I want to acknowledge the warriors in my life. Some of them have gone on to be with the Lord, and others still remain on the battlefield, fighting the good fight of faith. To my grandfather, Samuel Moss, who left a legacy of knowledge, wisdom, and the pursuit of excellence. To my Uncle Julius, the most unselfish man I have ever known. To my aunt Mary, a woman who is more than a conqueror. To the two toughest women walking the earth, my grandmothers, Doreatha Moss and Ruth Jonice, I love you. To my parents, I love you, and I appreciate our relationships more now that I am a parent and realize the sacrifices parenting entails. I cannot leave out my stepmother, Elainna, and my stepfather, David. I love you guys, and I appreciate the love you show toward me. To my nephews AJ and Airon, I love you boys, and I am proud of you. To my uncle Jeryle, I love you and you're my hero.
To my closest friends, Mike Boykins, Jaton Gunter, Mike Jacques, Shamid Austin, Mike Garrett, and Sean Fritz, I treasure your wisdom, and I value our friendship. To my in-laws, Johnny and Trina Kizzie, thank you for being great parents and raising an amazing woman who I am proud to call my wife. To bestselling author Mary B. Morrison, thank you for your pearls of wisdom and your beautiful nature. Thank you to my fellow Damascus Road authors, as well as my fellow Urban Christian authors. To my editor, Joy, thank you for always seeing the potential of my work and pushing me to become a better writer. To my spiritual leaders, Bishop Noel Jones, Pastor Oscar Dace, and Minister Kevin Murray, truly anointed men of God who have guided me through the various storms of life into manhood.
To every reader, book club, and bookstore that has supported me, thank you. I wanted my writing to have an impact on the masses, and it has, thanks to you. Finally, I want to acknowledge my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This book would not have been completed if it weren't for you. I thank you for my gift and purpose, but after all that has transpired in the last two years, I thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you!
Four Weeks until the Men's Retreat . . .
Chauncey was not sure if online dating was the most Christian way of courtship, but he had met a lovely Christian woman online who seemed to have exactly what he desired in a wife. Therefore, Chauncey found himself at M & M Soul Food on a Friday night. He occupied a table next to the window, which would allow him to spot his date, Regina, when she arrived. She was well versed in the scriptures; she did not watch TV, except for TBN,
All My Children,
and reruns of
Finally, and this was not the most important factor, Regina was Foxy Brown fine. He had declared that this year he would find his helpmate and fulfill his God-given purpose of being a minister. Chauncey had concluded that the reason that Pastor Dawkins did not admit him into the ministers' class last year had little to do with him dealing with his brother's death and more to do with the fact that he wasn't married.
Chauncey knew that Pastor Dawkins would not allow another unmarried man to enter his ministers' class. The position of minister was too powerful for a single man to handle, because he would have to offer counsel to a lot of troubled womenâbeautiful women, young ladies with hourglass framesâand that would open the door for the devil to come in. Lately, Chauncey felt that Greater Anointing church had been flooded with scandal, and the best way to weather the storm was to bring the leaders back to the principle that it was better to marry than to burn.
An invitation to the ministers' class wasn't the sole reason why Chauncey had decided to date. He longed for companionship. What man would not want to be comforted in the arms of a beautiful woman like Regina? Her photo on the online dating site had a black-and-white background, which only enhanced her glamorous appeal. The Bible was clear when it stated that it was not good for a man to be alone, and while Chauncey enjoyed the company of both his single and married friends, he could not avoid being alone sometimes. He would come home to an empty house every day, and that feeling pricked at his heart.
Chauncey sat nervously inside of M & M Soul Food Restaurant. He had chosen the M & M in Carson because Regina lived in Hawthorne, so the location was neutral for both parties. Chauncey especially liked that the restaurant was right next to the 91 freeway, which would make his drive back to Long Beach much easier. While he waited for Regina to arrive, Chauncey pulled a pocket-sized Bible out of his inside jacket pocket and reviewed some of his highlighted passages in Proverbs.
He focused mainly on the passages that dealt with a virtuous wife and the wisdom that a righteous woman brought to a man. It would be nice if he could bring a date with him to Jamal's wedding. It was 6:45
, and Regina had agreed to meet him at 7:00
Tardiness was a deal breaker for Chauncey when it came to anything, especially dating. Regina had fifteen minutes.
Lord, I pray that my date finds her way to the restaurant and that she arrives on time, because I know that your Word declares that we should do things decently and in proper order. That includes showing up to dinner on time. I also pray that she will be a respectable woman that will not try to rush things. Above all, that she will be the woman that you would have for me. In Jesus's name I pray. Amen!
Just as Chauncey concluded his prayer and lifted his head, a woman entered the restaurant. Chauncey wondered what a woman her age was doing out by herself. Only a few streaks of black hair remained on this woman.
“Hello, Deacon McClendon. I'm Regina.” Regina extended her hand when she arrived at Chauncey's table.
