Tawny’s back! Now read!
Dressed in my Sunday’s best waiting for Chelsea and Tunde to pick me up for worship service I began to sweat. I could barely remember the last time my heels clicked into the entrance of the Second Avenue church of Christ. I wasn’t looking forward to it but I knew Chelsea wouldn’t leave town without seeing me… in church.
With my locs pinned into an updo, I was channeling a demure but sexy church lady. Miami had turned breezy enough for me to wear a burnt orange and brown tweed cap sleeved shift dress that fell at mid calf. Bare legs and ankle booties carried me to the door when I heard the horn on the SUV Chelsea’s beau was driving.
“I’m coming,” I yelled to no one in particular. I grabbed a brown leather envelope clutch and began to lock the door.
“Don’t forget your Bible,” Chelsea reminded me, as I turned my key in the direction to lock the deadbolt.
“They have extras at the church.” I smiled and watched Chelsea smile back at me. It had been over a year since we had seen one another and at that moment I realized how much I missed my sister from another mister.
I walked down the sidewalk-turned-catwalk like I was eighteen again.
Chelsea rolled up her window in protest.
Inside the car, I greeted Tunde and took him all in. I had to give it to her, Chelsea knew how to pick ’em. I was at a loss for words when I saw him but I couldn’t act like a seventeen year old. After all, he was her man. Off limits no matter what.
We made small talk during the fifteen minute drive. Tunde told me about the day they met in Borders bookstore. He couldn’t stop talking about Chelsea’s dress and the way her wild afro caught his eye. I envied her for the first time in my life. She was the happiest I had ever seen her. Like, ever, ever. She oozed love in Tunde’s direction and, though his face was turned away from me, I could feel his love returning to her.
Once we pulled up to the towering three-story building, my heart began to race. I saw his car parked in the front as it had been on the first day I visited over five years ago at the advice of Chelsea.
He preached the word with power. He had an enviable style and a smile that would melt an igloo on the coldest day of winter. Good thing we met in the summer time.
I was twenty-four. Home for a taping during Spring Break but well out of college. My agent had booked me for an MTV dating show. It was all staged but the money was great. That weekend, after taping had ended, I decided to spend a couple of days with Chelsea’s parents. They insisted we visit the Second Avenue church of Christ.
After the sermon, kissing of cheeks, shaking of hands, we poured into the foyer and greeted him, The Man of the Hour. At first glance I knew my intentions were all but spiritual. I had to have him.
While Chelsea’s parents caught up with old friends, I went over to the First Lady and complimented her on the amazing Philip Treacy fascinator she wore so effortlessly.
As she hugged and air kissed me, her husband slipped me his card; right behind his wife’s back. He and I made eye contact, and just like that, I knew I would see him again. Soon.
Our relationship began with early morning phone calls and text messages. We got acquainted during the hours in which his wife left him alone to spend time with the Lord. Little did she know he was talking with me and praying he could see me again.
During the second month of our affair, he met me in New York. He had planned on attending a minister’s conference and I was there shopping for agents on the East Coast. Though I had been successful in landing print ads, it was rather tough for me to break into acting. Something that wouldn’t change for quite some time.
I had never been one to show interest in occupied men, but he had all the qualities I had ever wanted. Tall (6’8″ without his Italian loafers). Dark (chocolate envied his complexion). Powerful (2000 parishioners obeyed his every word). Rich (God blesses His own).
He had charmed my panties off on the second day of my trip; complaining of his wife’s prudish ways in the bedroom. While he was no spring chicken he had me sprung. He spoke at the conference during the day while I shopped and we spent our evenings dining out and conversing. He never let me drink but I didn’t complain one bit.
“Tawny, a man could get used to this kind of treatment. I haven’t felt so alive since, since… ever,” he whispered on the last morning of his trip.
