Donny awoke the next morning to find Linda already gone. He read the note that she left on her pillow to let him know that she would be visiting her mother and Brianne – then heading to work because she was booked for the entire day and would be home late. Knowing that Linda would spend as much time as possible with them before her first appointment and by the time he arrived at Sheralyn’s Linda would already be gone, Donny thought about the night before; grateful that she did not seem to be upset with him or even frustrated in the least.
He admired her ability to sober up and normally return to business as usual, but Donny did not possess this quality, so he turned over and went back to sleep with thoughts of seeing his child and talking to Sheralyn once he had his wits about him. His last thought before dozing off was of how things would play out while at his father’s house. His papers were already prepared, and to be safe, he would finish his work as quickly as possible and without argument agree to his invitation to church on Sunday.
Not being an avid ‘church goer’ as opposed to simply being a ‘believer’ despite his way of life, Donny felt that if he relented just a tad to give his father one more chance at treating him like a son in a true sense, he would know the direction in which he should go after everything was said and done.
By late noon, Donny was at Sheralyn’s playing with Brianne while the child’s grandmother watched happily and quietly. Sheralyn had snacks ready for her granddaughter after playtime…in the sweetest manner, Brianne raised her hot dog to Donny’s mouth to give him a bite. “You can have some Dada!” Donny gave a gracious thank you and kissed her cheek her before turning to Sheralyn for a conversation that she was not sure if she was ready for or not; knowing that this young man had questions about Linda’s strange behavior.
Donny concentrated solely on entering and saving his installments while hearing his parents go over the Sunday School lesson for the next day. ‘I said I would come to service, but I ain’t comin to no Sunday School’…’, he thought as he typed away. As the printer spit out copies of his lyrical entries, he could tell that his mother was not herself as usual, as Donald made slight but clear admonitions of Jesse’s growing insufficiency and dwindling presence in the congregation due to her ‘condition’. Her husband deemed these ‘excuse’s as a slacking faith in her obligations as mother and head deaconess of the church who should always be present regardless of the situation…he fervently quoted Hebrews 10:25, with an exclamation that Jesse should be thinking more about their roles as models.
“Hey Dad! I’m done now, thanks.” Donny had to catch himself from stopping Donald in the way that he would have naturally corrected his younger brother, but his tone of voice did get Donald’s attention…he turned from Jesse who sheepishly went to her room.
“Son, I know how you must feel, but if a man doesn’t correct his woman, what kind of man is he? We have a grand responsibility in showing folks that presence in the church is first and foremost no matter what. The positions that we hold must be maintained in the best manner to show our loyalty and faithfulness in getting folks where they belong so they can get saved. Besides, how do I look being there like clockwork and having to explain why Jesse is not always there? You cannot be recognized for what you are not doing…the truth is just what it is. That is why I have and am still working so hard in our community son…you get what I’m saying don’t you?”
“Well daddy, I really can see what you’re saying , but I don’t think that you owe anybody an explanation for momma, because they know just as well as you do that she ain’t been feelin’ too good lately. I’m worried about her, so I can understand why she ain’t runnin up in church all the time. She already saved, and been helpin folks right with you over the years. If she ain’t at church sometimes, that don’t mean that she ain’t studyin the Bible or prayin like she should. Nobody can say – and they better not say around me that she ain’t done nothin’ for her community or anything like that, but I’mma just leave it alone and go up there to tell her I’ll see her later…like I said, I’m done and ready to go now…be right back.”
Donald waited patiently; regretting that he had gone a little too far with his wife in front of Donny. The last thing that he needed was to upset him in the midst of trying to acquire a closer relationship with him, so once back downstairs, Donald gave his son a loving squeeze on the shoulder and a pat on the back with an earnest apology as they proceeded out of the door and into Donald’s luxury styled Lincoln Continental.
As he opened the door and sat in, Donny remembered being a child and riding to school with his brother in older models as opposed to driving his own small and much cheaper vehicle as an adult. He was surprised that his father had actually taken time out to pick him up at his apartment which was the first time he had bothered to visit since Donny had moved in. The neighborhood was beneath Donald who had only helped him to move in, but not agreeing with who he was living with or the lifestyle that he had chosen.
