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Authors: Suzetta Perkins

A Love So Deep (39 page)

BOOK: A Love So Deep
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“Amanda, I don’t know why I did all those things. I…I…guess I wanted what Graham had…a loving wife…”

“Don’t go there, Charlie. You had a loving wife.”

“You’re right, I did have a loving wife. But you and Graham had the perfect family—two beautiful daughters, grandparents for your children, wonderful friends who adored you.”

“You could have had that, too. But you must ask for forgiveness, Charlie. You must make amends with all of those people you have hurt along the way or you’ll never find peace or happiness. You’ll continue to be a dreary old man on your own island. It’s time for you to stand up and be a man.”

“I want to ask for their forgiveness, but it’s so hard. Amanda…Amanda, where are you?” Charlie cried out. “Amanda! Please come back. I need you.”

And Amanda was gone.

“Oh, God, what am I gonna do?” Charlie cried, his body shaking.

“You’re going to ask for forgiveness,” came another voice, “like I’m going to ask you for forgiveness.”

“Momma, is that you? Why did you give me away? Why, why, why?”

“Charlie, baby, I’m sorry. I was so young back then, and while I wanted to keep you safe in my arms, I had to do what Momma and Poppa said do. It was hard back in those days when you had a baby and you weren’t married. But know this, my son. I’ve always loved you. You were always in my bosom…my heart and I loved you until the day I died. I watched you grow up right under my eyes, and you and Graham were so much alike. There were times when I could barely stand to watch the two of you together.”

“But why didn’t you say something to me so that I would know that you loved me?”

“That was my mistake. I should have gone to your momma, my distant aunt, and told her that I wanted you to know who I was. To tell you the truth, I was frightened what the truth might do to my family. But it was unfair to you, my firstborn. I don’t blame you if you never forgive me for what I’ve done, but don’t hold it against Graham. God sent Graham to you. I can only ask you to forgive me like you must ask Graham for forgiveness for what you have done. You have a brother. Go and get it straight with him before it’s too late.”

“I’m the one who’s been in pain, but nobody seems to care about that. I’ve been in pain for the past thirty-five years—ever since the day I got my birth certificate so I could marry Ernestine. Ernestine was a good woman, but I couldn’t get over the fact that my very own mother was also my best friend’s mother and that I actually knew who you were. I let it eat me up inside, destroying a good woman and what might have been a good marriage.”

“I’m sorry, son. I hope you can forgive me. I’ve got to go but know that your momma has always loved you.”

“No, don’t go. Please don’t leave me now. You just got here.”

“Forgiveness lifts every heavy burden. Forgive.”

“Momma, don’t go…don’t go!” Charlie cried out loud.

The door to Charlie’s room opened.

“My God, what’s going on in here?” the nurse questioned, rushing toward Charlie. Charlie was convulsing and sweat poured from his body. The nurse checked the monitor, felt Charlie’s head, and pulled Charlie’s chart from the foot of the bed.

Charlie made an attempt to smile. His eyes were glossed over and he continued to shiver while the monitor made erratic noises.

“I need assistance,” the nurse yelled into the intercom on Charlie’s bed. “The patient may have had a reaction to a drug.” She turned to Charlie. “Let’s pull these blankets around you and try to get you stabilized.

Two nurses rushed in and prepared to pump Charlie’s stomach. Charlie began to cough and did so until he purged himself of the impurities in his body. The doctor arrived and ordered the nurses to replace the saline drip with a new bottle. Charlie settled down as if nothing had happened and fell into a light sleep.

“Forgive,” squeaked through Charlie’s tight lips, and the nurses looked at each other wondering if the message was for them.

Chapter 63

lips lingered and their eyes studied each other. Graham held Rita tight as he pressed his lips against hers—his reassurance that the woman he loved was in synch with him.

“Thank you, Graham, for a wonderful evening,” Rita said, as she released her lips for a breath of fresh air.

“I don’t know what I would have done if you walked out of my life.”

Rita placed her hand over Graham’s heart and held it there. She looked into his eyes and smiled.

“It meant a lot, Graham, that you came looking for me—to save your damsel in distress.”

“Shhh,” Graham pleaded. “I’ll always be here.”

“But,” Rita stuttered, “but, but I knew then I had not made a mistake about the man I had given my heart to.”

“I love you Rita, and I’m going to prove it to you until the day I die.”

“Silly man. Hmph, no need. I know you love me. Kiss me again.”

They embraced and brought their lips together again, saluting each other. After a moment, Graham backed away with a frown on his face.

“All right now, what’s with the frown? Just a minute ago…”

“Come and sit down, baby. It’s Charlie. I can’t get him out of my mind. All the appalling things he’s done to you and Mary…even Amanda all those years ago. And then…I find out he’s my brother. I can’t get over it. After all these years, my best friend turns out to be my own flesh and blood.”

