Chapter 1, Camie's Secret

A Better Pair of Shoes, a novel                                                                   
Chapter 1

Introduction (narrated by Kayla)

Just as we are living souls; life itself has a soul.  And there’s a heartbeat to life.  I call it the rising and the falling.  Just as we must rise, I’ve learned that we must fall.  I find that I’m grateful for the things I learn when I fall, yet I often dislike the cuts they bring and the scars they leave behind.  Today I fell, but perhaps for months I’ve been falling, and I have all the bumps and bruises to prove it.  Although they’re not visible to the eye, they are surely recorded on my soul.  It’s funny how often my spirit tried to warn me, with a bit of melancholy here and uncertainty there, but at the time, I hadn’t considered that life was forcefully trying to get me to step into a better pair of shoes.  I guess I thought I had more time.  Interesting, the rising never appears to be as long lived as the falling, and the discomfort of improper shoes can usually be cushioned.

I bet you’re wondering how I got here again; flat on my face.  Looking back, I think I lost my footing the moment I received the letter.

            I sat at the dinning table going through the mail I brought with me from the salon.  I sorted the stack into three piles that signified their importance: one pile of junk mail, one of bills, and another pile of things that interested me.  My eyes settled on a thin envelope with large cursive writing in heavy blue ink, and I became very curious to know what was enclosed.  I didn’t recognize the writing or the name of the sender, but it was clearly addressed to Kayla Ross.  Whoever the sender; they obviously weren’t aware that I had gotten married.  I used my thumb and eagerly sliced the envelope open.  I pulled out the single sheet of notebook paper with more of the free flowing cursive from the envelope. 


Dear Kayla,

I’m not sure if you know who I am, but I’ve become quite aware of you.  I am your father’s wife and the mother of your half-sister Kaylin.

 (“The words stopped me in my tracks and I re-read the first two sentences in awe.  Kaylin?  Oh, God!!  And just like that, it all came rushing back.  It was the part of my life that just wouldn’t go away.  I had done my part.  I had exposed the truth, so what more was God asking of me.  Why couldn’t I just be set free from this dark past?”) 

I’m writing you to tell you how your truth has turned my daughter’s life upside down.  Since Morgan left, I’ve been forced to sell our house and on top of that, I had to change Kaylin’s school because of all the whispering.  I still can’t find the courage to tell Kaylin the truth about why her father left, where he is, and why he can’t see her.   Kayla, I need your help.  I can’t keep lying to Kaylin about her father.  I see the growing resentment she has for me, and the lies I’ve been telling her.  You did this!  You took her father away!  Please help me!

Nora


            I sat in shock for an unknown amount of minutes lamenting over the nerve of this woman to blame me for all her problems.  I re-examined the letter, and the envelope it came in with disbelief.  I went over every detail a second and third time.  I took note of the words “Kaylin”, “resentment”, and most unwillingly, “HELP”.  One of these words brought shock, one brought understanding, but one brought great confusion.  I just couldn’t see how I could help.  I sat trying to guess what exactly Nora had in mind, but I got a strong feeling that whatever it was; I just wasn’t ready.  In the months since I had filed the charges against my father, I had contemplated reaching out to my unknown half-sister, but it was just a distant thought.  I kept telling myself that I would one day when I was ready.  I mostly tried to focus on my now marriage to Wood.  Needless to say, this letter was not what my curiosity had hoped it would be.
 
   I can still remember walking through the doors of my local precinct, arm in arm with my husband, feeling like all my burdens had been lifted.  I felt strong and accomplished.  It wasn’t only about justice; it was about responsibility, but not necessarily the way Nora had implied.  In that moment, I had not only found my voice, but I was giving a voice to two generations of brokenness and possibly more.  Although I couldn’t predict this, I had a pretty good understanding of the weight my decision would carry.  That day I was sure that I was ready to take flight, and enjoy the new life my courage seemed to be granting me.

