This is the last of the immediately excerpted chapters of S&S. The book is fully in outline and acted-out stages and the final writing has begun. I will fill my blog now with guest blogs, helpful tips and links to help you with your writing and encouragement with all my heart to go ahead with what you want to write. The time has never been more opportune. E-books are blossoming all over the map and they’re getting better and better.
From time to time until S&S is published in either July or October 2012, I will excerpt other chapters that I think you’ll find engrossing. This chapter will stay on for approximately 6 weeks.
I certainly hope you’re with me in this. The topics I tackle in this book are so much a part of our world today. We sorely need to feel the love of God and His blessings in our lives. What better then than one of the Holy Bible’s most intense and treasured love stories. Timeless love can be ours too.
The trip to New Orleans had been uneventful, but Sheba and Marty were both nervous. He rapped with the door knocker on the black grilled, white door of the redbrick house on Gentilly Boulevard, a house that he had slowly passed many times when he lived In New Orleans with his great uncle Charlie Cartier, his mother’s uncle. Marty drew a sharp breath and held Sheba’s hand tightly.
The door opened quickly and they faced a beigeskinned sixtiessomething woman with close-cropped black curly hair and an oval face. She was very attractive, but she held her lips in a bitter line as she invited them in, her eyes never leaving their faces.
“So you made it,” she said. “I should be civil and ask about your trip, but you’ll find I’m not the most civil of people. Come in and sit down and tell me exactly what you want from me. I certainly know you very well, Martin, although I’ve only spoken with you by phone, and that lately. And I know you, Sheba, from your beautiful voice when I listen to Marty’s sermons. Yes, I do listen from time to time. And you obviously know a little about me.”
Marty breathed a sigh of relief. At least she was partially civil. The blinds in the big room were only half open. The room itself was pleasantly furnished with old Victorian mahogany furniture and the floors were highly polished.
“You know my name and I know yours, have known it all your life, Martin. So you want me to give you permission to have a sample of Christian’s DNA drawn to see if even dead he can change your life?
“Why in hell are you doing this? You were born White so far as anybody knows, you had a good father in Rob Solomon. Oh, I checked him out as I checked out everything about you. You’re growing famous. White famous. Why give up that glory now.”
Marty and Sheba glanced at each other. He cleared his throat. “As you can see, we’re going to have a baby. So many things can happen. Illnesses where the background of both parents can be helpful when available. . .”
“And you didn’t think about changing your luck before? It could change to bad, you know.”
“We’ll take our chances. I have thought about it – since Vangie, since my mother died.”
Lillian closed her eyes for a moment. “I remember that. I also remember I sometimes used to go to Charlie Cartier’s church, although we’re Catholic. I might have joined had I not been so bitter. When you came to live with him after Evangeline died, I watched you try to destroy yourself, then take hold” She paused, shaking her head. “I hated Evangeline Cartier Solomon for what she did to my brother. I can’t let you do what you want to do, but I will tell you why if you can bear to listen to a vicious diatribe against a woman you probably love the way so many men loved her.”
Lillian’s breath was ragged then. “We were a very close-knit family. New Orleans Creoles, and no, we don’t call ourselves Black Creoles, just Creoles. Let the White ones do what the hell they will. I’m the darkest member of my family, but we prided ourselves on not being prejudiced against anyone darker than we were. We’re descended from the very white Tommy Lafon, the passe pour blanc philanthropist…” Her face lit up a bit. “And there’s also my wondrous great grandfather from Santo Domingo, Martin Dominguez. That man was and is my heart. He was darker than I am, mixed blood. A master forgeron whose gorgeous iron carving graces half the mansions of New Orleans’ richest families.
She looked thoughtful here, frownning as she remembered. “When I was twenty and at LSU, a White student from Texas and I fell in love. Before either of us could graduate, we ran away and married. My parents were kind. His were also kind, but they made it plain they hated the marriage. I lost a child for him and he said it was surely God’s will.” She paused and glanced coldly at Sheba’s belly. “It tore me up and I filed for divorce and came home. I’ve never remarried. I mention this because my brother might have been following my lead. I was 14 years older than Christian. My mother was sickly and I mostly took care of him. He was the only child I wanted after I lost my baby.”
The expression on her face was amazing then. At first, glowing with love and memory, then changing to a hag’s hatefulness. “Christian became the heart of the Moncrief family. Everybody loved him. They wanted him for a friend, a son-in-law, you name it. He was brilliant, gifted and he was in medical school at twenty-four when he met Evangeline.” Breathing faster, she went on. “My brother became a god bestriding Mt. Olympus. He was in love and I was furious. I knew what hell interracial couples could go through. I pleaded with him, I even got down on my knees because I knew he loved me. But Evangeline won.”
