Okay, so I last gave you Chapter 3. Now 14? I’m skipping about to give you the full flavor of S&S. This chapter is about Sheba’s grandfather Joe and his beloved wife Miss Addie Love. You won’t get lost herein. I think you’ll follow easily because each chapter has an explanatory note. Happy reading!
It was a happy night at Church of the Holy Redeemer. In one of the spacious rooms set aside for gatherings, a group called Good Marriages Forever had gathered to fete a few of the most active and devoted couples. Everybody felt that Papa Joe Isaacs and Miss Addie Love just about headed the list. Still they had insisted on being the last ones honored. Now it was their time and properly introduced, Papa Joe rose, looked around and his twinkling eyes settled on his beloved Addie, who sat in the small audience on the front seat. He boldly threw her a kiss and she blushed.
“My speech tonight is different from the Bible’s Adam’s,” he began. “He said ‘Lord, this woman you gave me,’ and went on to complain about Eve. Me, I’ve got no complaints about my mate Miss Addie. If any apples were offered for biting into, I offered one to her and she trusted me enough to bite. She’s about as perfect as they come. She’s been my mate, my precious bedfellow, my love, for I won’t say for how long. Lord, I’m not sure I remember. But I do remember that while the people of this time don’t talk much about saints anymore, Miss Addie is a saint sent to me directly by God.” For a moment, he seemed to have a lot more to say, but he choked up and brushed away a few tears. “I love her. I need her. I want her. She and I will be forever together. I just can’t talk anymore. I’m all choked up on love.”
He left the small stage and walked to where Miss Addie sat on the front row, pulled her up and kissed her soundly to the cheers of the small crowd. Papa Joe was happy to be the last one and to be leaving soon because he had so much more to tell his wife.
But his friends in the small crowd had other plans and they broke out surprise jeroboams of champagne and wedding cake baked by several of the church members. They wanted to talk about the couple’s secrets for their happy marriage that so many envied. It seemed to Joe a very long time before they got away.
In their car, he drove along with his usual care, finally putting a big hand on her knee. “Hey, you’re awfully quiet. I embarrass you with my love?”
She shook her head. “No. It’s just that…”
“It’ll wait until we get home, honey. We have to talk.”
He drew a deep breath. “I think you and I talk more than most couples, don’t you think?”
She thought a moment. “Probably. Just wait until we get there.”
Joe reflected that she’d called him ‘honey’ twice in a brief time. He’d come to know that Miss Addie sometimes used endearments when she had something deep on her mind.
A bit flustered, he covered it. “Got a present for you at home.”
“Oh?” Right now, a present was the last thing on her mind.
“Yeah. You’re gonna love it. Bring back memories. I love you, old girl.”
“And I love you.”
Okay, he thought, so it was going to be all right. With the love they shared, how could it not be?
Once inside their house, he went to their master bedroom and brought back a long box wrapped in silver paper with a fancy floral bouquet at one end. She sat on the sofa and he bent and kissed her cheek, laid the package in her lap. She smiled tightlly as she looked up at him.
“Open it, babe. What’re you waiting for?”
Slowly she undid the wrappings, wishing this could have come at a different time. Inside the box was a nightgown of ivory semisheer satin, with three-quarter length sleeves. There was a yoke of cobwebby lace and ivory ribbons. Exquisite. Addie felt tears come to her eyes that she didn’t brush away. “It’s beautiful,” she said, still holding the garment. “Thank you.”
He had begun to wonder what was eating her. Now he said, “I think your cue is to jump up and kiss me breathless. And we both know that nightgowns are made to pull off.”
Addie shook her head. “Oh Joe. You’re the best and I love you, but I said we have to talk and it has to be now, love. Forgive me in advance for what I have to tell you.”
Joe frowned. His libido was working overtime and he wanted nothing in the way. “Okay. I’ll sit. Talk woman, and this had better be good.”
Addie sighed then, laid the box with the gown on the coffee table. “You love me, I know, and I love you, and that’s why you hold me in such high regard, but tonight, Joe, I realized that I have to tell you I don’t belong on that high pedestal you’ve put me on since I’ve known you. We were in our late sixties when we married. I’m going to be blunt. I have a past I’m not proud of….”
Joe sat transfixed, breathing shallowly. Lord, not his precious Addie. What could she have done? His sweet librarian wife, never married, took care of her ailing mother until she died.
