Chapter 3 – The first cracks

Yes indeed – our girl had a lot to learn about trust. She believed and trusted in God. She believed and trusted in herself. And she trusted her husband: that he loved her, that he had her back.

By now, Avid Reader, you’re probably expecting the usual he-done-her-wrong-he-cheated tale – am I right?

He didn’t cheat on her. If he’d cheated on her, she could have handled that. But what he did was – in her eyes – worse. He lied.

He lied to her about having a job. He did have a job when they first got married, but after he realised how ambitious his wife was, and that she was happy to work, he stopped working, preferring to stay home and smoke weed, drink beer and 151 and hang out with his friends from his high-school wrestling team, who all congratulated him on his good fortune. He was careful his friends did not mess up the immaculate rooms, and always made sure they were gone an hour before our girl got home from the restaurant.

This state of affairs would have continued indefinitely had our girl not had one of those accidents only experienced by women at certain times of the month. Her boss – a jolly Greek guy with four sisters and six daughters – was unfazed, magnanimously telling her to not bother about returning to complete her shift, but insisting she just go home, have an early night and get some rest. He even got the bus boy to drive her home.

The sound of ELO filled the dirty ground floor hallway, mingling with the pungent odour of marijuana punctuated by the mouth-watering smell of frying bacon. She immediately decided she would make a grilled bacon and cheese sandwich after she cleaned herself up and turned the stereo down; what was he thinking, playin’ the music so loud? She entered the apartment, stepping into a scene from Bachelor Party.

“Y’all havin’ fun?” she yelled, crossing the room to turn the stereo down. Her husband’s friends embarrassed, smiled.

“He-ey baby,” her spouse slurred, “You home…c’mere!” He tried to rise from the sofa and promptly lost his balance and fell back.

“That’s your drinks cut off!” one of his friends laughed.

All y’all is cut off,” she snapped. “Party’s over – y’all need to leave.”

No one protested, although one of the guys made a whip-cracking sound and she was sure she heard a muttered “bitch.” But they all rose, gathering cigarettes, Zig-Zags and the last of the beer, filing out the door single file like elementary school children being led to the toilet. She locked the door behind them and, giving her husband a look of disgust, walked through the living room to the bathroom to clean up.

“You home early,” he smiled sheepishly at her when she returned. “Why you home – you sick?”

“I messed up my clothes,” she replied, gathering the empty beer bottles from the coffee table. “Why you home?”

“I kinda lost my job.”

She snorted, not pausing in her cleaning. “Nice of you to tell me. You said that shit like you was tellin’ me you lost your keys. How you gone lose a job – what’d you do?”

“I wuz just tryin’ to make some extra money. See, TT, he had this plan, an’ he said – “

“I know – don’t tell me. Y’all was stealin’ from the docks, an’ you got fired. Thanks for tellin’ me.” Laden with empty Miller Lite bottles, overflowing ashtrays and crumpled Doritos bags she made her way into the tiny kitchen. “So nice of you to tell me, when I been goin’ outa here each an’ every day, bustin’ my ass at two jobs, tryin’ to make a home, tryin’ to make somethin’ nice for us.” The beer bottles protested angrily as she dumped then in the trash.

“I been lookin’ for sumthin else,” he said sullenly. “An’ I can always sell some weed til I get another job….you know mah niggas gone always buy them some weed.”

“I know you and yo’ niggas gone always smoke you some weed,” she responded caustically, re-entering the living room and wiping down the coffee table and end tables. “Just like I know you an’ yo’ niggas need to learn how to use coasters….look at my tables!”

Your tables. Your house,” he muttered. “My mamma called it: she tole me I shouldna married yo’ high-yella ass.”

“An’ I never woulda married yo’ stupid, lazy ass if my daddy hadn’t kicked me out the house an’ I was scared I couldn’t make it on my own!” she screamed at him. “What a fuckin’ joke – here I am, scared I couldn’t do it, an’ my ass has been takin’ care of both of us for God knows how long! What the fuck do I need you for!”

“I know, I know, you right,” he sighed. “Men ain’t shit, I ain’t shit.” He rose from the couch.

“Where you goin’?”

He didn’t answer. The only sound was the snick of the door as it closed behind him.

