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Authors: Victoria Christopher Murray

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BOOK: Never Say Never
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“Oh, I do,” Pastor said. “I understand. He violated your vows and your trust.”

“Yes!”

“And now, you're very hurt.”

“Yes!”

“And you want to hurt him as much as he's hurt you.”

“Yes!”

“So you feel the best way to get back at him, the best way to hurt him, is to divorce him because he will really hurt then.”

“Yes . . .” I said, though not as emphatically as the last times. Because this time, my agreement didn't sound quite right.

“You don't want to divorce Jamal because you no longer want to be married. You want to divorce him because that's the only way you can hurt him. That's the only way you know how to make him pay. But, Emily, divorce is the ultimate price. If you're divorcing him for that reason, it's going to cost you, too.”

She waited for me to say something, but all I did was wipe my nose.

“Do you know how many men and women realize this
afterward
? They realize this when it's already done, and it's too late.

“I was there at the beginning with the two of you, I've been there with you all this time, and if there is one thing I know it's that Jamal loves you.”

“I do,” my husband said softly.

“And I know you love him. That's the reason why you're so hurt. So are you willing to throw away love for payback?”

I bit the corner of my lip, trying to transfer the pain that Pastor
was dredging up with her words. “But . . . how do I know that he won't do it again?”

“You don't.”

That was the wrong answer.

“I won't, Emily,” Jamal said. “I'll never do it again.”

I could hardly look at him. “That's what you promised in our wedding vows, and that's what you promised every day since.”

“I know. And all I can say now is that what happened didn't have anything to do with us. It was all about me.”

“But you're a part of us. And you can't say ‘it was all about me,' and leave me out of the equation.”

Pastor Ford returned to the sofa, and now Jamal moved over to where she'd been. “I mean, there was nothing that you did wrong, there was nothing that you could've done. I was searching for a way not to hurt so much and—”

“I wasn't home. But when I came home, you should have talked to me. I tried to talk to you.”

“I know.” He shook his head. “And I'm just so sorry.”

He'd said that so many times, though I never tired of hearing it. Truly, I believed that he was sorry, and he wasn't just sorry that he'd been caught. I believed that he was sorry that he'd slept with Miriam. But I didn't believe that he wouldn't do it again. That was the problem. And that was why our marriage had to end.

When I didn't say anything, Pastor said, “Emily, I've worked with lots of couples. And while there are many who never recover from infidelity, you would be surprised at the number who do. Because when couples find a way to put everything they're feeling into words, trust can be restored, marriages can be healed. Especially a marriage where God has truly brought two together for a purpose. He wants His purpose fulfilled, and I've seen marriages thrive when the husband and wife truly want to stay together.”

It sounded so good, so professional, so spiritual. And yet it didn't do a damn thing for my heart. So I just sat there, staring at the tissues I held.

Pastor Ford said, “It's probably a good idea for us to leave; we can start your first sessions on Monday.”

Who said I'd agreed to counseling?

“Let's talk about it and set the time after church tomorrow.”

Who said I was going to church?

I didn't ask those questions, though, as Pastor hugged me and then Jamal kissed me on my forehead.

When the door closed behind them, I was so glad. I just wished that they'd taken the sadness I felt with them.

43

Miriam

I
was thankful that Michellelee had stayed with me. Thankful that she hadn't left me just sitting in that restaurant by myself, crying. We'd ordered lunch, though both of us ended up taking most of our entrées home. Not only did we not have much of an appetite, we didn't have much conversation.

Michellelee just kept saying, “I told you.”

And I just kept crying.

Finally, I dried my tears, we hugged each other, said good-bye, and I drove away in my van. There was one thing left that I had to do.

As I maneuvered through the Saturday afternoon traffic, I reminded myself that even though my heart was bleeding, I'd done the right thing. If I'd never said a word, Emily would have never gone back to Jamal. I was sure of that. She had to hear the story from the other woman. She had to hear that Jamal didn't pursue me. She had to hear that there were no emotions on either of our parts. She had to believe that there was no love, just loss.

That's just how my friend was.

If they got back together, I had just saved their marriage. Not that I was sure she would even go back. But there was one thing that
I was sure of: Jamal would never come back to me.

It was the look in his eyes the other night outside the hotel. He looked at Emily the way Chauncey looked at me. It was the kind of love that was reserved for just one person.

Jamal would never be mine. His heart would always belong to Emily.

So I'd done my part. I'd been truthful, even when she'd cut me with her words. I'd spoken from my heart and told her everything . . . well, almost everything.

There were some things that a best friend didn't need to know.

I swerved quickly onto Prairie, then took another turn, another block, and I was where I was supposed to be.

I sat in front of the church for a few minutes, just staring at this building. I'd been a member of Hope Chapel since I was twelve years old, one of the few good things that came out of being in foster care. Back in those days, Pastor Ford came to the group home where I was living and had Bible study with the kids. When I told her that I wanted to go to church, she made sure I had a ride every Sunday.

Pastor Ford had been an integral part of my life for longer than any woman. Until I met Emily and Michellelee, she and Mama Cee were the only women who had ever loved me. That's why I was going to have to do something about the dozens of messages she'd left me.

Turning off the ignition, I stepped out of the car, hurried across the street, but then slowed my steps as I approached the front of the building. Even though it was Saturday, the church would be open, but the question was, would the sanctuary be free?

Not that it mattered. Pastor said the altar was always open, no matter what was going on around it.

Walking up the steps, I peered inside. There was nothing but quiet.

My steps were silent as I moved across the green carpet, and I stopped only to place my purse on the first chair in the first row. Then I approached the altar.

I bowed my head before I bent down onto my knees. I shifted until I was comfortable, then I said, “I'm so sorry, God. Please forgive me.” I stayed there for just a couple of seconds and then I rose.