“When I was forty-two and lonely, Joe, and Mama had been dead three months, I was climbing the walls with loneliness. I wasn’t a virgin. Two nice love affairs that didn’t work out. A man like I’d never met settled in the small town we lived in. Mitch McKenzie, a well known prize fighter, up and coming, married….” She licked her lips and Joe looked at her as she let the memories wash over her like a tide coming in.
Mitch McKenzie. Tall, bronze, with rippling muscles and a charsimatic smile. In later times his kind would be known as drop dead gorgeous. He took to coming to the library and soon it was apparent he came in to talk with her. He drove a flashy car and dressed well. She knew from a co-worker that he was married to an older woman who had supported him until he got on his feet. Four years of glory and he sustained an arm injury and had to retire. She empathized with him. And she was never sure just how their affair got started. It was passionate, just five months, and she floated on clouds she hadn’t known existed.
It ended when one night she answered a knock, expecting him and a woman in her late fifties stood at her door, her face drawn and angry, yet sad. “I’m Mitch McKenzie’s wife,” she said. “May I come in?”
Stupefied, Addie had invited the woman in, even managed to ask if she wanted something to drink. Mrs. McKenzie demurred, studying her rival. “He wants to leave me and marry you,” the woman said. “Did you know that?”
Addie nodded. “I guess he’s mentioned it.”
“He’s in love ith you, and there’ve been plenty of women for him, but he’s never talked about leaving. You’re older than I thought you’d be. You feel things deeply and I know because we’re alike in that way. You’re a bit older than he is and I’m a lot. Mitch and I aren’t well educated like you, and he’s always liked educated women.” The woman’s voice broke a bit then as she said, “Oh hell, maybe it was always going to be this way. I’ve had him while I’ve had him. He’s like a damned drug to me. I’d crawl behind him, begging him to stay, but I won’t this time. I’m going to let you have him and the hell he’ll put you through will be my revenge.”
The woman’s eyes held triumph then and Addie’s heart was a dead thing in her breast. Mitch McKenzie was one of a kind, a lover most women would kill for, and was she any exception? “I’m so sorry,” she said now. “I can’t explain this and I won’t try. I won’t see your husband again.”
Tears flooded the woman’s face and she bent forward, then quickly straightened up as Addie handed her a box of tissues. “My name is Sarita; I never said. I’ve gotten in the habit of speaking of myself as just Mitch’s wife. I came here to kill you, Addie. He calls your name in his sleep and he worships you, loves you the way he never loved me. But if you let him go, he’ll come back to me — I think.” She looked as if she were begging against her will.
The woman reached into her purse and brought out a pearl handled man’s straight razor as Addie flinched. It was almost a replica of the one her grandfather had shaved with. The woman shook her head and slipped the razor back into her purse. “I had to be crazy….” She looked shocked at her actions, at what she had just said.
She left then and that night Addie took a train to her sister’s in Baltimore. It was a Friday, a Labor Day weekend and she had worlds of sick leave. Resolute, she had refused to see Mitch when he tried, and he did try. Finally he saw that she meant what she said and he stopped.
Addie finished and Joe sat stunned. A married man. A bounder. And she had been going to take him from his wife. His Addie Love? Shock waves ran through him. It wasn’t like she hadn’t known the bastard was married; she’d slept with him anyway. Who else had there been? What else had his tarnished angel done? He was drawn to her as never before and he wanted to smash even her memory. For the llife of him, he couldn’t speak.
She saw his torment and it bothered her that she saw no sign of understanding or forgiveness. “After a long while,” she said simply, “I saw that my faith was what I had left, all I had left and a few good friends. I came to know, my love, that in the crucible of God’s love the ugly and terrifying can be transformed into something beautiful and safe.” She shook her head. “I wanted to tell you that I didn’t want you to worship me and my feet of clay. Because in God’s love I became a whole person and in His love, I have come to know myself.”
As I’ve said, Joe walks out. Does he return? And Miss Addie is left to ponder her just ended sainthood and possibly her marriage. You’ll have to read the released version of Solomon and Sheba to find out.
Next time, Chapter 7 where Sheba and Marty go for a cruise on the Bay in a friend’s small yacht. It is idyyllic and their lovemaking is fierce and binding. But Sheba is bothered that Marty may still be in love with his late wife, her friend Martina. More and more she realizes how much she loves him, wants for and from him. Marty is a private, brilliant man, caring and deep, but will he ever belong to her the way she wants him to?