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African American Fiction Holiday

Fifteen years of marriage proved to be tepid rather than loving as the Wrights drifted further apart. The unvarying abuse, the myriad affairs, the wavering health conditions, and let’s not forget, all the children brought situations to a halt upon Alyse’s hospital release. While attempting this chance at restoration and renewal, Alyse finally recognized her breaking point. She was no longer walking around the great state of Mississippi as the abused wife, nor Matthew’s fool. Mind you, Alyse was no one’s fool. She knew of his infidelities, as he was horrible at hiding them. Alyse once said, “I’ve invested too much in this marriage to let him out of it, but then, he’s already left it; just not officially.” Nevertheless, Alyse took a long-awaited approach to her husband and her marriage.

Amid Alyse’s nervous breakdown, she placed a bruise on Matthew that would never heal. She didn’t punch him in his chest as she once threatened, although that might’ve changed their outcome. Slowly recovering from a triple bypass, Matthew was likely one more heart attack away from the grave. Alyse left what would later become a permanent scar upon Matthew’s face. Had she been two steps closer to the left, his right eye might’ve been no more. A crimson pool gathered beneath his nose onto his shirt. Her words continued to ring in his mind as he packed his last suitcase: “I AM DONE! This time, I’m not leaving; YOU ARE! I don’t care where you go. I don’t care what you do. But you will leave my house! I AM DONE keeping up appearances for and with you. I don’t care what you tell the church. I don’t care what you tell the children. Call a lawyer, any lawyer, and divorce me. Please DIVORCE ME!” The last time she was DONE, Matthew thought she was gone forever. He’d groveled enough and convinced her otherwise, and she came back. All of this happened before they wed. I’m certain if Alyse knew back then what she knows now, she might’ve taken her chances with anybody else or remained single for the rest of her life.

Ow! Clink, clink, clink. Matthew replied, “Your aim is still impeccable, but you promised to never remove these again. I love you Lyse, and that won’t ever change. You promised me: for better or worse; in sickness and in health; until death do us part. Remember our vows. Please keep the necklace and earrings and put your rings back on.” Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink. “Why should I give a damn about our vows; you didn’t! I’m done with empty promises and upholding the family name. For what?! Another bruise? Another welt? Another whore? Or another child outside of this home? Stay away from me! I want nothing from you. Take these rings, these earrings, and this necklace, and LEAVE!

The saddest thing Matthew could do after his eviction from his home was move in proximity. With all the rental properties they had, Matthew could have gone anywhere he wanted. He went across the street. In his mind, if he were close enough to maintain visual contact, then maybe they’d come back together. For the first time since they’d separated before she married him, Matthew was completely alone manifesting puddles upon puddles to ease his broken heart. Alyse’s tears had long since vanished over Matthew; too much damage as her love for him was waning. Although all these times of separation were of his own making, Alyse took more from Matthew than she ever bargained for.

Nowhere will you find another woman like Alyse who came into a marriage and willingly reared the outside children alongside the inside children. Nowhere will you find another woman like Alyse who befriended all her husband’s whores and/or mothers of his children; especially that last one who not only left Alyse for dead after attacking her in her pregnant state, but the same person who kidnapped her newborn twins in the early months after their birth, and some of the younger children. You’d have to ask Alyse about the nature of her motives.

Quite naturally, Matthew’s first set of children were from his first wife, and Alyse loved them as if they were her natural children. Matthew’s second set of children came from a relationship he thought he’d severed by way of payment only to have them appear on his doorstep years later. But Alyse loved them like the two before them. Later came some other children along the way; two children with the same father, in the same month, but different mothers. And then newborn twins and another surprise to appear on the doorstep. And let’s not forget the three bonus children, who, by the grace of God, were not of Matthew’s loins. Here, we have less than a man who once terminated so many pregnancies, and abused so many women, and that he could not account for them all. Stuck in his dead father’s shadow. Stuck with the stenches of his past. Stuck with a deteriorating heart, but maybe this was his destiny for all the lives he destroyed.