Engulfed with the beauty of my new love, I just wanted to spend all my days and my nights with Wood.  Our time together was always total bliss.  When I returned home from my honeymoon, the girls and I celebrated with a welcome home dinner—little did I know that our get-togethers would become rare and infrequent.  It wasn’t that we didn’t want to get together, but the demands of our growing immediate families were getting more aggressive.  As a result, I had completely rearranged my schedule.  I now got to the salon earlier and left earlier.  I served my clients, but I was no longer tuned into their dramas.  I listened but took no notes.  I took pride in cooking Wood dinner, and although I wasn’t the best cook, I knew he appreciated my efforts.  Camie on the other hand, was frantically trying to keep up with Q.  She was hitting the clubs nearly three times a week, and still trying to meet the high demands of her well-to-do clients.  Aisha had decided to go back to school to get a doctorate degree in literature and was intent on maintaining her juggling act.  Ketly, spent every waking moment with her new baby, and refused to hire a babysitter—which she referred to as a complete stranger.  As a matter of fact, she was actually the one who begun the rain check phenomenon, and slowly but surely it became easier for us all to excuse ourselves.  By the time Thanksgiving came around we were fully in gear with our new and separate lives—who wasn’t going to be out-of-town, was already committed to in-laws, and so our circle was now a huge tree with a growing number of branches that never seemed to collide. 

I heard a key turning in the front door and quickly stuck the letter into my purse.  I just wasn’t ready to oblige Nora’s request.  Not to mention, she had left so much to the imagination.  Wood was still very supportive of me, however he was also a parent and I assumed he would probably side with Nora’s demands for me to “help” Kaylin, so I decided not to share the letter with him.  When Wood walked through the door, I couldn’t help but feel happy.  His smile was always so warm, and I looked forward to his routine hug and kiss.  We were only a few months into our marriage and everything still felt fresh and new.  I had given up my apartment and officially moved into Wood’s place.  I thought it best, because of all the not-so-proud memories my apartment held.  Except for my bed, which I thanked God everyday could not speak, I placed mostly everything I owned in storage until the purchase of our home.  I stood up and pulled my loving husband close to me, and reminded him how much I missed him.  As Wood’s hands moved slowly over my back and down to my butt, I could feel his passion and desire to make love to me.  Wood pulled my locs out of its ponytail and began softly massaging my head.   He lifted me gently off my feet, and I tightly wrapped my legs around his waist.  We made it to our bedroom which still smelled like the cinnamon candles I burned the night before.  The blinds were closed and the room was dark.  The sheets were cold, but we quickly made them warm.  I lay beneath my husband and surrendered to his touch.  We looked directly in each others eyes as we ditched what was left of our clothing.  Butt naked, we both took a moment to admire each other’s body and let our desires grow stronger; more intense.  Soon I could feel his light kisses on the small of my back and on my butt cheeks.  It drove me crazy.  Suddenly, I wanted to feel what was mine; what I came to know, love, and enjoy.  
I lay in complete satisfaction holding onto the man who had shown me how to love myself.  In the months leading up to our wedding, Wood had demanded that I stay strong and keep my oath of celibacy.  He taught me that there was a whole other breed of men out there that weren’t weak or selfish.  Although, there were times I had worried about his sexual appetite, and whether it would match mine.  In retrospect, I had worried for nothing.  Still, Wood was somewhat conservative in bed.  He never talked dirty, slapped me on the butt, or asked to see me massage myself, and I must admit I did miss those things.  Part of me wanted to introduce those pleasures, but I didn’t want to jeopardize our connection or create any insecurities.  It wasn’t as though he didn’t satisfy me.  He did!  I just didn’t know what to do with my domineering wild side.  I still wasn’t comfortable enough in my own skin or my marriage to let Wood see that part of me.  Probably because I knew that Wood just wasn’t prepared.
“What you thinking about?”
“Just thinking about how much you mean to me.”
“You sure about that?  You look a little distant.”  Wood had some crazy way of always knowing.
“I wouldn’t lie to you.”  I responded with a naughty smile, hoping to distract my husband.
“It just seems like you have something more on your mind.”  He insisted without a blink.
“I’m gonna take a shower and make dinner.”  I said, trying quickly to remove myself from our bed before Wood could uncover my shameful thoughts.
“See, I knew it.  You’re keeping something.”
“I’m not keeping anything, and what’s with you?”
“I know you Kayla.  I know your moods.  I know your expressions.  And it just seems like you’re keeping something.  That’s all!  You don’t have to be defensive.  I’m just trying to talk to you.  Remember that?”  Wood spoke with what seemed like a bit of resentment.
“We still do, but things are different now.  I’m not falling apart anymore.  Is that what you want? ...someone who’s always in need of fixin’?”
“All I want is for us to communicate.”  Wood responded to my upset with calm.
“I don’t get this.  Didn’t we just make love? …now we’re fighting?  Explain that to me!” I snapped.
“Kayla, if you weren’t keeping something, you would have squashed this a long time ago.  Am I right or am I wrong?”
“Whatever.  I’m gonna take a shower.”  I walked my naked body to the bathroom where I pressed my back up against the door, and tried to grasp what had just transpired.  Wood and I had never fought before.  He was always gentle and understanding, but tonight he was different.  I wasn’t sure why he’d picked a fight with me.  Were we supposed to be angry with each other now; not talk for a couple of days or sleep in separate rooms?  I couldn’t predict what came next; this disharmony was new between us. 

