“So just how long had he been sleeping around on you anyway?” Paige asked, almost in a whisper, as if the other women who were in the room weren't already tuned in to the conversation. Paige intensely sat on the edge of her chair in anticipation of Tamarra's response.
“Fifteen years,” Tamarra responded through gritted teeth. If the evil expression that was taking over her usually kind and inviting oval shaped face wasn't proof that her flesh was rising up inside of her, then her hands that slowly curled into fists sure were.
“Fifteen years?” Paige repeated. “Oooh, child, the devil is a liar.”
“The devil ain't have nothing to do with it,” Tamarra begged to differ. Her oak with a gloss finished complexion began to turn red. “Unless devil is another name for that thing down his underwear that he couldn't seem to keep in his pants.”
After holding back a chuckle, Paige asked, “How did you find out? I mean, how in the world does a husband tell his wife that he's been cheating on her for fifteen years?” It wasn't as if Paige didn't already know the story. It was just that the more she pressed whenever Tamarra was telling it, the more new pieces of information she'd always learn.
“Oh, it wasn't that coward who told me. It was his fourteen-year-old daughter who showed up on our door step one day looking for her daddy. Her daddy who just happened to be my husband. And there was no denying that she was Edward's child. The girl was his spittin' image. So if this was my husband's fourteen-year-old child, and we'd been married for fifteen years, then surely that meant I was her mother, right?” Of course that was a rhetorical question that Tamarra didn't expect anyone to answer.
The women in the room looked at one another in disbelief. If what Tamarra was saying was accurate, then that meant that Tamarra's husband had been cheating on her for practically the entire fifteen years of their marriage.
Tamarra looked around the room and could read the expression on the women's faces loud and clear. “Yep, that's right. That sucka had been cheating on me for the entire fifteen years of our marriage. The mother of this daughter of his happened to be his high school sweetheart, with whom he'd had a relationship with for years. It was supposedly one of those on again, off again, and then back on again things.” She folded her arms and rolled her eyes. “Looks like I must have hooked him when they were off, and just as soon as I said âI do,' they got it on again . . . I mean, they were on again.”
“Unbelievable,” Paige stated, making a tsk sound. Although upset, due to her deep dimples that donned her cheeks whether she was smiling or not, it was hard to tell just how upset she really was.
“I mean, at first I thought I was going crazy when that child stood at my door telling me that she was my husband's fourteen-year-old daughter,” Tamarra said. “I really thought I had lost my mind; that I'd had a child all these years ago and couldn't remember. For a minute there, I could vouch for the feelings Mary must have felt when she learned she was pregnant with Jesus. Only in my case, there was no immaculate conception. I knew how I would have gotten pregnant and who the daddy would have been, but I just didn't remember being pregnant.” Tamarra paused for air, shifting her size twelve bottom in her chair. “I stood in that doorway pondering, trying to recall the nine months of carrying this child in my womb and the hours of labor. But then reality set in, and I realized that this was no more my child than the man on the moon.”
“I just can't believe after all those years the child got the courage to show up on your doorstep like that,” Paige said.
“Oh, Little Bo Peep didn't just make her way there on her own. Her mother put her up to it, I'm sure. Yeah, I'm sure that wench orchestrated the entire thing. I'd bet the farm she was probably parked around the corner somewhere watching the entire scene play out; taking me for the fool I was. A fool who had no idea that not only had her husband fathered a child by another woman, but had been playing an active role in the child's life. Paying child support. Going to school functions and dance recitals.”
“Lord, have mercy.” Paige shook her head in empathy. Her slicked back ponytail bobbed with each turn of her hair. Had her skin not been so chocolate brown, she might have even turned red with anger. She had never been cheated on by a man, not that she knew of anyway. Neither had she ever been married. But she could only imagine the pain her friend sitting next to her must have felt to find out that the man she had been so faithfully committed to for all those years had been living a lie.
“Oh, the Lord had mercy all right. He had mercy when I waited at the door for Edward with a big, black frying pan and got to wailing on that no good husband of mine.” Tamarra shook her head in disbelief. “I still don't know how he came out of it with only a mild concussion. I mean, I'd watched Madea's Family Reunion enough times to know how to swing that frying pan just right to put him in a three day coma at least. Yeah, the Lord had mercy on him all right; that rotten, dirty, son of aâ”
“Sister Tamarra!” Doreen shouted as she stood up from her chair that nearly tipped over from her abrupt movement. “Now I know you're hurt and all about what your ex-husband did to you, but child, need I remind you that you are in the Lord's house?”
Tamarra looked around the room as if to refamiliarize herself with her surroundings. For a minute there, she had forgotten that she was in the church classroom where Wednesday night Bible Study was held. Perhaps it was the fact that it was Friday and not Wednesday, or the fact that they were in the church classroom instead of the modest sanctuary that made Tamarra forget that she was in God's house.
Doreen, affectionately called Mother Doreen by the members of New Day Temple of Faith, sat back down as she profusely tried to fan away the sweat beads that were now forming on her forehead. Her olive colored skin was now shining like the North Star. She pat down her salt and pepper ear length hair that she wore in a roller set as if Tamarra's near slip up had caused it to stand up straight on her head.
Mother Doreen was a petite, calm, and passive woman, always the voice of reason; so even just the hint of any negative drama or excitement got her girdle in a bunch. And the first sign of Mother Doreen's uneasiness was always the sheet of perspiration that showed up on her forehead like a pimple the day before prom or school picture day.
