African American Christian Romance

The date was officially January 1st, 2008. Right after the people on television yelled “Happy New Year!”, my boyfriend Stephen glanced at me. He looked into the open Bible and read the scripture about a man leaving his parents to become one with his wife. Truly oblivious to what was happening, my response was a simple amen.

As he bent down, while pulling out a diamond ring, I went running from the kitchen to the bathroom. We had only started dating about eight months ago, so this couldn’t possibly be real. When I got back from my venture, the poor guy was still on the living room floor, in the same stance, waiting for a response to his proposal. After apologizing, laughing, and crying happy tears, my answer was yes.

Stephen filled me in on the details of the days leading up to this event. One of them included him picking up a second job, and the news was a relief. I had been asking him for the past few weeks why he was getting back to his place at such a late hour. We lived in the same complex, so keeping this a secret was no easy task. It also did not help that my heart wouldn’t allow me to sleep until I saw his white Cadillac Fleetwood enter the parking lot and knew he was safe.

After we laughed and gasped about the several episodes he had to sustain during the month, I called my parents. He rang his family as well. Their reactions were dramatically different. My mom’s exact words were” Well, Naesed, this isn’t the first time someone has asked you to marry them, and why didn’t he ask your dad?”. 

During the previous year, my father was offered a higher-paying role if he relocated to the Lonestar state. The proposition was accepted. He came back to get my mother and I the following week. After spending an entire summer in the sweltering Texas heat, my 21-year-old mind would not allow me to stay under their guardianship. My Father and I have always been close because he understood me more and this situation was no different. It was my mother who unsuccessfully tried to discourage my emancipation.

Mom’s reply to my engagement was evidence that she was still struggling. Her only child had become a woman. I had then asked to speak to my father, who was half asleep, but still alert enough to express a genuine congratulations. In Autumn, he was able to spend a little bit of time with Stephen and gave me a huge smile of approval upon returning from their outing. My Dad is not a man who talks much. Nevertheless, what was said to me meant that he thought this was a great choice for a lifetime partner. Notwithstanding I was an adult and didn’t feel like a blessing was necessary, but it still felt good to have it. At the end of the conversation, Mom’s phony best wishes were sent to us both. We concluded with our usual exchanges of love, but something was different. It was the night I started getting to know the woman who had given me birth for the person she truly was.

While not having siblings in the home during childhood certainly had its disadvantages, this lifestyle also came with some benefits. Self-reliance had been a blessing and a curse. I did not depend on others for happiness or contentment. Hence, the autonomy permitted quick recovery from offenses. I looked over at my new fiancé, who was still grinning like a Chester cat. His mother had been waiting to speak with me. She proclaimed a happy, warm, and loud welcome to the family. I thanked her and after some small talk, handed Stephen back the phone. He quickly hung up and we started our journey as an officially engaged couple. Joy filled the atmosphere, so it didn’t feel necessary to discuss my mother’s antics at this time.

My future in-laws invited us to brunch later in the afternoon. It would be the first gathering as a bride-to-be. The mid-day news broadcast was airing while I got ready for my prospective groom to pick me up. Although the weather forecasted a high of only 30 degrees, the sun looked beautiful as it shined against the pure white snow, creating a glitter-like effect. The meteorologist made several announcements about how cold it would be outside. Being a lifelong native of Columbus, Ohio made way for the warnings to become pure background noise.

By the time Stephen drove around the corner to pick me up, it was around 1 pm. He was wearing a nice blue button-down shirt and I unexpectedly matched him. We constantly found ourselves in sync with one another. During the 20-minute ride, both of us shared the feelings this upcoming visit had created; they ranged from excited to anxious.

Stephen’s only siblings Kim and Jade were helping their mother set the table when we arrived.

They all greeted us with applause that appeared to have been practiced, but still sincere.

Jade was a pretty light brown girl with naturally curly hair. Kim was equally as beautiful but darker complected. Had it not been for the six-year age difference between these sisters, one could easily mistake them for twins. They had strong maternal genetics to thank. It appeared as though being the firstborn allowed Stephen to develop the perfect mix of his mother’s beach sand-colored skin with his Father’s Mahogany tone to create a cinnamon complexion.

The matriarch of the family, Ms. Tina, gave a tight embrace and a kiss that left a pink lipstick mark in the middle of my right cheek. She presented me with all the love that her only son felt he was too old for. Although Stephen playfully winced at the motherly attempts of affection, I knew that deep down, he genuinely appreciated them.

