.

Derek: Why don’t you believe in God?

Savvy: What?

Derek: I mean, do you believe in God, like Netty does?

Savvy: No. I don’t but I haven’t really bothered to study religion.

Derek: But knowing God isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship with Jesus.

Savvy:  I kind of don’t feel like the preaching right now and if that’s all you want to talk about, maybe we should just talk another time.

Derek: So you’re going to ask me to not talk about something important to me because it makes you uncomfortable. I asked you a question just trying to learn more about you so maybe I can help you and you want to avoid it…

Savvy: You want to know why I don’t believe in God?

Derek: Yeah, why?

SAVVY pushes off her heavy blankets and points the phone at her stomach as she pulls up her flannel shirt.

Savvy: Because I got fluffing raped by my mother’s boyfriend and I’m stuck having the jerk’s kid. (Pointing the phone at her cigarette burns on the upper part of her abdomen) Because my mother abused the crap out of me. (Crying, and yelling, she holds the phone back up to her face) Because you got taken away from me, the one good thing in my life and now there’s more than a physical distance between us. It’s like I’m not important to you anymore. I don’t believe in God because I have nothing good going in my life and I haven’t really seen anything to convince there’s such a thing as a good God because life sucks. I wish we had fluffed and I wish I was pregnant with your baby, because at least I would be excited about this and maybe I would have you back in my life and maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t feel like dying. Like I hope I die giving birth because I don’t want to live anymore, but I can’t kill myself, because I don’t want my mother to have the satisfaction of getting rid of me nor due I want my sisters to miss me… and truth be told I’m scared as SNIFF of death because I can’t help but think you and Netty might be right, God is real and because I HATE HIM SO MUCH FOR MY CRUMMY LIFE I’LL GET STUCK IN HELL. This life is hell enough. I don’t want to live forever in hell, but if God is real He better do one good thing for me. I don’t know what that is… but it better be something fluffing good. And you know what, I get enough God Talk living with Netty, so I don’t want to talk to you until we can just be ourselves and talk and if you can’t be the new you without Jesus Fluffing Christ, than I don’t want to talk to you. GOODBYE Butthole!

SAVVY hangs up the phone and throws it on the bed. It bounces off and falls to the ground. Fortunately, she didn’t crack the screen of the caseless phone.

“Family”

My family is fluffed up. My Aunt Betty had her son, Arnold Patrick Moneymaker, at the age of 16. Arnold’s father, Patrick was 18, but in the state of Arizona it wasn’t illegal for them to be together. Jewel was 9 at the time. A few years later, Aunt Betty had Annette Devlin Moneymaker, at the age of 19.

Aunt Betty and Jewel had really, scary religious parents- Catholic I think… and very racist… because Patrick was half black, he was not good enough to be with their daughter… When Aunt Betty got pregnant, they kicked her out of the house. Patrick played the good guy, he married Aunt Betty and they got a one-bedroom apartment…

Arnie was 6 going on 7, Netty was 3, and Jewel did something monumentally stupid. She seduced her brother-in-law and conceived me at the age of 15, but that ugly truth didn’t come out until I was like 2, when Aunt Betty and Patrick got divorced and he shacked up with Jewel for a bit.

I don’t call him dad. I call him Trick… all three of us do… He is currently serving time for smuggling drugs and weapons across the border. I have no idea when he’s getting out. Occasionally, he writes me a letter. I never read them. He left Jewel when I was 4, and I barley saw him… I don’t really know him.

Oh, and Arnie, at the bright age of 18 had a baby with is 17-year-old girlfriend, Jessica… Our family is just cursed. I swear there’s some bored, spoiled woman fictionally writing about my life on her tiny little blog… Because according to Netty, God is good and if He gets credit for my crummy life, I’m having a hard time believing the Man in the Sky is a good guy.

Albany was born when I was 7… to Bobby Church… and Genie is supposed to be Bobby’s- according to Jewel, but according to Bobby he is not her father, yet, he won’t do a DNA test to prove it. He wasn’t that bad. He swore worse than Jewel, drank a lot more, but he never beat anyone up… Jewel would beat on him. I really thought they would forever be miserable together… but Jewel caught him cheating and kicked him out. Three days later… she brought home the jerk.

“Nurse Netty”

“OW… Holly fluffing CRISP!” I scream.

“I need to make sure they’re clean.” Netty says as she washes my feet with a warm, rough wash cloth.

The soles of my feet sting like a fiery bee sting multiplied by a thousand.

I ran for as long as I could and then I walked. By the time I got all the way to her house the sun rose. Deshaun had already left for work and she was up… probably praying… I don’t know…

Now that she’s done cleaning my feet, she applies this fancy cream from the hospital… it’s actually super soothing… It must have a pain-killing agent in it.

The wooden toilet seat is finally starting to hurt my butt… I readjust to get comfy and she snaps at me to stay still as she holds gauze to my left foot and then she wraps it snuggly in white bandages.

I look up at the skylight. The foggy glass makes it impossible for anyone to see in clearly and for anyone to see out. The pastel green wall and matching tiny, rectangular tiles are pretty. I want a bathroom like this when I have a house one day. Well, if I ever have a house one day…

Gently, she sets my left foot down and picks up my right foot and rests my heel in between her knees, which she sits on upon the floor, at my feet.

I’ve always been jealous of her straight brown hair and light green eyes, and white-person complexion. She has a peach-earthy tone, but no one knows she’s part black. She looks white, so does Arnie. They look like twins, except for some reason he shaves his head completely bald and he doesn’t have a receding hairline. Maybe it’s because he’s a hipster. He sports a full beard that is weirdly red instead of brown, which he grooms and uses beard oil to keep it kempt. Moronically, he wears non-prescription glasses. Yes, the man collects fakes glasses, some of them lens-less, just to wear as a fashion statement.

