Title: Where Was God? (Their Hearts Burned to be Together)
Genre: Christian Fiction Romance Suspense
Author: Sheila Jackson
Publisher: Concerning Life Publishing
Synopsis:Where Was God? Fayth Angelica Hope, questioned after the death of her father. Reared by a mother who could give, Cruella Deville, a run for her money as, “The Queen of Mean,” Fayth turns her back on the church, her faith, and love. She believed, no, just and merciful God would have abandoned her to the harsh brutality of her mother’s iron fist. Her emotional and spiritual scars run deep, lasting into adulthood.
As a promising investigative reporter, she decides to change her name. Her given name of Fayth has more curses attached to it than blessings. She hopes the switch to Angelica will give her the clean slate she desires.
Assigned to investigate financial advisor Jasion McCoy, Angelica goes in determined to
expose him for embezzlement. She hopes the story will advance her career as one of the top reporters across the country. Instantly, there is an attraction. But she hides her feelings from him. After a series of missteps, broken heartedness, and rejections in her past, she buries the notion of any man, especially a man of his caliber, ever loving her. With the evidence stacked against him, she believes his only interest in her, is to keep from going to prison.
Top-notch financial advisor Jasion McCoy is in the middle of an embezzlement scheme. When Angelica Hope shows up in his office, he knows he’s in trouble. She is one of the hottest investigative reporters in
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Fifteen years earlier
Twelve-year-old Fayth Angelica Hope sat motionless next to her aunt as the mourners flooded the Saint Gabriel Baptist Church fellowship hall. She rolled her red, puffy eyes heavenwards as she tried to make sense of her father’s death. Bursts of laughter jolted her senses. What is so funny, she thought? The grieving faces she had seen earlier now beamed with excitement. Stories and jokes about her father’s life filtered throughout the small, stuffy room, which sent flames shooting from her nostrils.
“My father is dead and these people are celebrating,” Fayth cried as anger continued to well up inside her petite frame. Shaking her head in disbelief, she collapsed onto her aunt’s broad shoulder, giving in to the tears that tugged at her heartstrings.
“That’s what people do after funerals, baby. They remember the dead,” Beatrice said, cuddling her arm around her distraught niece. “Your dad was a good man.”
“I don’t want to be here, Auntie,” she pouted, wishing she could wiggle her nose and disappear into thin air, like the character, Samantha Stevens, in Bewitched.
“None of us want to be here, sweetie.” Beatrice brushed the curls from her niece’s moist face. “I miss my brother, too. But he’ll always live on in our hearts.
She was angry with everyone, especially God, for taking her father away from her. “My dad was all I had.” She sniffed as she lifted her head to survey the room.
Fayth frowned and thumbed up her nose at those who were laughing and stuffing their greedy faces with free food and drink, while she mourned the loss of her father. Vultures, she muttered through clenched teeth.
“Sweetie, you have me, your mom, and baby sister. You’re not alone.” Beatrice leaned down and planted a kiss on her brow.
“My mother doesn’t care about me, Auntie.” Her lips quivered, but she managed to steady them for fear her secret would escape. Who would believe her anyway? No, it was best to keep her lips zipped or face the consequences that were sure to come.
She’d noticed the sparkle in her aunt’s brown, oval-shaped eyes had darkened when they became fixated on the brazen woman across the room.
“Shh. Don’t talk like that, baby. Your mother is grieving too,” Aunt B whispered, never taking her eyes off the woman.
Her aunt’s smile faded from her chubby, round face. Beatrice’s body stiffened in her seat, after watching the woman pressing one of her alluring fingers to a man’s lips.
Fayth craned her neck to get a better view of the woman─her mother, the new widow, flirting with a strange man. Her stomach did somersaults. The sight was enough to make her want to barf. Her father wasn’t in the ground an hour before her mother shamelessly flaunted her curvaceous body.