After we settled in and coats were put away, the feast was ready. It consisted of baked spaghetti, tuna noodle casserole, garlic bread, and a simple salad. The dessert was going to be my favorite, strawberry cheesecake. I didn’t care too much for anything with tomato sauce, so opted for the seafood dish. Possible wedding venues and dates were being discussed as plates filled with culinary masterpieces.

 Conversational subjects tend to change when there are more than two people together. Subsequently, the discourse made its way from Kim’s upcoming birthday plans to the hope that summer would come sooner than expected. Right as we were determining the best restaurants to celebrate turning one year older, Kim’s husband Byron called. She said something inaudible and excitedly laughed an ok as they were hanging up. It was a joy to see them still in love after being married for close to four years. Byron knocked twice, then entered. Kim had unlocked the door just moments ago foreknowing his ingress. He was smiling wide and holding something in his leather jacket pocket. When Byron stepped inside, an adorable tiny poodle pup was exposed. She was as white as the flurries coming from the sky, and extremely timid when placed on the welcome mat that lay in the entryway. We couldn’t help but express how adorable this newest addition to the family was. The pup’s name was Snowflake, but affectionately called Flaky. The pooch had the attention of everyone and began to loosen up. At least an hour had been spent playing with Flakey before Ms. Tina announced there was still a last course waiting to be consumed. No one gave any indication of being in a bad mood all day, but somehow the playfulness filled the air with a cheerful ambiance.

Hands were washed and pre-made strawberry-topped treats awaited us in the refrigerator.

Thankfully, for energy’s sake, Flakey was so exhausted and fell asleep on the bed that her human parents constructed from their outerwear. Jade poked fun that we older people can’t use up too much energy as she handed us our plates and forks. Right as Ms. Tina was complimenting on the beauty of my ring, Kim interjected “I thought you would be more excited to see the dog!”. The comment wiped the smile off Ms. Tina’s face and said she was happy about the k9 but there was room for all three of her children’s endeavors. Jade was the youngest, yet more mature and reserved. Kim was outspoken, but never blatantly rude to me. She was nice and I enjoyed being around her, so the remark was astonishing. Whether on the phone with her brother or a pop-in, Kim had repeatedly expressed that being the middle child made her feel left out since childhood. According to her, Stephen was adored by their mother and Jade was a daddy’s girl.

The glee that had previously filled the space was now absent. No one said a word for about five minutes, but it felt like the silence lasted an eternity.

It was as if time stood still. The Wonder Years DVD that played on the 40-inch screen never caught anyone’s attention until now. Breaking the quiescence, Byron called his wife’s name in a way that questioned and scolded her simultaneously. He always reminded me of my Father, so it was extremely unusual to hear him speak in this manner. It was rare to see such a meek person take authority. No matter whose presence she was in, Kim recurrently spoke to her spouse in any tone that was deemed necessary for the moment. Granting embarrassment or disrespect never seemed to be a threat. It was easy to see that she was the boss of that marriage with full command. Correspondingly, Kim’s mid-back length hair bounced as her face met Byron’s with a look of sheer disgrace. “What, I did nothing wrong, I’m just keeping it real,” she defended with shrugged shoulders. By this time, Ms. Tina was in silent tears. Jade and Stephen were providing consolation while asking Kim if her actions were necessary. Expectably, there was no remorse in the response but questioning that consisted of why they were ganging up on her (again and always). Ms. Tina was like a lioness to her cubs, assuring them that everything was fine.

After all the chaos created, Kim decided she was going to leave. Ms. Tina agreed that would be best. Kim huffed, puffed, said indistinct things under her breath while scooping up Flakey and collecting their belongings. “Come on Byron!”, she yammered. He shook his head apologetically, told everyone good night, and congratulated us again. Kim told him she’d be out soon and closed the door. She was still slowly getting dog toys, keys, and shoes. It was evident that this act was her putting on a show to provoke all the more. Her mother’s tears didn’t provide enough villainous satisfaction. Whatever subtle discussion Kim was having with herself, Ms. Tina couldn’t take it anymore because she started yelling get out multiple times. “What are you going to do Mom if I don’t leave, hit me?!” Now, had that been my mother, I would have been getting up from the ground the following day. Ms. Tina didn’t believe in physical discipline, so her children didn’t hold the same fears as me. Contrastingly, what was lacking in corporal punishment was given in the form of unpleasant pronouncements. In an effort to say something that returned as much hurt as given, Ms. Tina told Kim that since she was so much like her father, and always gave his family the benefit of the doubt, to be sure that was indeed her Dad first. Kim’s face went emotionless as she asked what that was supposed to mean. “Exactly how it sounds, what do you think!?” said Ms. Tina. Kim bewailed, but not before giving the front door a nice, hard slam.