Rita remained quiet.

“What ya thinking?”

“Graham, sweetheart, I have every right to hate Charlie, and I do hate him for what he tried to do to me, but I want to forgive him. I know I can’t face him right now, and I’m not sure I even want to be anywhere near him. I checked on him at the hospital—that was all I could do. But you have to confront Charlie and get things out into the open if you ever hope to have some kind of resolve within your own soul.”

“He makes me so angry and then I stop and remember the times that weren’t so bad. I remember the day he told me to get my crusty butt up and get on with my life. If he hadn’t been there, I would be in the grave next to Amanda and I wouldn’t have met you.” Rita blushed.

“I need to understand why he did what he did to you and Mary. What kind of low-down dirty person would resort to such—how could he hurt the people he loved and cared about.”

“Charlie flipped a switch. Something happened that caused those demons inside of him to take over. I hope he has learned his lesson this time, especially since I’m not pressing charges.”

“Stay here, sweetie, until I get back. I’ve got to go to the hospital tonight and see Charlie. I can’t let another minute pass without me having a word with him. He was sleep when I slipped his insurance information in his room. By now, he knows I’ve been there and may know about the birth certificate. That was what he wanted me to find out by sending me out to his house. Don’t you move; I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be here.”

Graham raced to his car, got in, and sped toward Kaiser Hospital. The day was almost over—a day full of happiness and misfortunes, discovery and surprise, forgiveness and caution. Whatever the day had been, Graham needed to bring closure to all the questions that were galloping across his mind. His spirit was in conflict with his soul and Graham wanted to afford Charlie every opportunity to explain his behavior. Graham wanted to understand, although he already knew they would never be the same.

When Graham reached for the door, a nurse was on her way out and held the door open for him to pass. Graham saw the doctor and a second nurse checking Charlie’s vitals.

“Is he all right?” Graham asked with a hint of concern in his voice.

“He is now,” the doctor responded. “You are…”

“I’m his brother, Graham Peters.”

“Well, Mr. Peters, Charlie had a reaction to one of the drugs we gave him, and he had a bit of a rough time. We were able to stabilize him, and he’s a little groggy, dozing off and on.”

“He’s…” Graham hesitated, “Is he going to be all right?

“I think so,” the doctor said. “He’s been talking out of his head.”

Graham stared at a sleeping Charlie, angry with himself for waiting too late to tell Charlie what he thought of him.

Chapter 64

bright-yellow taxi pulled to the curb and Charlie slowly stepped out. He stood on the sidewalk as the cab sped away, then turned and looked at the mint-green stucco house he had lived in for more than three decades. Not much had changed in the week that he was in the hospital, and like everyone else, Tinkerbell the cat, hadn’t been there to welcome him home.

Charlie entered the house and looked around. He moved to the kitchen and noticed the bottle of Chivas was not on the table. Charlie sighed.

While he felt much better and the bandage to his head had been removed, he moved with very little energy. He walked into the living room and slumped down onto the couch and flicked on the television. He picked up the remote and walked through several stations, but there was nothing on worth investing his time.

It was Graham, his brother, who had saved his sorry hide once again. He probably deserved the jail cell that he narrowly escaped by a miracle that had reduced his unsavory antics to probation and rehab.

The telephone lay on the table next to the couch, and he reached over and touched the receiver. He removed his hand, then thought better of it and picked it up. Before he changed his mind, he dialed Mary’s number, the digits coming back to him the faster he dialed.

He heard Mary’s voice, but he was afraid to say anything. He listened, and there she was again.


“Mary?” And the line was dead.

It would be a few more days before Charlie dialed Mary’s number again. He was met with the same answer—no response. After the sixth try, Charlie gave up, remorseful for all he had put Mary through. He would ask her and Rita for forgiveness in time. No one had come around to visit, but he remembered the words of Amanda and his mother,

Several months later…

“My Lord. Son, what brought you to the church house?”

“Pastor Fields, do you have a moment to speak with me? I need to talk to someone.”

“Come on in, Charlie, I’ll make time for you. Son, we’ve been praying for you.”

“I thank you, Pastor. I’m not sure I deserve your prayers, but I appreciate it anyhow.”

“As Christians, we are supposed to pray for everyone, no matter what the circumstance. Now tell me, what can I do for you this fine morning?”

“I need help with that word called

“All you have to do is get on your knees and ask the Lord to forgive you, and he will.”

“You don’t understand, Pastor Fields. I’ve hurt a lot of people, and I have to tell them I’m sorry and that I didn’t mean to do the things I’ve done.”

“We’ve all sinned, Brother Charlie, but God forgives us if we ask.”