“Oh, I'm sorry, Mother Doreen.” Tamarra accepted the tissue that Paige handed her and quickly wiped away the lone tear that rested in the bottom lid of her eye before it could even think about falling. “It's just that it hurts so bad. I mean, I know it's been almost a year since my divorce was final, but it still hurts just like it all happened yesterday.” Now tears welled up in both her eyes, but she was sure to blink them into the tissue, leaving no evidence that tears were ever threatening to flow.
“Now, now, sweetheart.” Mother Doreen stepped away from her chair and walked over to Tamarra. Tamarra was five foot eight inches tall compared to Mother Doreen's four foot eight inches. So Mother Doreen was practically eye to eye with Tamara even though she stood and Tamarra was seated. “I know it hurts, but you got to let go. You got to let go and let God. All this pain, hurt, and anger you're carrying around is binding you up. And anything that binds you is intended to keep you from God. We don't want that, now do we?”
“I know, Mother Doreen, but I swear on everything I want to be angry now and repent later.” Tamarra sniffled. “The sun goes down, but my anger doesn't go down with it. I just don't know what to do.”
“Then it sounds to me like I need to pray for you. You know what the Word says, the prayer of the righteous availeth much.”
“You can pray for me if you'd like, Mother Doreen, but I've been praying for myself, and it still hurts.” Tamarra didn't sound too confident in the power of prayer right about now, although whenever she was called on by the pastor to come up and pray for church members during altar call, she could pray down the wall of Jericho. Yet she felt as if her personal prayers regarding her own situations never made it to God's ears.
“I know how you feel, baby, but prayer works,” Mother Doreen assured her, very confident in her ability to pray for others. She wasn't the church intercessor for nothing. “I'm a witness that prayer works. I was married to my Willie for almost thirty years. We had a strong, loving marriage, but we had our share of marital issues as well. And it was prayer that brought us through till death do us part.” She looked up. “God rest my Willie's soul.” She drew an invisible cross across her heart with her index finger and then continued. “I had to pray through the lying. I had to pray through the cheating. I had to pray through the gambling, the drinking . . . ” with each issue Mother Doreen called out, for the first time ever, the women could see the flesh rising up in her. And once she noticed that her hands were now balled into fists, she could see it too. “Oh, dear.” Mother Doreen began to fan herself again. “Maybe somebody else should pray for you,” she said while patting Tamarra on her shoulder, and then walking back to her seat and sitting down. “And maybe they should pray for me too while they're at it.”
Not being able to take much more of the scene that was playing out before her, Deborah Lucas rose to her feet. “Oh for Pete's sake,” she said under her breath while throwing her hands up. She then said out loud, “I'll pray. I'll pray for everybody . . . God help us all.” Deborah sighed heavily.
It wasn't that Deborah didn't want to pray, it was just that she was tired of always ending up being the one that had to pray. This was usually because the women had made themselves weary with reflecting on their past relationships, versus looking forward to the future relationships God may have in store for them. But Deborah should have been used to it by now. The New Day Singles Ministry's first Friday night of the month meetings always ended up being more of an ex bashing session in which the women ultimately found themselves praying and repenting for their words and thoughts. But it was easy for the conversations to stray from words of encouragement to discouragement regarding men, namely the men the women had been in a relationship with. This was because there were no men in the room to object.
In the Singles Ministry's nine months of being in existence, there had been no male members to join. This left an ample amount of time for the women to share their relationship war stories and compare their battle scars; to determine whose wound was the deepest and yuckiest. They discussed things they more than likely wouldn't have discussed had there been men present.
Although Deborah had a few relationship war stories of her own, she never put her business out there like some of the other women did. She didn't want to make herself look stupid, or in her opinion, let the other women know that she was stupid. She had to be stupid in order not to suspect that the last three men she'd dated had been cheating on her. But in hindsight, she could see everything just clearly. Clear enough to know a cheat when she saw one a mile away, or let her tell it, “smelled one” a mile away. Because in her opinion, she could smell a dog before she could see it. And according to the fictitious Book of Deborah, verse 1 . . . all men were dawgs! So with that belief buried in her heart, she always expected the worst from men. But with that same belief system in place, it was up in the air whether or not she'd know a good man if she saw one, or better yet, if God sent her one.
Deborah stood, all five foot seven and a half inches of her medium build frame, at the front of the classroom. She was positioned beside the podium that Pastor taught at every Wednesday. “Everybody, please stand.” After the women did as they were asked, Deborah began to pray. “With heads bowed, eyes closed, and all minds clear, saints, let's pray.”
Deborah led the dozen or so women into an anointed prayer. She asked God to forgive the women for any impure or unrighteous thoughts and comments, and to touch the women's hearts that they may be able to forgive the men in their past relationships that might have hurt them. She also asked God to place a man of God in the women's lives that was after His heart first, and then the women's. After she closed the prayer, the women clapped, and then hugged before sitting down and resuming their meeting.
“Now, ladies, can we get back to the business at hand?” Deborah said as she pulled her notebook out of her Bible bag, then stood behind the podium. She flipped through her notes from the previous meeting. “At the last meeting we discussed having a singles dinner, but we ran out of time before we were really able to discuss it in detail. I personally like the idea, and I'd like to suggestâ”
“No offense, Sister Deborah, and I don't mean to cut you off,” one of the women spoke up, “but look around.” Deborah's light brown, slanted eyes looked around the room that was full of women. “What good is it to have singles events when there ain't anybody but us women there? I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I'm going to tell the truth and shame the devil. I joined this ministry to meet me a single man. Heck, that's what I thought the Singles Ministry was all about; the singles hooking up and connecting. If that's not the case, shoot, I wouldn't have canceled my membership to that online dating network.”