Note to Readers: I neglected to tell you that this is a work in progress and so you will find a few errors. The final version of S&S will be relatively free of errors and will make a smoother read. I just wanted you to get the concept of this book and invite you to offer any suggestions you wish. I welcome them all.
“Crazy jackass!” Sheba Solomon muttered half under her breath. She had just stared again into the malevolent eyes of Punch Motherwell and her stomach was tying itself into knots. Had it been three years ago?
“What did you say, honey?” her husband, Marty Solomon asked before he belatedly got her comment. “I’m afraid I was thinking the same thing. I guess it’s not very Christian of either one of us.”
For a moment they both fell silent as he drove their black Lexus along Main Street of the town of Marigold, Maryland and neared the church he pastored, Church of the Holy Redeemer.
“God knows I’ve tried to forgive him, but I can’t help wondering how much is his schizohrenia and how much is just pure evil. Or don’t we believe in evil anymore?”
“We’re the crazy ones if we don’t,” he said. Lack of forgiveness for many things had tormented Marty for much of his life. At 34, he had come further and faster than he dreamed he could as leader of a 7,000 member nondenominational congregation that was exploding.
“At times I feel like an idiot because I have sympathy for him,” she said. “I’m a twin, so I know how a twin’s death can hurt, and he’s a twin who’s lost his other half.” She shook her head as they drove down the ramp and pulled into his space in the sub-basement parking lot.
Marty glanced at his wife and his big hand reached out and gripped her knee, half caressing it, then squeezing. “We can only try.”
He helped her out and they both walked up the steps and out back to look at the beautiful edifice that was built at the foot of a steep hill. Of fieldstones and glass, sprawling, with 20 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, Marty was as proud of his church as he would be of anything in his life. Not everyone had approved of the structure, but enough of them had gone along with his vision.
He glanced at Sheba in profile and smiled because they attracted attention wherever they went. She was a tall, dark honeyskinnned woman with lush, natural, curlykinky hair that was as coalblack as Marty’s thatch. His skin was ruddy, the way his mother, Vangie’s, had been. At six feet, three, he was broad shouldered, slim hipped and fit.
His wife’s odd beauty always surprised him and in the years he had known her, he had not gotten used to it. He had known Sheba all his life, but she was seven years older and so had been ahead of him. Her profile was sharp, yet tender, and her shoulders were narrow, her breasts high and firm, but it was her wide hips and the curve of her legs that physically drew him so. In some lights she was almost plain, at another angle breathtakingly beautiful.
Hand in hand they entered the church and walked into his big corner office suite. As Minister of Music, her office was just down the hall.
“Hi Boss, you’re early,” his middle-aged, silver-haired assistant, Della Hernandez greeted him. She kissed Sheba on the cheek. “My, that white eyelet blouse is just what you need for today’s heat.”
In Marty’s inner sanctum, he sat down and held out his arms. “How about landing on my lap?” He grinned. “It feels empty.”
“And have someone come in on us?”
” You could lock the door.” His glance at her was purposefully wicked.
Sheba laughed. “You know, Solomon, any time you get tired of solely being a man of God, you could make a fine devil.”
Marty threw back his head, laughing. He loved Sheba’s sharp sense of humor. “Yeah. And you know I wouldn’t be letting you up anytime soon.”
She came around to the back of his chair and kissed the top of his head. At that moment she was glad that they had always known each other; they were comfortable with each other.
He glanced up at her, suddenly serious. “Would you have married me if I hadn’t told you I may have black blood?”
Startled, she thought a moment. They discussed this from time to time, but had he ever asked this question directly? “Probably not. You know how my twin felt about interracial marriages, indeed interracial dating.”
“He was your fraternal twin, not a Siamese twin.”
“True. I’ve always had a mind of my mind. We came together from such deep pain, Marty. We could and we did comfort each other….”
“And it’s worked. I’m happy. Are you?”
She smiled and shrugged. “What is happy, love? Surely sometimes I am. I’m so much older than you are. Happiness may not be the same for us at our different ages.”
“Don’t quibble. I know I’m happy. Age is more than a number, but you’re ageless and I’m glad I’ve got you.”
She nodded as she bent and kissed his cheek. He reached up to pull her down to him, but she sidestepped him. “I’ll see you later when there’s more time.”
She started out and stopped by a long table where there stood a sculpture of a black horse running at full speed. Black Diamond. Something about the stance started her heart drumming when she looked at it. B.D. Beedee. The horse Papa Joe had given her as a girl. Her late horse. Marty saw the look, got up and came to her, hugged her tightly and she relaxed in his arms. Bedee had been sculpted by her late husband, noted sculptor Scott Davis. It was a dream in motion and Scott had been offered thousands for it, but had given it to her.
The buzzer sounded as Della announced that Rob and Pete Solomon, Marty’s father and brother, were there. Should she send them in? He nodded and braced himself. He always enjoyed seeing his father; his brother was something else again.
Rob Solomon came to Sheba first and kissed her cheek. “You’re looking cool and lovely.”
She thanked him and said, “Love those cargo pants, Rob,” as his eyes crinkled with pleasure.
Pete stood by looking on. He nodded to them both. “I’m riding with Dad today, so I have to go where he goes. But you’ll be happy to know I’m coming to hear that sermon you’re advertising for this Sunday. It’s Anne Marie’s call. She’s the religious one. I sure as hell am not, as you know.”