I stood under the showerhead, and allowed the warm water to massage my skin.  I thought about what Wood had said about knowing me.  Obviously he did.  I realized how much time we had really spent together in our almost two year relationship.  Surely, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he easily sensed my conflict.  Still, I didn’t know he could be so intuitive.  I took my time in the shower to avoid anymore arguing and after sometime I decided, I would have to come out at some point. 

The moment I stepped out the bathroom, Wood jumped up from the edge of the bed, and swallowed me up with a big hug and a kiss. 
“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to attack you.  Maybe I do miss your vulnerability.”
“I’m sorry too, and there is something I want to share with you.”  I walked into the dinning room and got the letter out of my purse.   
“What’s this?”
“It’s for you to read, but not interfere.  I just need some space to decide what I want to do.”
“Okay.”  Wood slowly unfolded the one-page letter, read a few lines, and looked up at me in amazement.  I knew he felt the impact it had made on me.  We didn’t speak.  He finished the letter and opened his arms and pulled me in. 
“You’ll get through this.  And I’ll be standing right beside you.” 
“I know.”  I replied while holding onto Wood with all my might.
“I love you.”  I whispered.

“I love you too.”


Camie’s Secret

                     It was a lonely drive to Tampa.  I was on the way to visit the daughter no one knew I had.   Now that Q and I was no longer an item, and my heart was severely exposed, it was easy to feel the void I had in my heart where the joy of motherhood should have been.  This shameful secret was one I had considered many times, but continued to keep.  Hannah had been living with my eldest sister, ever since I had decided to leave my hometown, and pursue my dreams. I never felt like I was cut out to be a mother.  Yet, I decided to keep my baby.  I really did try to step up.  I did, but by the time Hannah was two, I was done with it.  I just wasn’t ready.  Thankfully, I had Erilyn.  She encouraged me to leave Hannah in her care and so I did.  Initially when I moved to South Florida, I chose not to speak of her because I simply didn’t want to be judged.  Eventually it became easier to just keep her a secret.  I also learned it was especially easier when dealing with men.  I always remembered to call on Hannah’s birthday and for major events, but I had stopped making my yearly trip when I realized that Hannah didn’t need me.  She was happy with the home Erilyn had provided for her, and was never overly excited to see me.  Every now and then, I’d start to feel the emptiness.  Inevitably, I felt it on Mother’s Day or whenever I got an invitation to a baby shower.  Ever since Ketly had her baby boy the void grew bigger, and so for the first time in five years I was taking the quiet drive up to see Hannah.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to think up of an excuse for the trip since all my girlfriends were preoccupied with their own lives.  We hadn’t gotten together in months, and we didn’t have our traditional New Years Eve slumber party for the first time in three years.  I talked to Kayla every now and then, but she always seemed rushed.  It just didn’t seem fair— I had always been there when she needed me and now here I was nursing a broken heart all by myself.  I guess all of these things were contributing to my sudden trip.  I just needed a little bit of reality.  Not the one I had created and now knew, but the one that waited for me in Tampa where Camie was simply a fictional character.  There I wasn’t a successful anything; none of it mattered.  I was just plain old Jennifer.  I knew that very well, and so I only packed jeans, tanks, and sneakers for my two week stay.  As I left Miami behind, I felt more and more like a fraud.  I measured Q’s deception with mine, and I suddenly felt like he deserved my forgiveness.  Surely I was no saint, but my rationalizing who was the bigger fraud didn’t mend my broken heart or change the contempt I held for Q.  How I fell so deeply for Q, I still didn’t know.  I had not allowed myself to fall in love with anyone since my daughter’s father had shattered my heart.