Marty shook his head. “I’m sorry this caused you such pain.”
Her laughter was a hag’s cackle then. “Why in hell can’t you let sleeping dogs lie. You know the old saying, and it’s said because some dogs when you rouse them will take the hide off you. This can happen to you, Martin. Are you thinking clearly?”
“I believe I am.”
“And you, Sheba? Has nobody told you about the hell a mixed marriage child can go through? Oh, you’ve done the deed now, and there’s no going back. Abortion perhaps?”
“No,” Sheba said quietly. “We believe in God and we know that we are all His sons and daughters. We will be all right. We believe that with all our hearts.”
Lillian closed her eyes as if she hadn’t heard Sheba. “When I lost Christian to Evangeline, I railed again the heavens. I had seen her often at church with her uncle, Rev. Cartier, and had admired her beauty, her beatific face. But there were tales about Evangeline. Men prostrated themselves at her shrine, and she fostered it. There were boyfriends and gossip said, lovers. The Crescent City loves its romantic intrigue. I invited her to lunch in the French Quarter and asked her to give Christian up. She flatly refused. I left in a rage. . .”
Lillian’s body was tense with memory then, anger making her features hard. “Already the affair was affecting my mother’s health and it hurt her that Christian would not listen to her either. When I told her that I had talked to Evangeline, she went into a trance that in days became a coma and she never recovered. I sat in a darkened room knowing my mother was dying and why and I called your mother every filthy name I knew. I have never known such hatred, before or after, but that hatred keeps me from dying of grief.
“Then one night Christian came home after our mother died, and he looked at me with loathing. ‘Why did you do it, Sis? You’ve caused me to lose her. Vangie told me about your lunch with her. She’s a tender woman, Lil, and she wants love in her life, not hatred. She knows what you mean to me.’ He cried then, and I hadn’t seen Christian cry since he was a child. It tormented me , but I was happy too, fiercely grateful to God for giving him back to me.”
They sat transfixed and the woman looked at them through tear-filled eyes that she tried to brush away with the back of her hand. “Did I say I was happy? Well, it sure as hell didn’t last long. He told me he begged her to reconsider, but she wouldn’t. And the night he told me was the beginning of the end. My beloved brother began his descent into hell that same night. He didn’t come home until morning and the cops brought him to me then, a bloody mess from a fight in the French Quarter. My peaceful brother who really believed in turning the other cheek. He died in an automobile accident six weeks later. And in that time, he had had five automobile accidents. Accidentally on purpose.
“From the time he railed at me about my lunch with Evangeline, he barely spoke to me again. Our mother died and was buried. I’m not sure he was ever sober enough to realize it. “Shut up!” he told me once, “hasn’t your vicious mouth and bigoted mind done enough damage. You got what you wanted. I hope to hell it lasts you all your life.”
For a long moment, Lillian seemed about to choke on her own tears, then she forced herself to rally and crossed herself.
“I’m so sorry,” Marty told her.
“Not half as sorry as I am. You both had other marriages with more appropriate people.”
“My first wife was half-Mexican.”
Lillian shook her head. “Hardly the same thing.”
Marty smiled a little. “We love each other and we believe in God and in each other. We’ve been happy. We plan to stay that way.”
“So did I when I married my White lover. You loved your mother very much.”
“She was my heart.”
“My grandfather Martin was mine, then Christian. I kept up with Evangeline. I was obsessed with the woman. I hired a private detective who followed her from time to time. In a short while after Christian’s death she married your father. It was a quiet wedding and I guessed there might be a baby on the way. She had tried to call me and I refused to take the call. I followed her with my spies’ eyes to Marigold where she settled in with your wealthy father. In due time you were born, then your brother, Pete. Your photos were in the Marigold paper and here.
“You look so much like Christian it breaks my heart, but this tells me nothing. The resemblance between those two was incredible. I used to call them to his face ‘the devil’s twins. He alway smiled when I said it. I could say nothing that bothered hin at that time.”
She sighed heavily then. “He had so much to offer and she took it all away,” she said abruptly. “Did she ever tell you how they met?”
Marty nodded. “She never talked about it until she was dying. She said it was at a Billy Graham service.”
“At the convention center. I was there, too, and I saw it happen in a lightning flash. She had that beautiful lyric soprano voice so like yours, Sheba. She sang that night as if to God Himself. They met and seemed to be consumed by their own passion. He took her home and arranged for a friend to take me.”
Very slowly Marty said, “Vangie always said love knows no boundaries.”