Chapter 2 -Wifey

So now our girl is a married woman. An adult, married in the sight of God. But she doesn’t feel like an adult: her brain, her mind feels like a grown-up’s, preoccupied with thoughts of getting to work on time, paying rent and what to make for her husband’s dinner. But her heart still feels like a hopeful, carefree 16-year-old, and she still has the smile of the little girl who got her first kiss at the age of six by MK, who ran up to her in the playground and kissed her smack on the lips before bursting into giggles and running away.

But she tells herself she’s an adult, so she adjusts her behaviour accordingly. She gets up with her husband in the mornings to make sure he has toast and coffee before he leaves for his job with a local trucking firm, carrying the packed lunch she’s made for him in one hand and her goodbye kiss on his cheek. After which she hastily dresses and heads out to her own job.

She’s working two jobs: mornings, she works as a clerical assistant for a community college. Evenings, our girl can be found waitressing at Rodney’s Inn, a hole-in-the-wall dive in the middle of the industrial section of the city that caters to truckers, steel mill workers, the guys from the Chevy and Ford plants, lonely old people and businessmen looking for a ‘dirty’ girl. The customers adore her, especially the businessmen, who offer the most outrageous inducements for one hour of her time at one of the nearby motels. But her wedding ring is her armor; she’s made it patently clear that she’s not interested, and the truckers, those big, beefy tattooed guys have all adopted her as a kind of “little sister” and are quick to deliver a thump on the head to anyone who gets out of line.

She doesn’t need to work two jobs; the money from her husband’s job and what she makes at the college is adequate. But this girl don’t do adequate – this girl is ambitious, she wants things. More importantly, she wants – she needs – to show her parents that she’s not a failure.

So for the first three months of the marriage she works like a dog to make the run-down apartment they live in into a nice home. She paints and, with her husband’s aggrieved assistance (“Why we gotta fix this place up…’s fine like it is!”) wallpapers. She haunts the second-hand shops for furniture that doesn’t look second-hand. Curtains, towels, bed linen, lamps, all lovingly picked by herself, as her spouse displayed mostly humor and disinterest. “You da woman of da house, anyway,” he says, glued to the NCAA finals on the TV. “You do it up – I trust you.”

So tiredly, happily, she shops. Determined to turn their one-bedroom unit into a proper home, and absurdly pleased that he trusts her to make all the decisions.

Poor girl…she has a lot to learn about trust.

Chapter 1 – It all began….

Our girl lost her virginity at the tender age of 13 (a fact her mother was unaware of until she was 16, at which point her mother did the practical thing and got her wayward child on the Pill). He was 16, a neighbourhood Lothario whom she had a crush on. She thought she was in love (and secretly she hoped that if she gave him some he would fall in love with her).

Love….what does a 13-year-old know of love? Avid Reader, surely you know how that story ended: he dumped her for a worldlier woman of 17, but not before he’d told all his friends about their encounters.

Being young, the girl’s heart was still resilient. She told herself “I was too good for him anyway” “God is preparing me to meet someone better.” Years of Harlequin romances, assorted fairy tales and Hollywood movies had her convinced that true love was the solution to her current adolescent angst.

Thus for the next six years the girl fell in and out of love – with all the wrong kinds of boys (and a couple of men who should have known better). She fell in love with dope dealers, shoplifters, stoners and boys who’d begun a lifelong career majoring in baby-daddy drama. She gave her heart to an older, married man and a bisexual married man. She had an active (some might say promiscuous) love life.

And yet, our girl maintained her studies – she loved school and enjoyed learning new things. She was on the Honor Roll every semester, had a small job ironing for a neighbour at $3.00 for each basket of clothes, and she babysat the neighbourhood kids as well (when she didn’t have a date).

Despite her grades and her money-making enterprises, her parents were not happy with their daughter’s behaviour. Her mother cried, predicting a dire future. Her father resorted to blows to in a vain attempt “beat the devil outa her.” Our girl went on her merry way, black eyes, split lips and all, until the day she came home two weeks before her 18th birthday to discover all her things had been packed and were waiting for her on the front porch.

Nothing if not cocky, our girl enquired if she was allowed to make a phone call. Permission granted, she phoned the guy of the moment, an 18-year-old she didn’t really love, but whom she dated because 1) he had a car, 2) he had a job and 3) he absolutely adored her, and she found his adoration pleasant. The smitten young man arrived not long after her phone call, whisking her off to his parents’ house, where he explained the situation and permission was granted for the now homeless waif to reside with them.

Two months after her 18th birthday she married him.