Wise beyond her twelve years, she knew exactly the types of games her mother played to get what she wanted from the opposite sex. And love wasn’t one of them. When she and her mother locked eyes, Fayth knew that meant trouble, with a capital “T”. Wearing a provocative, low-cut, hip-hugging black dress that left nothing to the imagination, her mother sashayed in their direction.
“Beatrice, why are yhu babyin’ this gal?” Gladys yelled, yanking her daughter from her sister-in-law.
Like a rocket, her aunt flew from her seat. Standing eye-to-eye, the two faced off. “I’m not babyin’ her,” she snapped. “If yhu weren’t so busy throwin’ yourself on that man over there,” Beatrice pointed in the man’s direction, “Yhu would know that yhur child is grievin’.”
“Mind-yhur-own-business,” Gladys growled with one hand propped on her curvy hip. “At least I can get a man… unlike yhu.”
“I swear Gladys Hope, I don’t know what my brother ever saw in yhu,” she said, pointing one of her plump fingers in her face.
“All of this.” Gladys seductively slid her smooth, caramel hands down the length of her hourglass figure.
Fayth wanted to find a rock and crawl under it, as she gawked up at the battling women from her seat, mortified by their actions. It wasn’t the place or time for a standoff. It was a homegoing for her father. Or had they forgotten?
“Gladys, yhu can give Cruella Deville a run for her money as the Queen of Mean,” Beatrice barked. “And just in case yhu don’t know the difference, this is the house of God, not a whorehouse.”
Shocked by her aunt’s foul language, Fayth’s hair stood on end, especially as the crowd began to stare at the women going back and forth with insults.
“Well, at least I don’t look like Cruella.” Gladys raised an evil brow at her sister-in-law. “And for the record, yes, I know this is a church, yhu old saddlebag.”
Fayth heard snickering from some of the onlookers.
“This old saddlebag,” Beatrice quipped, “Has been tendin’ to yhur grievin’ daughter.”
At that moment, Gladys realized her daughter’s prying eyes were watching them. “Fayth, don’t yhu see grown folks are talkin’? Gon’ over there where them kids are.” She shooed her in their direction. “I have some unfinished business to tend to.” She turned, rolling her eyes in Beatrice direction.
The crazed look in her mother’s eyes scared the bejesus out of Fayth. “Yes, ma’am.” She leapt from her seat to escape the feuding women. As she straightened her black pleated, knee- length dress, she noticed one boy in particular trying to get her attention. His fresh-cut fade, average height, and smooth, bronze skin gave him an edge and maturity over the other boys in the room. Saint Gabriel Baptist Church had only fifty or so members, and he wasn’t one of them. She would have remembered a cutie like him.
Thankful the battle scene between her mother and aunt didn’t scare him off; she walked over and introduced herself.
“Hi. I’m Fayth.” She wasn’t shy when it came to meeting people. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”
“I’m JC… and no, I don’t live here in
. I’m spending the summer with my aunt and uncle,” he grinned, sliding his hands inside his pants pockets. “I’m sorry that your father died.” Augusta
Her heart sank in her stomach. She used every muscle in her tiny body to keep from breaking down in front of the stranger. “Thank you,” she managed to get out.
“I tried to get your attention at the funeral, but your mother seems to have a tight rein on you,” he said, giving her a puzzled look.
She didn’t respond, and instead, faked a smile. You don’t know how tight of a rein, she grumbled inwardly.
Closing the distance between them, he took his handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wiped a tear from her cheeks. “You’re just as beautiful as your name,” he said with confidence.
His gentle touch sent goose bumps up her arms. She never knew such feelings existed between a boy and a girl until now. “You don’t mean that,” she said, blushing. “My mother doesn’t think so.” She lowered her head in shame at the hurtful admission spilling from her lips.
“All mothers think their kids are beautiful,” he said, furrowing his brow.
She’d noticed the weird look he’d given her. It was the truth. Her mother never once told her that she was beautiful. “Not mine.” She debated telling him why, but decided against it. She feared the repercussions if word got back to her mother. For some unexplained reason, she was completely comfortable in his presence but not comfortable enough to share her terrible secret.