“I believe fear sets up boundaries in a love like theirs. Like yours. They both blamed me, but I think she was too cowardly to face what they would face. She maried a rich White man like her rich uncle who’d raised her and she told you about it only on her death bed. Doesn’t that tell you something?”
Marty shook his head, “Only that we are not perfect and we all make mistakes.”
Lillian excused herself and went out. Marty leaned over and brushed Sheba’s lips with his. Her eyes were moist and shining and sad.
Lillian came back holding two framed photos. First she showed them the one of Christian in his coffin. The undertaker had not been able to erase the terrible pain mirrored on his face. Then the one of Christian that she said was taken a month before his death, when he was happy on top of his mountain. Both Marty and Sheba gasped because the resemblance to Marty was so striking. She only let them study the photos a few minutes before taking them away.
Sitting down and placing the photos on a table, she drew a deep breath. “I was in the back of the church in Marigold when they buried Evangeline,” Lillian said. “I rejoiced. Oh God, hatred is a terrible thing, but it can keep you company when you have nothing else.”
For long moments they were all silent, digesting the still present grief. Lillian closed her eyes when she spoke. “Christian loved children. He was going to be a pediatrician and he had wonderful dreams of setting up clinics for the poor and underserved in Louisiana and elsewhere. Huge dreams. I began to lose faith when Papa Dominguez died; nobody was ever able to explain that to me. A child sees God as his parents or beloved caretakers. By the time Christian died, I had little, if any, faith left. I didn’t because I’m not that bold, but I wanted to curse God and die as Job’s wife advised him to do. Christian did my believing for me. He was an absolute Christian; no one had more faith. He used to say if he didn’t want to be a doctor so much, he’d have become a minister.
“With my grandfather’s death, I asked God why and I never got a satisfactory answer. Christian’s faith made him happy, filled him with love, but also with the love that killed him. I have no faith.” She spat the words distinctly. “I will never have faith again. I said to God. ‘He wanted to live and he believed in you the way few others ever have or can. You took him.’ Now, my brother would have said it was God’s will. But what about his, Christian’s, will. Didn’t what he wanted matter? Shouldn’t his faith have protected him against loving Evangeline and hurting himself? No pastor, whatever else, I will never be duped by the lies of faith and belief again.”
Marty sat with saddened heart. Nothing in his training, in his life, in Charlie Cartier’s love and training had prepared him for this minute. It seemed to him a test of everything he believed himself to be capable of. He wanted to help and he was helpless to help. Had God momentarily deserted him the way Lillian thought He had deserted her? But he shook his head slowly and he spoke in a voice he didn’t altogether recognize as his own. “Faith has to be blind at times, Lillian. We do not, we cannot understand God’s ways every moment, his every trial. We can only be certain that if we will wait, at some point those ways will become crystal clear, that He loves us and we can never lose Him. But we can throw Him away.”
Lillian’s laugh was a parody of laughter. Harsh and shrill it rasped in her throat. “I must ask you to leave now. I”m truly sorry I couldn’t help you because you look so much like Christian. Perhaps he is your father, but I don’t want to have to look at you except at those times I masochistically torment myself with memory. You could also be the child of the man who raised you. I only know that I live without faith and I always will. It’s the only way I can give my brother up. If I believe, then I fall into the same damned trap he fell into, absolute belief. It didn’t save him and it won’t save me. I have to ask you to leave now. And I am sorry.”
She rose and they got up slowly. Both extended their hands and she shook each hand firmly. “There may come a time when you’ll know like Christian found out that faith and belief cannot save you, not always anyway. I live without it openly. The hypocrites of this world live without it, even as they lie. I have come to be something of a monster I suppose, but at least I expect nothing I am not reasonably certain I will get.” She paused and looked at Sheba’s belly and her eyes were moist and unfathomable. “Good luck with the child,” she said softly. “It might have been different for me had I not lost mine.”
That night in their hotel room in the French Quarter, Marty and Sheba were mostly silent as they’d been since leaving Lillian Moncrief. It was as if by not discussing the disappointment they could deny it. They had sadly toured the Ninth Ward of the city, the most devastated, and each had imagined the treacherous muddy, swirling waters that had destroyed so many lives. But other sections were rapidly being rebuilt. Only the poor had lost bigtime; the wealthy had fared so much better. The government was doing a poor job of managing the disaster. Where was God in all this Sheba and Marty both wondered.
Very thoughtfully, Sheba said, “She used the word ‘hell’ so often. I think it’s where she lives now, Marty. Has lived for a long time.”
He nodded. “She’s a tormented soul.” He began to say something else, then stopped abruptly.