I'd prayed what I meant and I meant what I prayed. So much had happened and I was asking God for forgiveness for it all. I wasn't one of those people who believed that the longer the prayer, the more God heard. I was absolutely sure that God believed in Twitter prayers—quality, not quantity. So? I always kept it short, kept it simple. God knew I loved Him and that I was already saved. He knew that I was sorry for how I'd tossed Him aside, and sorry for what I'd done to Emily. The moment I asked, I had the Lord's forgiveness. Thank God, His forgiveness was always instant. Now, with His grace, one day I might have Emily's forgiveness, too.

I took just a few steps away before I turned back. But this time, I just bowed my head, 'cause all this getting up and down was hard on my knees. I closed my eyes and said, “One more thing, Lord. Please soften Emily's heart. Not toward me, but toward Jamal.” I waited another second to see if anything else came to my mind. Nothing did, so I opened my eyes.

That was my sincere prayer, but I didn't have a lot of hope. I loved Emily, but she was stubborn and I wasn't so sure that she knew how to forgive. She'd suffered from so much unforgiveness. After almost nine years, her parents continued to exclude her from their lives; they still hadn't forgiven her for marrying Jamal. She hadn't been forgiven, so I didn't think she knew how to do it.

If this was any other time, place, or circumstance, I would've made my best friend sit and listen while I broke it down and made it
clear for her. But I'd never get the chance to be close like that to her again. I wasn't a fool; I knew our friendship was over.

With that thought, new tears came to my eyes. Another death. This one hurt just as much, in a different kind of way. This time, the death was my fault. I was the one who'd set our friendship on fire. And today Emily had tried, convicted, and sentenced me to life without her. I had to live with that, because even forgiven sins had consequences.

I took a last glance at the altar. And all I had to say this time was, “Amen.”

44

Emily

I
didn't know how I was going to keep ducking and dodging my pastor, but I was gonna try. Hiding out from her had worked well enough yesterday; there wasn't much chasing she could do on Sunday.

But then as soon as I got to the office and checked my e-mail, there was a message from Pastor, sent at around five in the morning:
I'll see you in counseling at 7:30 tonight.

First of all, who got up at five already sending e-mails, and why did my pastor think that she could run my life?

I sent my own e-mail:
Sorry, Pastor. Right now, my life is just too busy. I won't be attending counseling.
I wanted to add not now, not ever, but if I'd done that, Pastor Ford would have shown up at my door again.

My prayer now was that she'd be too busy with her own schedule, and wouldn't even think about me for at least six months. And by then . . .

But my pastor would never give up, and neither would Jamal. Of course, he'd called last night and this morning. But in the weeks that we'd been separated, I'd gotten used to ignoring him.

Jamal was easy; Pastor was my problem. She would insist on
counseling. And I couldn't give in because once I sat in that room with her, I'd be broken.

Pastor had only been in our apartment for ten minutes on Saturday and the breakdown had already started.

Her words, joined together with Miriam's, were getting to me. Last night, their words had chased me in my dreams . . .

It was never about sex . . . it had everything to do with loss . . .

You don't want a divorce because you no longer want to be with Jamal. You want a divorce because you want to hurt him . . .

Those words and so many others planted themselves in my head, taunting, haunting, until I'd given up trying to sleep. Then I'd resorted to my new pastime. In the kitchen, I'd pulled out the gallon of ice cream I'd bought after Pastor and Jamal left. And from three to four to five in the morning, I just ate, and with the TV on mute, I watched
Love Story
over and over.

So now, I was tired, pissed, bloated, and hiding from my pastor.

I was relieved when I heard the knock on my door and my receptionist walked in holding LaTonya's hand. She was my fourth and final client of the day.

No matter what I was going through, this little girl made me smile, because I had such hope for her.

“How are you, LaTonya?”

She shrugged.

My receptionist said, “So, I'm gonna get going. You're still okay with me leaving early?”

“Oh, definitely. I'll see you tomorrow,” I said as I followed LaTonya to the table.

Like always, my plan was to sit across from the little girl and talk to her while she drew, but she didn't reach for the construction paper and crayons. “You don't want to draw?”

She shook her head.

“What do you want to do?”

She lowered her eyes. “I wanna go home.”

“You don't want to even talk to me today?

Again, she shook her head.

“Why not?”

It took her a few seconds to say, “ 'Cause LaTrisha can't talk, so I don't want to talk either.”

I nodded, wanting her to think that I understood, though I didn't. I had already contacted another psychologist in San Diego. Dr. Phillips had done studies analyzing twins who'd suffered the loss of their sibling, and he assured me that this was all part of the grieving process.

“She knows she can't go to her sister, so this is her way of keeping her sister here,” he'd said.

It made sense, but with each session, it seemed like LaTonya was getting worse, and I didn't want her to fall into any kind of depression.

“Well, what about if you and I talk to LaTrisha together?”

She looked up, and at first, her eyes brightened. But then I could see her skepticism, even in her six-year-old eyes.

I walked to the shelf filled with toys and grabbed the black Raggedy Ann doll. “Do you wanna play a game?” I asked.

LaTonya just looked at me as I handed her the doll.

“Can we pretend that this is LaTrisha?” I asked.

“LaTrisha didn't look like this,” LaTonya said. “She looked like me.”

“I know, but it's just a game, right?”

Another moment, another shrug, “I guess.”

“So if you were talking to LaTrisha, what would you say?”

She looked at the doll, then me, before she turned back to the doll. Then she said, “I'd ask her if she was going to school.”

“Okay, ask her.”

She looked down at the doll.

“Go ahead, just pretend she's LaTrisha.”

After a moment, she said, “Are you going to school?”

BOOK: Never Say Never
8.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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