“Well, it’s the God’s honest truth. I think you’re beautiful, no matter what your mother says. When I grow up and get married, my wife is going to look just like you,” he admitted, smiling from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.
“Marry,” Fayth gulped. “My mother says I’m too black for anyone to love me. And you know y’all boys only want them light skin girls.” The spunk in her voice returned as she placed a hand on one of her narrow hips.
“Girl, don’t you know black is beautiful. Your mother is wrong. I like what I see,” he said, eyeing Fayth from head to toe. “You remind me of my older sister’s Barbie dolls… the African American ones.”
“Nobody ever complimented me with such nice words before, but my daddy.” Her lips trembled and her voice caught in her throat at the mention of her father. She managed to force back the tears that threatened to fall. Things were going well between them, and she didn’t want her crying to scare him off.
“Really?” he asked in disbelief.
“So you expect me to believe that no boy has ever told you how pretty you are?”
“My mother is strict. And it will be over her dead body before any boy comes near me.” She wrung her hands together as she glanced around the crowded room for her mother. The last she’d seen or heard of her mother, she was about to go fisticuffs with her aunt. “I’m surprised she hasn’t caught me talking to you.”
“Well, let’s sneak outside before she does.” He gently pulled her clasped hands apart and cupped them in his.
“I don’t know,” she said, fidgeting with the charm bracelet dangling from her wrist. Her heart was racing a mile a minute. After all, she’d just met him.
“I really like you, Fay Fay. And I want to get to know you better,” he said, looking down at her with his big, brown, puppy dog eyes.
She liked the fact that he’d already given her a nickname, which made the butterflies in her stomach flutter, but the fear of Gladys’ wrath lingered in the back of her mind. Fayth hesitated for a second and dismissed the voice of reason. She figured her mother was probably too busy preying on an unsuspecting pair of britches to stick her claws into to notice her absence. “Okay. But only for a few minutes, though.”
The hot sticky, August heat did little to deter the new friends as they found shade under an oak tree. Underneath was an inviting old wooden bench. The scorching heat intensified the stench coming from a nearby cow pasture, but it wasn’t strong enough to chase them back inside.
The six-foot-tall corn stalks surrounding the fellowship hall blocked the summer breeze. But the two hardly noticed.
“I feel as though I’ve known you all my life.” JC broke the silence with a more mature and serious tone to his voice.
“I know,” she agreed, staring down at the withered grass beneath her feet. Now that they were alone, she became a bundle of nerves under his intense stare.
“Are you nervous? Your hands are trembling,” he asked, gently rubbing them.
“A little. I’ve never been alone with a boy before.” Her heart leaped with excitement, but fear trailed closely behind.
“Fayth, I want to give you something to remember our friendship.” Taking a tiny gold cross from around his neck, he swept her locks aside and draped it around hers.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, with her back facing him. Her trembling hands enveloped the tiny cross.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?” he asked, turning her around to face him.
“Yeah. I guess. I don’t know,” she said, trying to make sense out of what was happening between them. My father is dead. I should be grieving, not talking about love and feelings and stuff with a boy I hardly know.
As evening approached, they talked and learned more about one another. The crickets and all the country critters sang their evening songs as the two made plans to meet somehow at
’s Annual Youth Revival and Augusta over the next two weeks. She knew it would take an act of God to pull it off, but she was determined to see him again. Vacation Bible School
Later, JC surprised her when he pulled a pack of Strawberry Twizzlers from his pant pocket. He tore open the plastic wrapping and pulled out one of the red, chewy candies. They nibbled from opposite ends, stopping when their lips met. They held each other's gaze for what seemed like an eternity. Neither knew what to do next until an infuriated woman broke their trance when she came galloping in their direction, kicking up dust with each step she took. The two became fearful because the woman’s visage mimicked a possessed person. She and JC jumped at the sound of her mother’s thunderous voice as she spewed brimstone and fire with each word she spoke.