Months passed and the Wrights remained separate. Matthew only saw Alyse and the children through the windows of their home, or at church on Sundays, until she stopped attending. Although Matthew was a good preacher and teacher, and now, a better pastor than he had been before, Alyse no longer desired his messages. Alyse would only attend Hope Street when Matthew wasn’t preaching or on special occasions. Her visits became far, few, and in between.

Even though there were months of separation between them, Matthew thought it best to maintain the space Alyse requested; at least until the holidays neared. In fifteen years, they’d never spent a thanksgiving apart from each other. No matter the circumstances, these two being separated just didn’t happen like that. He’d begged her to join him, and even begged her to allow him to join her. Nothing, except a monotonous Happy Thanksgiving the day before. The children refused to cross the street, as did the rest of the family. The most Matthew received were some calls from his mother and some church members.

Matthew was long overdue in his attempts to get his wife back. Her taciturnity at thanksgiving was debilitating and he could no longer take these pains from Alyse. After thanksgiving, Matthew reverted to his former ways of gaining Alyse’s attention, all except for the stalking. He’d let that thought subside. Brown packages appeared one by one and then two by two every day. Sixteen and a half years of life with Alyse, Matthew actually got smarter this time around. The boxes accumulated on the porch and remained unscathed until that tropical storm came through the week before Christmas. One of the children addressed Alyse about the boxes and she replied, “I didn't order any packages. File 13, my love. Do not bring them in the house.”

As Christmas was a few days away, he knew how Alyse loved Christmas. Seeing happy children and happy families tugged at her heartstrings. This Christmas would be the first one in a long time that they’d ever been separate. Christmas Day was here, and the family opened presents. There were presents under the tree for Alyse and she couldn’t bring herself to open them. Something brought her to silent tears, and she didn’t quite understand this feeling. She couldn’t explain this feeling. The smallest Wright child, twin number two, Ella, found three mysterious brown gifts under the tree and brought them to Alyse. “Mommy, I found these in the back under the tree. Two of these have no name, and the other one is for daddy.” She walked closer and raised her arms. “Mommy, can I see daddy, please?!” The elder children approached, all trying to prevent Ella’s talks of their dad. The children even wondered about their origins, as they knew none of them placed any brown gifts under the tree. Alyse hugged Ella, kissed her cheek, and whispered in her ear. Sweet girl, take these two to mommy’s bedroom and put them on the desk, please. And then lock mommy’s door behind you. Ask Madison and Mason to take you across the street. If you have any problems, ask Auntie Maureen. Put daddy’s gift on the table by the front door. Mommy loves you, always.

The Wrights fellowshipped without Alyse. For, she’d isolated herself in her bedroom away from all the camaraderie. She couldn’t bring herself to feast with them and begged them to enjoy without her. As Christmas night was near its end and children and adults were nodding, Alyse slipped out into the cold.

Ring-dong-ding-dong. He came to the door and couldn’t believe his eyes. “Alyse, what are you doing here? If you’ve come bearing coldness, you can keep it! I want to enjoy what’s left of this day.” “Matthew, I didn’t come bearing coldness, but if you want me to leave, I will.” Following weeks and weeks of unnatural silence, he didn’t know what to expect. “Matt?” His guard was now melting like fire to snow. Alyse always had a way with words. The gentleness of her tone appeased him, as always. “Matt, even at Christmas, my heart won’t allow me to stay away. I’ve come to thank you for your kind words. Only you would sneak in the house and hide these gifts where only a small child would find them. My heart wouldn’t even allow me to not get you a gift. This visit is not me coming to ask you home, but it is to invite you to dinner, and to give you this gift.” She handed him the gift and ask one question, “How much do I owe you for those ruined packages?” He smirked and then chuckled. “Nothing my dear, because they were empty.”

November 26, 2021 16:50

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6 comments

Ruth Smith
05:29 Dec 06, 2021

This is a very good story. I liked the ending, it was very well thought out.

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17:14 Dec 07, 2021

Thank you, Ms. Ruth. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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Boutat Driss
16:18 Dec 04, 2021

I love it. well done!

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17:14 Dec 07, 2021

Thank you, Boutat.

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James Crilley
14:08 Dec 04, 2021

Great twist at the end!

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17:14 Dec 07, 2021

Thank you, James.

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