“You’re always welcome, bro,” Marty told him. He loved his brother and it had always hurt some that Pete didn’t love him and let him know it.
Rob cleared his throat, nervously passed a hand over his silver hair. “I wanted to tell you I need to talk with you and Pete here in my office Monday morning. I’m thinking strongly now about retiring and there are many things we need to discuss.”
Pete caught his breath, frowning. “Dad, you didn’t tell me that.”
“Thought I’d tell you both at the same time. Listen, Marty, we’ve got to be off and running, so I’ll see you here Sunday. I’ve heard about that sermon too. It’s creating quite a buzz and I know you’ll live up to it. I kind of like the open way people like you lead us into really looking at what goes on inside us.”
Pete grunted. “My take on it is this community probably ain’t ready to hear this message, but I’ll be all ears. One day you’ll go too far, Marty, and the picnic will be over.”
Marty felt a prickle of anger along the back of his neck. “We’ve got things going on in every part of this country and the world that ought not to be happening. Pedophilia, child prostitution, abuse of every kind. I couldn’t be a preacher and not tackkle it headon. I’m starting with the gentle side of our sexual complex and where it ought to be….”
“Whoa!” Pete was always pleased when he hit a nerve. “I’m with you. I just don’t think a lot of others will be.”
“I congratulate you,” Rob said quietly. “More and more you’re sounding like your Uncle Charlie, the firebrand. You go in there and preach it like it ought to be.”
The two men left and Sheba lingered. Standing, Marty picked up the rough draft of his sermon for this Sunday and thumbed through it. He had discussed it with Sheba as he always did and she had loved the idea first, and had helped with research for it. He and Sheba loved the King James version of the Bible and had studied it all their lives.
“Something tells me this one is going to be one of your best, but it’s also going to cause a bit of trouble maybe.”
Marty frowned and looked thoughtful. “God gave us our sexual complex,” he said quietly, “and I happen to think it’s one of the greatest gifts he put in our hands and hearts. We’re the ones who’ve screwed it up. And yes, I’m not too pleased with the attitudes of some of our saints either, at least not the way it’s come down to us.”
For just a moment, he closed his eyes, fantasies of their lovemaking in the moonlight the night before on the side porch flooding his system. He wanted others to know what Sheba and he knew: a sexuallity and a sensuality so deep it was mystical and totally life affirming. She came to him and he held her, gently, then tighter.
Sheba laughed, her beautiful, musical voice that the people of Marigold loved pealing. “Tell it like it is Reverend. I’m gonna be so entranced I may even forget to sing.”
“Don’t, because that will be my turn to be entranced.”
Sheba glanced at the wall clock. Sounds were muted in this room, but the hint of more noise was beginning in the hallways as various groups began to come in for rehearsals. “I’ve got an appointment with Emil,” she said. “Kelsey’s not feeling well again and she won’t be in for rehearsal. Something’s wrong there, Marty, terribly wrong. I try not to question God’s gifts to me, but I just keep thinking and you know I’m having dreams of muddy water again….”
Marty nodded. She had dreamed repeatedly of muddy water before her late husband had died a suicide. And she had seen the vision, too, that had scared her from childhood. Telling him, she had cried and he had held her. Before Scott’s suicide she had, as before, seen a brilliant white light, surrounding everything, for a few seconds. Then a light came as soft as candlelight and even more beautiful. And that light stayed until the end — seductive, making her want to stay in its glow forever, even knowing it was dangerous to stay there.
“Sheba,” he said fondly. “We’ve been so good together. Something bad doesn’t always happen when you see these visions. you’ve said so yourself.”
“I know, but things have happened often enough. Take a moment and pop in on our rehearsal. I’ll be singing the spiritual, ‘Scandalize My Name.’” She laughed then. A likely background for your sermon.”
After she left, Marty sat down in his high-backed black leather swivel chair and rocked himself. Yeah, he thought, they made quite a couple and he was happy in his life. But he leaned forward suddenly and put his elbows on his desk. It was a good sermon and he knew it, but there would be ripples of discontent from some of the old guard who saw sex as something you did in the dark, sniggered and joked about. Something mildly disrespectful. If he could help to change that attitude, he could change lives, stop losing the young ones in droves.
He sighed deeply then, got up and went into his outer office and looked out the window at the brilliant sunlight and church members coming in for various activities. The media was beginning to sing his praises. He was good, hunble enough, brilliant, but subued enough to lead a flock to glory.
Aye Lord, he thought, love, respect, heady accomplishment, honor and deep satisfaction was the text of his life, but the subtext was very different. In his youth he had hurt like hell after his mother Vangie’s death and his days had been wilder than wild. God had grannted him every material comfort, had succored him. But now at times when he least expected it, racuous visions of nearly every vice, including dancing girls clad only in gauze, gyrating sensuously on table tops swept through him like a summer storm.
He realized then that his eyes were wet with tears. Breathing deeply he went back to the inner office and to his sermon. He was advising others on how to live their lives. Did he really know how to live his own?
Watch this space for later chapters and partial chapters on Marty and Sheba, other married lovers, characters you love and some you want to stay far away from. I welcome your comments and your suggestions.