“Gal, brang yhur lil’ fast tail here. And boyyyyyyy, yhu betta get your mannish behind away from that Jezebel daughter of mine,” Gladys barked, with fire in her eyes that could sear through flesh.
Gladys snatched her by the arm, like a rag doll, and then turned on her heels and unleashed a mouthful of expletives on the young boy who’d shown Fayth nothing but respect. Fayth’s young face rushed with heat. She glanced over her shoulder and saw JC scared stiff from her mother’s antics.
Hauled away like a common criminal in front of the remaining mourners, who’d now migrated outside because of all the commotion, Fayth braced herself for the beating that was sure to follow. The floodgate opened, and the tears erupted down her flushed cheeks with a vengeance. At that pivotal moment, her faith in God died. With a strike to the face, she believed God had abandoned her to the harsh brutality of her mother’s iron fist.
Port City, Louisiana
Fifteen Years Later
“Sorry I’m late,” Angelica said, rushing into her therapist’s office, tastefully adorned with African paintings and figurines. “But the traffic was bumper to bumper.”
Twenty-seven-year old Angelica Hope decided to sever ties with her first name, Fayth, after moving from the country town of
, Augusta . Parting ways with a name that had
more curses attached to it than blessings had given her the fresh start she
craved. Unfortunately, it was short lived. The nightmares had finally gotten
the best of her. She found herself crying the blues over a life that had more
baggage than she could carry. Louisiana
“No problem, my next patient called and canceled just moments before you arrived. So looks like you’re in luck…have a seat,” Dr. Hawthorne gestured towards the beige leather sofa adjacent her. She slid her glasses down her narrow, brown nose while flipping through some medical files. “Last week, Angelica, we ended with you talking about your father. Today, I want to discuss your mother, since she’s the source of the nightmares. Tell me about her and the abuse you suffered after the death of your father.”
Angelica settled back on the comfy sofa, caught her breath, and hoped she didn’t sound like a blubbering fool at the end of her session. She hated crying, and she hated sharing her feelings even more. It made her feel weak. Investigative reporters were supposed to be tough. She asked all the hard questions not the other way around. But here she sat across from a shrink, opening up about a past that she’d rather forget.
“My mother demoralized me every chance she got. I still have nightmares about the evil thing she did to me.” She wrung her hands together, fighting hard to control her voice. “I remember coming home late from
. The church van
had a flat tire. And Gladys─” Vacation Bible
“Who is Gladys?” Dr. Hawthorne interrupted, looking confused.
“My mother,” she said in a deadpan tone.
“Why do you call her Gladys?” she asked, peering over the rim of her bifocal glasses.
“Because she said demons don’t have mothers.”Angelica squeezed her eyes shut as the humiliating words slid off her tongue like hot lava.
She opened her eyes and focused on the soft, soothing, neutral paintings on the wall. It helped to relax her. The office walls of Angelica’s previous therapist had been bland and overly decorated with certificates and plaques, displaying only medical achievements. There was no doctor-patient connection, so she ended her sessions. Dr. Hawthorne’s office had the comforts of home, which allowed her to open up more than she had expected.
“Why would she say something so cruel?” she asked, scribbling in the folder.
“Now that’s the million dollar question both you and I would like to know,” Angelica retorted.
When the nightmares and sudden crying spells invaded the new life Angelica was trying to live, she sought professional help. The anger and hatred she’d suppressed over the years for her mother had proven to be more than she could handle. Gladys continued to control her every thought, in spite of her resistance.
“Okay. Continue with what happened when you arrived home.” Dr. Hawthorne insisted.