Their hearts had been heavy as they had walked earlier, as they ate in a swanky French Quarter restaurant and picked up snacks they didn’t want as they hadn’t wanted their dinner. They picked up two bottles of expensive sangria that Sheba favored and the brandy from a good year that Marty liked. All that afternoon they had touched each other often as if each one was afraid the other would disappear.
Finally in nightclothes and robes, Sheba turned to him as they sat on the sofa watching an old movie, Suddenly Last Summer. “I know how disappointed you have to be. I’m disappointed too.”
“I was prepared for her refusal, but I had hoped against hope.”
“But sweetheart, something is eating you beyond that I feel. What is it? Lillian said harsh things about Vangie, but her hurt is still shattering . Just overlook it as you often counsel me to overlook things.”
He spoke only after a long silence. “Know something, Shee, my blood ran cold when she talked about the days before Christian died. After Vangie had said she couldn’t marry him. She could have been describing my life after Vangie died, after she told me. . . .”
He was even tenser then and he moved closer, drew her into his arms and held her tightly. “I know now I have not truly let myself think clearly about Vangie’s death in all these years, love. I’ve held it in, swallowed it, gone past it and moved on to my former life and the life I have with you. Her saying what she said brought it all back. What she’s feeling is the way I felt for so long. Unlike her, I wasn’t afraid to curse God and I did — many times. Had it not been for Uncle Charlie I would have killed myself the way I wanted to do. He saved me from myself, and he helped me to realize that I was letting God save me, and it had to be for a reason.
“When Vangie was dying and she told me about Christian and my possible paternity, I. . . . Oh God, I loved her so and I hated her for what she told me. I was horribly mixed up. Talking with Mark has helped me a lot, but the pain is deep and it just doesn’t seem to go away.”
He was crying then, tears of hurt and anger from the past and now the present. He clung to her as a hurt child to its mother, but with the strength of a man to his mate. His sobs were terrible and wracking. She stroked his back and pressed her slender hands to his face. “You have God’s love,” she said softly. “We have each other. Let that comfort you. Darling, I know how much you hurt. This has hurt you, but you’ve gone on in worse times. We have so much.”
Sitting up a bit, he pressed a hand to her belly and felt for the first time the movement of their child and it seemed almost a miracle. She felt it too as he slowly and carefully took her onto his lap and stroked her body, his tears momentarily stopping. His breathing was quick and ardent. Very quickly he untied her robe and pulled the beautiful periwinkle gown over her head and threw both garments aside. How beautiful her satiny brown body was with its swelling belly, luscious breasts and wide hips.
She didn’t miss a beat as she slid partially off, stripped him and smiled to herself that he was engorged, hard and totally ready to enter her yielding body. Placing her astride his lap so that he could watch her beautiful face, he entered her easily and slowly, coming home to comfort and heavenly sustenance, no matter his pain.
”Oh God, what have you given us in each other?” he said huskily. She didn’t need to answer. His ardent mouth went to suckle her breasts, tenderly at first, then almost savagely. He was her husband, her child, lover, friend.
“I love you,” she told him. “I’ve never loved you so much.”
He filled her completely, throbbing, hurt and alone somewhere within himself. In a place that she could not entirely reach, he was with his God. But he deeply felt her presence and it gave him some measure of peace, even with the searing pain of the memory of Vangie’s death and the hell he had known in his youth. He took his mouth from her breasts, brought his mouth onto hers and slowly licked her lips, outlining them with his tongue, then going deep into her hot mouth and kissing her as if he would meld with her.
The flames that licked them both were like the fire that the lover in the Bible’s Song of Solomon spoke of so ardently. His big hands were on her naked, firm buttocks then, pressing her down onto his penis, filling her with himself and feeling her hot walls grip him with a passion that rocked his very soul. They would dance this dance again in the coming hours with an intense need that floored them both. But for right now, he felt her body tremble as she came with rhythmic gripping and releasing again and again. And as she did, his body exploded with love and lust-ridden passion until both were tightly bonded in a passionate love that brought them both release and satisfaction that transcened all else, even pain.
Where do Marty and Sheba go from here? Does he end his paternity quest? Will Lillian have a change of heart? And what new troubles troubles face them and their passionate interracial marriage? Watch this space for future developments. So there you have it, for the time being. Solomon will be a series of many stories about Marty and Sheba, their church, their lives and their congregation. There are wonderful couples of the same race and different races. Marigold is an interesting town, intent on being multicultural at its best. How do they fare? I hope you’ll follow them in their victories and their defeats. Theirs is a fascinating list of stories. And remember, from tine to time there will be more excerpts. I hope I continue to see you here!