Ms. Tina apologized profusely. I assured her that it was no fault of hers. She looked at my three-month-pregnant belly and said her first grandbaby didn’t deserve all this stress. As my stomach grew, so did the annoyance of people who attempted to touch it without permission. Whether on the city bus or at work, I would have to wear huge coats and shirts to hide the situation so touching me wouldn’t be a temptation. While Stephen was talking on the phone four weeks ago, he laughed with his mom over the issue. She was very empathetic, understood, and even respected my wishes. Having experienced a teen pregnancy, there was no courage left to begin to defend herself against others running their unwanted hands over her womb. The shock of the circumstance had yielded adequate shame to the church’s royal clan. She was the pastor’s daughter so there was nothing left to say about anything was her thought process during that stage.

The evening had been robbed of its jovial aura and it was time to return it. I took Ms. Tina’s hand and placed it on my stomach. She was so amazed at how firm it was. I also invited Jade to do the same. They both were in awe and conversed with Stephen about the miracle of new life forming. Ms. Tina asked her son if he was just as astounded as they were, and it was revealed that he was more scared than anything. His mother interjected with words of encouragement; all in all, he would make a great father. She also shared stories about when Stephen and Jade were born. Hearing about the history of the family I now had a lifelong connection to was fascinating.

Stephen hated to interrupt but noticed it would be getting darker early because of the season. He respectfully waited for his mother to take a break before declaring that we would need to get back home soon.

I started to clean up, but Ms. Tina made me stop and grab some food to take home instead. There were only two people in her house and there was no way they could eat all that was left over. Furthermore, Jade would most likely eat out for most of the week anyway. I joked that even though I was supposed to be eating double the portions, my appetite still thought it was serving a party of one. My almost mother-in-law told me to just take it so no cooking would be needed for the next few days and work lunch can be checked off the list as well. I loved the sound of both. She headed upstairs as I was taking to-go containers from the cabinets. When the bathroom door closed, Jade and her brother started their mischief. They turned to each other and whispered the questions as if passing a basketball to a teammate. Stephen wanted to know what happened, while Jade was wondering why Kim always had to be the center of atrocities.

The jokesters started pretending as if they were discussing the fish tank that sat in the left corner as Ms. Tina made her way back down the steps. Turns out, she had fallen for their act and began to say how the whole aquarium was overdue for an upgrade. Stephen talked a little about his deceased piranhas and then went out to warm up the car. He was back in so fast that we all asked an amazed how. A nonchalant smile appeared with a serious question of whether was it really that fast. “Ugh, yeah, but don’t think you are something special” teased Jade. Ms. Tina and I snickered like schoolgirls. Goodbye, hugs, and safe travel wishes were bestowed upon us along with extra snacks. My arm was quickly grabbed by Stephen the minute I stepped onto the snowy sidewalk despite me telling him I was ok. He ignored and walked me all the way to the passenger side door. It was a relief to sit on the warm leather seats. While getting into the driver’s side, he gestured to his mother and sister to get back inside. “Call me once you all get in!”, Ms. Tina yelled. A thumbs-up was given in response. It was quiet as we were getting the food situated and seatbelts on. “What an adventure”, I exclaimed as we made a right onto the main street leading home.

My love replied with a sigh of agreement. He continued with how God will use a negative situation and turn it into a miraculous experience. I felt like since we were on the subject of negativity, now was a good time to share my mother’s reaction to the exciting news. He thought it was a joke initially and then realized no laughter was involved. This was not the first time she had crossed the line, but I was just too naive to notice. The former offense was so snakelike slippery, that it went right over my head. To that end, he was not thoroughly surprised about her or my father’s reactions. I then asked why this engagement was bringing out the worst and upsetting others so much. “You mean exposing them!”, Stephen rebutted. I implied that perhaps we should wait until things were calm before getting married. He wanted to be wed within the next two months. We were now pulling into the parking space in front of my humble abode. Even though a baby had already been conceived, we still wanted to wait until husband-and-wife titles were obtained before living together. Thereby, I was so thrilled about being able to move into one dwelling after the marriage and my face must have shown it. Long night kisses, hugs, and sentiments of love were exchanged. The lack of cohabitation was helping to build a strong foundation. We went our separate ways for the night only to see each other again tomorrow.

February 10, 2024 20:34

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Martin Ross
23:56 Feb 17, 2024

Very lovely story — as a middle kid between the smart one and the quiet angelic one, I can say you nailed the sibling tensions and dynamics!


DeSean Weems
04:00 Feb 18, 2024

Thank you so much for reading.I am so excited to hear this and any feedback. Take care!


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