“Savannah, why are you ignoring me?” Netty asks as gets of the ground slowly, groaning lowly like getting up is a real struggle.

“I’m sorry… What did you ask?” Wow… where is her attitude coming from? I got a lot on my mind. I can’t focus.

“Why did Aunt Jewel kick you out?”

I want to say part of the truth. I hit her and I burned her hand… If I tell her the full truth, I’m scared… Netty is so by the book about everything… What if she makes call the cops? I can’t do that. I won’t.

No. I need to lie altogether… at least until I figure out what to do.

“I’m pregnant…” Okay, I tell the truth a little.

I get to stay honest. I don’t need to say anything else. She jumps to conclusions like I knew she would. She’s convinced Derek is the father. She’s disappointed in me.  So disappointed she repeats it, “I’m very disappointed in you.”

That’s not fair! Oh wait, she doesn’t know everything, but I thought the God she served knows all, why isn’t He telling her the truth? Fine, she can feel however she wants about me.

I stand up only to experience shooting pain on the bottom of my feet. “Can I barrow a pair of shoes please?”

Fortunately, we’re both a size 7.

“You’re not going anywhere. You can stay in the spare room.” She holds out her elbow for me to take. “Let me help. Lean on me.”

I want to run, but I’m too exhausted. I want to cry, but I’m all cried out. I want to punch her in the face, but she doesn’t deserve it. I want to set Jewel on fire, but that is psychotic. I want to die, but then Albany and Genie would be sad. I want to be with Derek. I wish I knew where he was, because I would hitchhike my way to him. I’d repay my drivers however needed… H O W E V E R  N E E D E D.

We wobble to the end of the hall and across from the home office, we enter the spare room. The walls are a pastel yellow and the carpet is a plushy, thick cream. The room is tiny. A twin bed rests under the window and a tall, cherry wood dresser stands by the door next to the closet, with white wood sliding doors. A light blue quilt with a lavender flower pattern sits at the foot of the bed made with white sheets. The sunlight leaks through the cracked blinds, making the room cinematically inviting.

Side by side we sit on the bed.

“I remember like a few months ago… we had that really deep conversation over coffee and you were adamant you and Derek weren’t having sex… is Derek the father? You can tell me anything, you know that right?”

Instantly, my sight blurs from my newfound tears… Apparently, I can cry… still…

She swoops me into her embrace and I can’t let go. This attention feels amazing! Like I wish my mom had a nurturing bone in her body but she doesn’t… because all I really want is my mom… why can’t Jewel be my mom- like why can’t she love me like a good mom?

I want to tell Netty about all of it, but I can’t. I won’t… I’m tired…

“Get some rest,” Netty says in the threshold of the door. She adds, “Let me know if you need anything.”

I don’t bother to get under the covers. I grapple the pillow in my arms and lay my head on the mattress. The refreshing smell of detergent relaxes me a bit.

“Derek Phones Again”

Derek: Happy Thanksgiving!

Savvy: I can’t believe you’re not here.

Derek: Yeah… hopefully mom will let me come back for Christmas.

SAVVY panicked by the thought.

Savvy: I think it’s cool that your mom flew out to your dad’s so you could spend Thanksgiving with your whole family. If you had to spend Christmas like that, would that be so bad?

Derek: (Sighing) I just miss you like crazy… I miss Kaylie and Trev too, how are they?

Savvy: Um… not super great…

Derek: Why?

Savvy: Well, Kaylie wanted to place the baby in adoption and Trevor wanted them to keep the baby, but it doesn’t matter now…

Derek: (Shocked) She got an abortion?

Savvy: Ah… no… she um… miscarried… And Trevor’s trying to make up with her, but she’s totally cut him out of her life. To her they’re over… I kind of think it’s a good thing…

Derek: (Agitated) But isn’t she rededicated to Christ? How will Trevor get saved if she cuts him out of her life completely?

Savvy: She can barely look at him without thinking about the baby she lost. Give her some time Derek.

ANNETTE opens the door to make an announcement.

Annette: Dinner is ready and we’re ready to eat.

SAVVY sits up suddenly, muting her end of the phone call.

Savvy: Can you just save me a plate? I don’t know when I’ll talk to D again.

Annette: Did you tell him about the baby yet?

Savvy: I don’t want to tell him over the phone.

Annette: You need to come eat with us now and then do your homework. He can callback another day.

ANNETTE leaves the door open disappearing around the corner and down the hallway. SAVVY moans in a harsh hush tone, SUPER angry at ANNETTE and her dumb house rules to always eat dinner together. SAVVY unmutes the call.

Derek: Babe are you there?

Savvy: Can you call me tomorrow or soon? I have to go.

Derek: Um yeah… do I call this number?

Savvy: Yeah, this is officially my new number… I’m on Netty’s plan now.

Derek: Jewel is allowing that?

SAVVY freezes. She doesn’t know what to say to that. DESHAUN, ANNETTE’S husband peaks into the room. The black man stands tall at 6’5” and he’s a very muscular Firefighter. He keeps his head bald because he has a bald spot. He doesn’t have any facial hair though.

Deshaun: (Intimidatingly) Didn’t your sister tell you dinner was ready, and didn’t she tell you to join us?

Derek: Who is that?

Savvy: Yes, sir. I’ll be right out.

DESHAUN remains standing in place, glaring at SAVVY, waiting for her to move.

Derek: Is that the jerk?

Savvy: No. I love you, bye.

SAVVY hangs up on DEREK. She gets up and walks up to DESHAUN. She follows him to the dinning table.