The novel takes you on a transformational journey with the women of "Renegotiating Kayla". Read along as the women let go of their public faces, and begin to reveal fears and truths. You will witness an unarmoring of each character’s confidence, as they heed the warning to get real, and in particular, real honest. *Read Chapters in Sequence using the Index.
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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
“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
“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
“I don’t get this. Didn’t we just make love? …now we’re
fighting? Explain that to me!” I
“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.
“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
“I love you.” I whispered.
“I love you too.”
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.
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
“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
“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.