No, you're not!
The Regina that Chauncey knew from all those online chats through Christianmate.com was a five-foot-nine-inch mocha cutie-pie. Her profile picture had confirmed that fact.
“God bless you,” Chauncey said as he stood up and shook her hand. He shook her hand with both hands because that was how he was raised. He was raised to be a gentleman. He also maneuvered around the table to her side and pulled out a chair for Regina, and the elderly lady sat down.
“Such a gentleman.” Regina scanned the restaurant and donned a pleasant smile. “I love this place. Sometimes I come here with my girlfriends from church.”
“So do I, um . . . This is somewhat awkward.” Chauncey sat down and folded his hands.
“Really? How so?” Regina asked.
“Well, you're not what I expected,” Chauncey replied.
“I look just like my picture.” Regina tried to strike a pose similar to the one in the picture on her profile.
“Forty years ago, maybe.” Chauncey covered his mouth. He did not mean to say what he thought.
“Excuse me?” Regina cocked her head to the side with her hand on her hip.
The horrified look on Regina's face told Chauncey that he had said enough. Awkwardness set in, while the sound of food being fried and tables being bused dominated the atmosphere. The giddy conversations at the neighboring tables helped ease the tension in the room. It was not long before the waitress approached with pen and paper in hand.
“Have you guys decided on what you'll be having?” the waitress asked.
“I just don't know what I want.” Regina picked up her menu for the first time and started to scan it.
Chauncey seized the moment to ask the young lady an important question. “Do you, by any chance, have a senior citizen's discount?” Chauncey said, with the menu covering his mouth to muffle his words.
“I'm sorry. We don't,” the waitress replied, shaking her head.
The look on Regina's face indicated that Chauncey had been unsuccessful in his attempt to hide what he and the waitress were talking about.
“I'll have the liver and onions.” Regina closed the menu.
“I'll have the fried chicken dinner with greens, mac and cheese, and corn bread,” Chauncey said. He did not take his eyes off of Regina.
The waitress collected the menus and made her way to the kitchen. Moments later she came back to drop off two glasses of water.
“So I'm not what you expected?” Regina said before she took a sip of her water.
“It's not that. It's just that I wonder how long ago it was when you took that profile picture.”
“Why does it matter?”
“It matters because I thought that I was going to meet a woman my age.”
Regina's online dating profile said she was ninety-nine. That was not anything new. Most women put ninety-nine as their age for their online profiles. Chauncey took it as a polite way of saying, “It's none of your business how old I am!” But as he sat across from his date, he wondered if Regina was literally ninety-nine.
“Why? How old are you?” Regina asked.
“Thirty-eight,” Chauncey replied. “How old are you?”
“Didn't your mother ever teach you that it's rude to ask a woman her age?” Regina cocked her head to the side in disbelief.
“Here you guys go.” The waitress came over with two hot plates in her hands. She sat the plates down.
“It's also rude for a woman to lie about her age, and it's a sin.” Chauncey grabbed his corn bread, broke it in half, and started to eat after a brief moment. He promised to repent later for not praying.
“Are you kidding me? I can't believe this is how you really are,” Regina said.
“You know that I'm about walking the narrow path of righteousness. I've been up front and honest, unlike some people at this table.”
“Yeah, that's not the only thing that is narrow about you. I believe age is only a number, and you're as young as you feel.”
“Did you get that from a Cracker Jack box? I'm serious. How silly is that? Age in this country means everything, from getting your license to being able to vote to being able to run for president. It also means being able to cash a Social Security check and go play bingo at an Indian casino.”
Regina must've read the expression on Chauncey's face, because she put her head down and ate some of her food before she spoke again. “I'm sixty!”
Chauncey swallowed hard and waited for his throat to clear before he proceeded. “Excuse me? Sixty? I must not have heard you correctly. You must've said forty.”
“Yes, sixty. Six zero. It's hard to find a good man my age.” Regina shrugged her shoulders and took a bite of her liver and onions.
Much less an alive one,
Chauncey thought to himself. The devil was truly a liar, and he was ugly. He had infiltrated the online dating scene and had caused perversion to come into the heart of this vulnerable old woman.
“Why the deception?” Chauncey asked.
“I wasn't being deceptive. That picture on my profile is me.”
“From a very long time ago,” Chauncey added.
“Do you base things off of looks?” Regina asked.
“No, I base things on whether or not I have to pick you up from your home or from a convalescent home.”
Just then, Regina flung a heap of food into Chauncey's face. The juice from the onion-littered gravy stung Chauncey in the eyes, and he could not see out of one eye.
“You're the most disrespectful man I know,” Regina said as she got up and stormed out of the restaurant.
“That says a lot, considering you were probably there at the Last Supper,” Chauncey shouted with one eye open.
Chauncey was humiliated. He could hear the snickers coming from some of the patrons in the restaurant. He had half a mind to call the police on her, but who would take him, a man assaulted by liver and onions, seriously.