It was late evening now, and Donny was glad that Linda would not be home once he was dropped off. He wanted no part of Donald’s getting riled up because of Linda’s mere presence. He was glad for the time spent with his father on this day, but was still wary as they entered the downtown area.
“Son, I want to apologize again for what happened at the house, and I just want to try and make it up to you by being more patient with your mom, but all of this action has made me hungry, so how about stopping down here and getting a bite to eat?”
Donny reluctantly yet skeptically accepted his father’s apology while politely turning down the offer for food. “No thanks Daddy..I’ve got some food at home that I’ll heat up once I get home.”
“Well, all right then…I guess I’ll stop somewhere on my way home.” said Donald as he purposefully drove past Robertson’s before making a very slow turn past an exclusive restaurant at which Donny spotted Linda…accompanied by a man wearing an expensive suit and carrying a briefcase. During this moment, Donny could also see that the man held one hand on the small of Linda’s back as he opened the door to the front entrance of ’Cuisine Fellows’, Robertson’s main competitive establishment. Cuisine Fellows was the proverbial ‘new kid on the block’ that had given Robertson’s a run for their money for the past three years, and all who held any part in Robertson’s understood that there would be no dealings in any way with the competition. To see Linda there made his blood boil, but by being with his father, he could not let his disapproval show despite the brief lecture earlier on a man’s responsibility to correct his woman. All that Donny could think of was the realization that his father had been truthful the whole time that he’d been trying to convince him that Linda was no good for him. Little did Donald know that Donny’s current problem became a revelation. The sight of Linda with another man brought on the epiphany that he truly loved and needed her to be his, come hell or high water.
Feeling convicted as well as conflicted, Donny once again held his true feelings inside and kept a forced silence on the way home. Donald made no implications that he had seen what his son definitely saw, nor did he mention that he’d noticed how tense Donny was. He had done his job, and felt victorious.
The advances were slight, but Linda noticed them while trying to fight the feeling that she should throw all caution to the wind and just go for it. The reasonable part of her mind knew that her feelings and Steve’s actions were wrong with no excuses. Her situation had become so confusing during this meeting in that most of what Steve had taught her in this restricted amount of time had made perfect sense and she could deal with it all – except for the percentage that would have to be paid back, but this was an aspect that she was well aware of. Near the end of their dinner, Linda thought about what her mother had told her. ‘Common sense’ kicked in and she let Steve know that there would be no decisions made until she did a little more thinking. She also politely turned down all advances that slyly came her way.
Linda left the meeting with much information and more thoughts on the direction in which she wanted her life to go. Thinking first of the most important part of her life – Brianne, who did not happen to be an included character in scenes of her movie-like getaway imaginings, Linda came to her senses and readied herself for the next conversation at home with Donny. Having no idea of how his day had gone despite knowing that he had been with their child, her mother, and his father, Linda hoped that all went well. If not, she would have to deal with it.
She walked through the door…immediately hit by the smell of smoke… finding Donny at their kitchen table with a drink…
all hopes of a decent and peaceful night without explanations on her part disappeared, so she decided to discuss her plans with him; stating that she had been at a meeting and that she was sorry for not telling him earlier. She explained that she had intended to surprise him with good news about her start-up, but was now still, not sure about accepting. Linda was shocked at Donny’s breath of relief from her explanations. They actually ended up laughing about the situation and discussed finances in case she decided to take the deal, but she still wondered what else might be bothering him.
The fact that Linda had opened up to him made it much easier for him to make his own confessions. Donny couldn’t believe that Linda readily agreed to go to church with him when he asked. She seemed a bit surprised at his own willingness to go, but she was glad that he got everything out of his system pertaining to his father’s feigned niceness; also confessing that Donald had purposefully drove past the spot in order for Linda to be seen with the man that Donald had described to him before; the man that she had just told him about, though she did not speak of his flirting. Neither of them had an inkling of an idea that their entire day had been planned by Donald. They simply thought that Donald had seen her before with Steve and had the wrong idea.