I felt a twinge of guilt as his cell phone rang. It was one of his fellow ministers reminding him of their final prayer meeting before check out time. Though he wanted to remain in bed with me, he quickly showered and dressed and kissed me on the forehead before leaving me for good.
“I made sure to get a late checkout. You can leave when you’re ready.” The door closed and hot tears rolled down my cheeks. For the first time I had been treated like a princess but my king would up and disappear.
It would be on my next trip to New York that I would regret the blessing poured forth from the Man of God.
“Reece, are you gonna get out?” Chelsea’s voice woke me from the memory I’d been having.
“Yeah. Gimme a sec.”
My mind was frazzled but no one would know. While I wasn’t ready to face him I had no choice. Chelsea and Tunde waited for me to get out of the car and we walked toward the back entrance of the building.
Once inside, we waited for five minutes to be seated by the Secret Service-like ushers. Almost every space in the stadium style auditorium was filled. From the upper mezzanine, we sat, sang, prayed and ingested the spiritual food. I passed on communion because after thorough examination of my thoughts, I felt less than worthy. Just before service let out (and when I knew he would escape to his office), I took the stairs to the lower level. My hands shook as I knocked softly at his door.
“Come in, honey,” his voice bellowed from behind the door.
I twisted the knob and caught a glimpse of him for the first time in years.
“Hon – oh, Teresa. I thought you were my wife.” He smiled and stood; walking in my direction, he made me all kinds of nervous.
Stonefaced and determined not to melt in his presence, I met him in the middle of his office.
“It’s been too long since I’ve seen you. You’ve changed.” He touched my locs and frowned.
“Yeah. I have. A lot has changed. How are you?”
“I’m blessed. Blessed. So what brings you to my office?”
“Just wanted to say, ‘hey’.”
There was a knock at the door. I jumped. He motioned for me to sit in the couch facing his desk.
“Honey, you in there?”
Though we had always kept our relationship outside the walls of the church edifice, I always felt like his wife had suspected something.
“Yes, dear. I’ll be out in a few. I’m in a confidential counseling session. Ask one of the elders to greet the members.”
He stood in the doorway so his wife could not see who was in the room. I heard the sound of her heels fading in the distance and I knew she was gone.
He watched her walk away and he closed and locked the door.
I felt his hand on my shoulder and I tensed up.
“What’s wrong?” He massaged my shoulder.
“Nothing. It’s just. Your wife is right outside.” I touched the few locs that hung near my eye.
“Teresa, why did you come here?” He sat next to me on the brown leather couch.
“Chelsea came down and she wanted to visit.”
“But you haven’t been here since….” His voice faded.
“Since I was in counseling with my ex. I know.”
“So you two aren’t together anymore?”
“No. Not since a year ago. “
“I see.” He nodded to no one in particular.
“Well, I just wanted to say hello. You know, beat the crowd. I have to meet Chelsea at the car.” I started to rise and he placed his hand on my leg. I returned to a seated position.
“Wait. I’ll take you home.”
“That’s not a good idea. We have brunch reservations and I can’t be seen leaving here with you.”
It had been awkward to share the details of my relationship with a man I had been sleeping with on and off for the better part of my twenties. He had been my premarital counselor even though I knew I would never marry anyone if I couldn’t have him. He was the reason I could not commit to even the best men that came my way.
Before I knew it I was sending Chelsea a text. I’m sure she was somewhat surprised, but her reply assured me we would meet up before her departure to New York.
An hour later, once everyone had cleared the building, we walked to his car. Ever the gentleman, he opened my door and made sure I was securely fastened in my seat. He had arranged for his wife to have brunch with a few of the elders’ wives so his afternoon was free.
We rode to the sounds of his sermon. He would critique himself after every service; taking mental notes on which points roused the congregation the most. My mind drifted off to Reagan and it seemed as if he could read my thoughts.
“Where’s my daughter?” His eyes fixed on the road.
“Reagan. She has my eyes. My nose. And if the timing is right, she just turned five, right?”
To be continued…
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