The tears began to roll down Charlie’s cheeks. “Ohhhh, Pastor,” Charlie cried, “I’ve done some terrible things. Oh God, help me. I betrayed my best friend, my brother. Graham and I are brothers. He had the mother I never had…I mean he had everything that I wanted. I wanted him to suffer like I suffered because my mother gave me away and he had the best of her. If she could have just told me she loved me.”

Charlie released all the hurt that was inside of him.

“Charlie, it’s not too late to get things straight with Brother Graham. It’s not too late for you to get it right with yourself. You have to ask God for forgiveness. Once God has forgiven you, you can go to those you need to address. Let them know how you feel and why you’re coming to them now. God will do the rest. Trust me, son. It’s going to be all right.”

“I wish it were that simple.”

“It is. Repeat after me.”



“Forgive me.”

“Lord, forgive me.”

“That how it starts. We’re getting ready to begin church service in a few minutes and I’d like for you to stay. You want help? The doors to the church are open. Now, son, I’ve got to run. I’m praying for you.”

Pastor Fields left his study before Charlie could say thank you. Charlie stood there a minute, contemplating what he should do. He pushed the door open to Pastor Fields’ study just as the choir marched by. He saw Rita as she passed by and Charlie darted back into the study for safety. He wasn’t ready for any one-on-one confrontations with the people he had hurt and loved, especially since he had not made any attempt to contact them.

Ten minutes passed and he felt it safe to exit the study. He was on his way outside when he got a glimpse of Mary in her white usher’s uniform, helping an elderly woman to the restroom. She didn’t resemble the woman he had come to know, more the plain Mary from before. But there was something about Mary Ross that Charlie couldn’t deny.

So Charlie seized the moment when Mary wasn’t looking and went inside the sanctuary. He took a seat in one of the back pews where no one would recognize him, where he didn’t feel out of place, and where he could watch Mary from a safe distance.

“And let the church say…Amen!” one of the deacons shouted at the end of morning prayer.

Tambourines took to the air with their golden rings clashing like cymbals in an upbeat tempo, their skinned backsides beat by the outstretched palms of human flesh. The piano and organ competed for the melody while Nine West, Enzo, Coach, Stacy Adams, a pair of Marc Jacobs, and a pair of Ferragamos kicked up dust on the worn-out carpet in their quest to win
The Best Fancy Footwork Contest for the Lord Award.
Fans moved in synchronized rhythm either to the beat of the fast-paced, hallelujah-shouting music or to cool down the sweat of the “private summers” the young fifty-something women had found themselves entrenched in. Whatever the pleasure, praise and worship was mighty high.

In one row of pews sat Deborah and her family, Liz and her family, and Graham. Graham sat forward as the choir prepared to sing. Rita, dressed in a long purple robe with a shiny gold collar, came forward and took the mike. She closed her eyes and raised her head toward Heaven and began to sing the first verse of “The Battle is Not Yours” by Yolanda Adams.

Hands throughout the congregation were lifted toward Heaven and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Rita sang with conviction and knowing because this was her testimony. “The battle is not yours, it’s the Lord’s.”

“Thank you, Sister Long, for that beautiful song,” began Reverend Fields. “The battle is not yours, it’s the Lord’s. How many of you have tried to fix things by yourself without any result?”

The entire congregation raised their hands.

“Well, I’m telling you today, try Jesus because He’s all that you need. He’s your doctor in the sick room…”

“He sure is,” Martha sang out, sitting next to Elroy in her gold-brocade, two-piece suit with rabbit fur looped around her neck to form a collar.

“He’ll be your lawyer in the court room, He’ll be whatever you need,” Reverend Fields hollered into the microphone.

Shouts of “Yes, Jesus, Yes, Jesus,” and “Hallelujah” were heard all over the building. Hands up in the air, Reverend Fields slowly brought them down to quiet the congregation and continue with his sermon. And at the conclusion he opened the doors to the church and asked Sister Rita to come up to the microphone once more and sing.

Rita walked up to the mike and looked out into the church. “Reverend Fields sent us a timely message—a message that never gets old. The Lord wants to be a part of each and everyone’s life. None of us has been good all of our lives, but it was God’s mercy that kept us. We fall down, but we get up…for a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got back up.”

The choir stood up and backed Rita up on the song Donnie McClurkin made famous. There was no doubting the power of the message or the messenger, and after a minute or two, one person stood up, then another.

Charlie watched as people got up and moved toward the front of the church. He felt naked on the pew, but he knew the words of the song were meant for him. He slowly got up and shuffled to the end of the row and took what seemed like a long walk to the front to dedicate his life to Christ.

Fingers touched his and Charlie opened his eyes to find that Graham had joined him at the altar. Before long, the whole pew where Graham sat was empty—Deborah and Grant, Liz and Riley, Martha and Elroy had joined the others, praising God for the prodigal son who had returned home.

BOOK: A Love So Deep
4.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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