            Five hours of stressing over my mess later, I pulled up in the driveway of my sister’s modest townhouse, which was positioned on the corner of the short street.   I rung the bell, and Erilyn opened with a huge smile.  I’d forgotten how close we used to be before distance became a divider.  We hugged, and I felt her warmth.  Erilyn was only six years older than me, but she always seemed so much older.  She was beautiful; tall, small-framed, and very curvaceous.  I walked into the compact size home my sister had bought between my last visit and this one.  It was very nice; cozy.  It was definitely a reflection of her; simplistic, warm, and inviting.  I moved around slowly, soaking up the atmosphere, and looking at some of the family photos that were hung meticulously over the mantle of the fireplace.  Mostly all the photos were family portraits of Erilyn, her husband Nathan, my niece Natalie, and Hannah.  I looked at the face of the child I’d given birth to, and I sensed her sadness.  It was a surprise to me.  I could clearly remember my last visit when Hannah played without a care in the world, but something appeared to be different.  I quickly took the blame, and moved on to take a brief tour of the house. 
“So where’s everyone?”  I asked, quickly realizing that the house was awfully quiet.
“Well, Nate is at work.  He’ll be home in a couple of hours.  Natalie is at her friend’s house, and Hannah….well, there’s something that we should discuss.
“Something like what?  Where is she?”
“She’s fine; it’s just that I don’t know how you’re going to feel about this.”
“About what!”  I was already agitated by whatever secret my sister was about to unveil.
“Well, she’s spending the weekend with her father.”
“Who?”  I didn’t really get it.  Hannah’s father hadn’t even stuck around for her birth.  What was she saying?
“Well… Derek came back home a couple of years ago.  He heard that I was raising Hannah, and came by.  He’s been pretty consistent with visiting and helping out with Her.”
“Helping out?  I send you money every month.  If you needed more, you should have just asked.  I don’t need his help!  And how could you let her spend a whole weekend with this man.”
“Jen, he made a mistake.  He was young; immature.  He’s all grown up now; been in the military, got good manners and actually makes a pretty good dad.”
“Dad?  Okay, this is crazy!  I want you to call Derek and tell him to bring Hannah home now!!  That’s my child.  I gave birth to her and in case you don’t remember; Derek was nowhere around.  He doesn’t get to just come out of nowhere and play daddy.”
“And what are you doing?  Aren’t you coming out of nowhere and playing mommy?  Hannah doesn’t even want to see you.  She is the one who asked to spend the weekend with her father.”
“Excuse me?  So I’m the outcast?  I go off to make a better life, and I become the bad guy?”
“Jen, you haven’t seen your daughter in five years!”
“So you and Derek are a team now?  Y’all feeding my daughter lies and making her hate me? That it?  How could you do this?  I thought you had my back?”
“I did…when you were twenty!!  Now I got Hannah’s back and I thought it would be good for her to at least have one of her parents in her life.  I would have told you, but I know the grudge you hold in your heart for Derek.  I knew you wouldn’t put Hannah first, so I did what I thought was best.”
“Well, I’m here now and I’m telling you to have Derek bring my child to me.  I’m her mother; the only one she has!”
“Now Jen, you’re not being fair.  I’ve raised that child as if she was my own.  You ain’t been there for her like I been.  At least let me talk to her.”  Erilyn pleaded as she began to cry.
“Okay but this is not up for negotiation.  I want her here in the morning.”  I grabbed up my Fendi tote and stormed out the front door.  I needed a drive—sometime to clear my head.  It was too much to take in all at once.  I hadn’t seen Derek in eleven years.   Since I was eighteen and madly in love. 
“Son-of-a…!  If he thinks I’m going to sit back and let him take my child, he has another thing coming.”  Desperate and furious, I pulled my cellphone from the holder on my waist and speed-dialed Kayla’s number.  I just needed someone to talk to; someone who had some dirt too, and wouldn’t judge me.




A Better Pair of Shoes, a novel © Grace Call Communications, LLC Copyright ©2010, 2016, 2017 by Natisha Renee Williams All Rights Reserved.                                                                                                

Comments

  1. Wow! Great start. I know for sure I'll be back.

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    1. Thanks Ms. Ivy!! Glad you are enjoying it! :)

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