“Well, we’re not going there again! I don’t know what it is that your dad hates about me, but if I’m not bothered about it, you shouldn’t be. Just let him do whatever he wants because we’ve got our own shit to take care of.” Linda kissed him passionately.
As they walked through the doors of New Living Missionary Baptist Church; Brianne holding her father’s hand tightly, Donny noticed that Derrick was sitting on the front pew while his mother sat on the mother’s board…Donald in the head deacon’s seat directly in front of the congregation. They made immediate eye contact and Donald gave a slight tilt of his head to motion for Donny and his small family to sit beside his brother. Donny’s polite refusal came in the form of an humble smile as he led Linda and Brianne to one of the less crowded pews towards the back. There was no way he would be strutting up front for the purpose of being seen – especially to sit alongside someone that did not stand by him elsewhere. ‘We showed up, and we still gonna keep it real.’ was the statement that he whispered in Linda’s ear as they took their seats and readied themselves for the service.
They had arrived just in time as Donald began the first hymn and prayer. With his head bowed, Donny realized that he would be witnessing the exact same routine of years past. His father’s singing voice was nothing spectacular, but he did well enough for this particular job. There were a lot of people that Donny remembered from his childhood who were present, but he knew that many who were absent had passed away.
As the choir director motioned for the congregation to stand for the devotional segment of the service, Donny did not sing along as usual, and was glad that he would not have to stand and speak when the time came for visitors to introduce themselves as he had already been baptized years ago at this church, though not present once he’d moved from his father’s house. His intent was to sit silently and be present – not to be made a spectacle of. He held a sense of comfort that his father respected his wishes in not calling him out, although Donald briefly interrupted announcements to proudly make mention that he was very grateful that his son was attending on this day.
After the alter call, the choir sang spirited A and B selections…tithes and offerings were collected. Hoping that the upcoming sermon would not take forever, Donny turned to check the time by the clock on the wall which was set above the swinging doors of the sanctuary. At that moment, the ushers whose post was at these the doors let someone in.
She sashayed in with a fan in one hand and waving a dismissal with the other to tell the ushers that she would not be seated where they indicated. Her dress fit snugly at the top, but the silk wavy pleated bottom swayed as she made her way up the aisle and to the front pew. Some of the older women were clearly not pleased at the manner in which their husbands were ogling the bosom of this stranger who had come in like a gust of warm wind just before a storm in spring; hair cascading down her back in dark waves. “She act like she on the catwalk with them high ass heels”, Linda promptly elbowed Donny but grinned at his muttered remark…he followed Linda’s indicating glance at the woman, now standing expectantly over Derrick who reluctantly but compliantly made room for her to sit down.
A piqued curiosity filled the sanctuary…no one knew who this apparent attention hungry fashion plate was, but as the pastor took his text looking somewhat bewildered at what had just occurred, Donny spotted his father who did not look as comfortable as he did before. Assuming that his father was in as much wonderment as everyone else – especially the men, Donny relaxed himself and to his surprise, enjoyed the sermon which did not last as long as he’d expected.
The preaching was over, and the doors of the church were opened for those who wanted to confess their faith, join the establishment, or both. Only one potential new member stepped up.
During a brief questioning from the pastor with the candidate about her renewed faith after years of living a life of backsliding, dishonesty, and deceit, she stated that she came by Christian experience and would like to become a regular member. The candidate spoke up clearly and with conviction for everyone to hear. With all of the silent suspicions somewhat dissipating throughout the congregation about this strange woman, gladness replaced the negative vibe that had lasted during the entire sermon and the congregation applauded the candidate’s testimony as well as her openness to return to the fold.
With all praises and applause aside, the secretary of the church approached the candidate for her information in order to schedule her right hand of fellowship service on the following week.
With a smile, the candidate turned to face the congregation and answered, “Oh yes, of course…I am known by some here, but not by others…my name is Chelsea…Chelsea Robertson…”