“When the church van finally pulled up in front of my house two hours late, Gladys was fuming. She accused me of sleeping around. True, I had a boyfriend…JC, which I kept a secret, but nothing happened. My explanation about the flat tire went ignored. She made me undress and started sniffing me from head to toe.” Wiping the perspiration from her upper lip, she continued the horrid details. “Gladys made me stand against the bathroom wall, spreading my legs apart. She took her index and middle fingers and inserted them into my private parts, to see if I’d lost my virginity.” She crossed her legs as spikes of pain shot through the lower part of her body. Her pelvic muscles tightened at the thought of her mother’s probing fingers inside her. “Gladys said the police used the technique on whores who were strip-searched in prison.” Fayth stopped, took a deep breath, and resurrected the memories she’d tried to bury more than fifteen years ago.
“Gladys always thought the worst of me. She once threatened me, saying, before she became a grandmother, she’d rip the little bastard out of my womb and feed the fetus to the town’s stray dogs.” Remembering the past was taking its toll. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed bitterly.
Unfazed by the sordid details, Dr. Hawthorne chimed in, handing her a box of Kleenex. “I know it’s painful, revisiting your abusive childhood. But it’s all a part of the healing process.” She sat back in her chair and continued. “If you don’t release the anger and hatred you have for your mother, it will destroy you.”
“I’ll never understand how she could love one child and hate the other.” Her words caught in her throat as the pain welled up inside. “What did I do that was so wrong? I was only a child,” she cried, throwing both hands up in defeat.
“Your mother could possibly have some unresolved issues herself. Do you know anything about her childhood?” Dr. Hawthorne asked stoically.
“Ha! She would rather have a root canal than discuss her personal life with me,” she said, wiping her eyes and nose.
“In order to make progress and heal mentally and spiritually, you must talk to yo─”
“No. I will never speak to that woman, even after my sister informed me that Gladys is dying from ovarian cancer.” She declared adamantly, cutting her therapist off. “The day Gladys lost custody of me to my Aunt Beatrice, she told me to never return to
And you know what? I’ve done just that.” Augusta
“Angelica, this anger you’re holding on to will destroy you. Getting the answers to your mother’s past could possibly give you some insight to your own abuse. Allow God to help you. Give your problems over to Him. It’s the only way you can move forward.” Dr. Hawthorne advised, taking her glasses off and placing them on the table beside her.
“Where was God, when I was beaten black and blue, huh?” she yelled out in anguish. “He sure wasn’t rushing down from heaven to rescue me.”
“Please hear me out.” She stressed, moving closer to the edge of her seat.
Angelica tuned Dr. Hawthorne out when an image of her strapped to a bedpost, naked and beaten relentlessly by her mother with an extension cord, entered her thoughts. That day wasn’t how she’d imagined spending her sixteenth birthday, but it turned out to be one of the best days of her life. Her aunt Beatrice Hope, who’d come to town to surprise her on her birthday, saved her life when she walked in on the beating and caught Gladys red-handed. Unfortunately, the psychological damage had already taken root, when the Child Protection Agency came to remove her from the home she referred to as, “Hell.”
Dr. Hawthorne’s voice jolted her back to the present. “I’m leaving,” Angelica blurted out. She leapt from the sofa, grabbed her purse, and like the speed of lightening, bolted toward the door.
“Wait. Hold up. What’s wrong?” Dr. Hawthorn shouted, chasing behind her.
She stopped in her tracks. “I know you incorporate Christian principles with your counseling sessions, but this head shrinking and God stuff just isn’t working for me,” she said with her therapist in pursuit. “This will be my last session. If God really loves me, He has a funny way of showing it.”
“You haven’t given Him or counseling a chance, Angelica. You need help. And quitting is not the answer. I suggest─”
She left, slamming the door shut, before Dr. Hawthorne could utter another word.
Sheila L. Jackson lives with her family in
. She is an anointed speaker, teacher, and writer that utilize her gifts to carry the Word of God to those in need of spiritual soul food. Sheila has penned two, inspirational non-fiction books, The Enemy Within and Through the Eyes of God. She has also written several inspirational and social articles for a local newspaper and magazine. Shreveport, Louisiana
Her latest book is the Christian fiction romance suspense, Where Was God? (Their Hearts Burned to be Together).
For more information about this author and books, visit her website at www.sheilaljackson2.com.
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